Commitment Lists

Commitment List Instead of Resolutions

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Making a commitment list will help you achieve many of your resolutions.

It’s that time of year when the talk of resolutions is at its highest. I’ve made resolutions. I’m sure you’ve made them too. The New Year seems is the most popular time to make resolutions, but many people commit to changes in their lives throughout the year. Today I want to help you ditch the New Year resolutions and use a commitment list instead.

The widely accepted definition of resolution is to be firm and determined in doing something. It’s to be resolute in our efforts meaning you’ll be undeterred and relentless in your pursuit of the goal. 

How do I define resolutions? Resolutions are meant to be firm desires to achieve a goal. Some look at having a budget or exercising daily as resolutions for the New Year. If you take a step back and think about these two resolution examples, you’ll come to realize they are things  “to-do”, not actual goals. The goal isn’t a budget. A budget helps you allocate resources to achieve goals. Exercise isn’t a goal. It’s a means to achieve a healthier version of you.

Why do we fail at resolutions?

The issue with resolutions centers around the “to-do” which is forcing us to change habits and the reality that we already have so much “to-do.” In a recent article on Business Insider, they stated the reason most fail at resolutions has to do with not being specific enough.

Many fail at their resolutions because the focus is on the action, not the actual desired outcome. We’re taught that a resolution is in the doing, not in the outcome. Basically, we’re working out each and every day as a New Year resolution without clearly identifying what it is we’re actually working towards. What is the goal of working out each and every day?

This is why many people stop taking action by mid-January on their resolutions. We need to focus on the desired outcome. You are resolute in sticking with a budget because it will help you achieve your goal of paying off debt or saving for the down payment. If your resolution is to just have a budget, then chances are your budget won’t make it pass January.

Although we may be resolute in the “doing” or process, we are unsure of how that outcome will transform our lives. That uncertainty causes us to stop doing whatever it takes or modifying our approach to reach our goals. Why continue working out, if we don’t know how our body will change? Why stick with a budget, if we don’t know how better we’ll feel?

What is a Commitment List?

A few days ago, my friend Nicole tweeted, “Made myself a commitment list… of things I’ve been slacking on and need to turn around before I lose control of my life.”

The word commitment intrigued me. I replied with:

She responded, “Yes, because for such a long time I’ve told myself I would do something about my budget and weight and other things that I eventually never fixed due to laziness or whatever it was. But I made a list now of everything I can change that would help my budget too. Hoping this works.”

She made a commitment to herself. I sat deep into my chair and contemplated. I realized most of my major accomplishments were commitments I’ve made to myself and to others. The difference between resolution and commitment to me is this–resolutions are desires whereas commitment is a statement. I desire to budget versus I commit to budgeting.

The Commitment List Difference

Let me explain the difference between resolutions and commitments. A resolution is a firm decision to do something whereas a commitment is a state of being dedicated to a cause. The former restricts you while the latter allows for growth.

I looked back through my goals notebook and realized I had my own version of a commitment list. My notebook was filled with goals, but I actually had written my resolutions as commitments.

  • In 2011, Resign my executive job. Done. I committed to freedom.
  • In 2012, Backpack through 20 countries. Done. I committed to exploration.
  • In 2013, Start and fund phroogal. Done. I committed to social entrepreneurship.
  • In 2014, Break the social taboo about money. Done. I committed to a 30-day road trip.
  • In 2015, Become a personal finance authority. Done. I committed to writing a book*.
  • In 2016, Impact lives in every state. Done. I committed to living on the road for 3 months.
  • In 2017, Expand my message. Done. I committed to going on a speaking tour.

*became a bestseller and reviewed in the New York Times. Grab your copy of You Only Live Once here (Amazon).

What happened in 2018 and 2019? Well, something shifted and I focused on to-dos and became overwhelmed and burnt out. I can look back now and see I didn’t have one commitment to myself. I was focused on just keeping up with what I had built. The to-doing got me exhausted. 

In 2020, I made a commitment to recenter myself and through the pandemic and economic crisis that ensued with my business interrupted, I was still able to honor my commitment. I became a certified yoga teacher and breathwork specialist. And my yoga and meditation (and now breathwork practice) is a daily habit that’s keeping me grounded.

Getting Started with Commitment Lists

A commitment list is an transformative resolution. It’s a mindful approach to achieving important life goals as you complete mundane tasks. It’s not a list of tasks for you to do. These are commitments you’ve accepted to reach your goals.

Commitments require focus and mindful activity to get results. It prioritizes your time. It allows you to take into account different aspects-that are competing for your time–and managing them simultaneously.

It’s not another “to-do” list

A commitment list is not a to-do list where you write down all the mundane tasks or steps. This is what you will reflect on when you go about your busy day. Finding yourself overwhelmed and busy? Look at your commitment list to see if what you’re doing or how you’re spending your time is honoring your commitment.

With my commitments, I realize my habits have changed. Instead of waiting on Saturday to do laundry, I do them when they need to be done. Instead of waiting to reply to that business email, I respond immediately. And rather than waiting to work out in the afternoons, I do my routine when I can.

I’m no longer adding to a list of to-dos. I’m getting the mundane tasks completed so I can focus on value added steps that actually help me reach my goal.

It revolutionized how I live my life.

When you make a commitment to yourself about your health, wealth, and relationships, you’ll make conscious efforts to work on them. 

I want you to think of the times you’ve accomplished something truly remarkable. Chances are you made a commitment to yourself. You committed to graduating college, committed to a relationship, or committed to living debt free. And because of those commitments, you prioritize your time. While you honored your commitment and took steps to achieve your goals, I am sure you also got a ton errands and little tasks done.

How to start your own commitment list

Commitment lists are specific, flexible, and impactful. They have a short duration period too.

I believe we accomplish goals because we’re committed to them. However, a commitment goes far beyond a goal. It’s a goal with a purpose. And purpose can drive us to achieve the impossible. You’ll realize that nothing trivial, including the un-done laundry, matters. You’ll find a way to honor your commitments, to do things, and get it done.

Time frame: I’ve chosen my commitment list duration of about one-year. Sometimes it takes longer than a year so I’ll add another year to that commitment. I’ve learned that if no progress towards a commitment is made, then I must ask myself if the goal is still important to me. If it is important, I move that commitment into the New Year. But there have been instances where my vision for life has shifted and my goals have changed, therefore I drop the old commitment without guilt or shame.

Step 1: Think about what you want to accomplish within a year. Things like committing to your final year in college, getting a better job, starting a business, losing 10 lbs, or saving $1000 in an emergency fund.

I want you to think of 3 categories you’d like to commit to such as a:

  • financial goal
  • life goal
  • creative goal

Step 2: Write down one goal you’ll commit to for each of these categories. Keep in mind your commitment may be one, two, or all three categories. It’s your life. It’s your time. Therefore, it’s your choice.

Step 3: Identify the actual value each goal you’ve identified and how the commitment fulfills them. It’s not simply about achievement but your sense of fulfilment. 

Let me know your thoughts on the Commitment List and your experience with resolutions too.

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