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I Want Growth, But Where Do I Start?

Commit!

The first step on any path to growth is to Commit! The question is, “What are we really committing to?” We talk about committing to a goal, like getting a new job, losing 10 pounds, or even being inducted into the Hot Dog Eating Contest Hall of Fame. (Those last two examples may be mutually exclusive.) We eagerly envision ourselves standing atop whatever mountain we aspire to climb, glowing with pride as we look back and admire how far we’ve truly come. It’s hugely motivating. Who wouldn’t commit to that? 

Here’s the thing: We’re not really committing to the goal. We set a goal to inspire us and give us direction, but setting the goal is the easy part. What we really have to commit to is the journey, the experience along the path we must take to reach our goal. That is the true commitment, and that is the hard part. 

I don’t say this to undermine our inspiration or discourage us from our dreams. Just the opposite! Inspiration is energizing. It motivates us to take action. However, inspiration can also evaporate into the ether if we’re not prepared for the challenges ahead. Mount Everest is awe-inspiring, but if all we’re equipped with for the climb is a bottle of champagne, flipflops, and a selfie stick, we’ll never reach the summit. 

Bottoms Up!…or Rather…Glasses Down I recently set a small goal for myself. I decided to go two months without drinking alcohol: No wine, no beer, no Scotch. (Oh my!) I did allow myself the luxury of kombucha and cold medicine, but that was it.  Some of you may think two months off from drinking is not a big deal. You may not even like alcohol. For others, this may feel like your Everest. For me, married to a Frenchman, two months of no wine was potentially grounds for divorce. Fortunately, my husband is very supportive, and he was more than happy to continue drinking without me. Commitment is first and foremost a mindset. We each have our hills to climb, and I knew for me this hill would be a tough one. I needed to equip myself with the right gear. Some of the mindset tools I knew I would need on this journey were purpose, tenacity, and asking for help. 

Purpose Before I took the first step, or even put down my last drink, I needed to get clear on my purpose. Why was I doing this? Was it for my health? Sure, why not. Was it to lose weight? That would be a definite plus. But the real reason I wanted to go on this alcohol hiatus was simple: I wanted to prove to myself I could do it.   Recently, I was beginning to imbibe just a little too often, and then drink just a little too much. I was also just a little too ready each night to pour that glass of fermented goodness and sip the stress of the day away. Drinking was evolving from a minor indulgence into a major habit, and a habit can be a slippery slope on the way to a crutch. That concerned me. So, I had my purpose.

Tenacity Some people call it determination. Others call it perseverance. Dr. Angela Duckworth calls it Grit (a great book with a message I wish I could gift back to my adolescent self). Personally, I’ve always liked the word tenacity. Tenacity is that stubborn, relentless, Weeble-Wobble-but-you-won’t-fall-down persistence. That’s tenacity, and I want to BE tenacious! I want to BE that Weeble! Yes, I will wobble. That’s normal! I will probably even fall down. It’s all part of the journey. The trick is not to stay down. As Socrates put it, “Falling down is not a failure. Failure comes when you stay where you have fallen.” I’ve fallen down many times on journeys much longer than this one, and this time I still came very close to abandoning my commitment. The biggest challenge was my trip to New Orleans. “Enjoying” the French Quarter on an alcohol hiatus? What was I thinking! Walking down Bourbon Street, the tiny voice of temptation constantly buzzed in my ear, “You’ve already gone a month and a half. You’ve done enough. You deserve a day off!” That voice is so sneaky, so persistent, and it knows just the right buttons to push. How does it know us so well?  That voice knows us so well because it is us. It’s the part of us that’s afraid of doing something different or taking a risk or possibly missing out. That voice, small or even large, will always be there in some shape or form, but we get to choose how we respond to it. This time, I chose to stay on the path. I kept putting one foot in front of the other (which is actually much easier to do without alcohol), and I found some great New Orleans’ “mocktails” to tide me over.  Temptation was constant, but I made it out of the Big Easy with my hiatus intact. I am one tenacious little Weeble!

Asking for Help When faced with a challenge, I tend to buckle down and push through. I can get so focused that I pull deep inside myself and shut the door, keeping everything and everyone else out. Sometimes, I don’t even think about asking for help. More often than not, however, I don’t want to admit I need help, and that’s a problem. We’re far more likely to achieve our goals if we enlist the help of others, even if that means we just tell people about our commitment to a goal. We may enlist some people as cheerleaders, and others may act as accountability partners. For example, a friend might agree to meet me at the gym at 5:00 pm, rather than at the bar for happy hour. –That is true friendship. We may enlist still others as part of our resistance, especially when we know we’re heading into temptation territory. For example, I would coach my husband before we walked into any of my favorite restaurants, “Do NOT let me order the wine…or the dirty martini…or the cheese plate.” (Cheese is just my gateway drug to alcohol.)   We all need a little help from our friends, family, and sometimes even an empathetic bartender. (Thanks, Anton!)  Bottom line: When we’re faced with challenges on our journey to reach our goal, asking for help does not make us weak. It makes us human.   Growth Awaits!

To Commit! is the first step to growth. We commit to a journey to achieve a goal. However, we do not just commit at the beginning. We commit and recommit as we continue to move forward. Anybody can start down a path: buy a gym membership, engage in a hobby, take a class, etc., but to achieve a truly challenging goal, we must commit to a challenging journey, and we must continue to recommit every step of the way. As for me, I successfully made it through my two-month alcohol hiatus, with new habits beginning to take root. While I’ve returned to mindfully enjoying in a drink or two, I’ve also discovered I sometimes prefer the “mocktails” over their alcoholic cousins. Mocktails don’t make me sleepy the way alcohol does, leaving me far more energy for new commitments to new journeys toward my next goals. How about you? What changes do you really want to commit to making in your life? What’s the journey on which you’re ready to embark? Pack your gear, and let’s get moving!

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