Nearly every good thing I do for myself is an act of recommitment. It's the workout routine I had committed to, stopped doing, and then started up again; the meditation routine I had consistency with, let fall away, and then decided to bring back; the digital sunset practice I felt I had mastered, lost touch with, and now practice again with consistency.
It would be nice to find something that works well for us, commit to it once, and be done. But that's not how it works. As we seek to improve ourselves in any way: our physical health, the kindness we bring to others, or the patience we give ourselves, we will falter over and over and over again. Knowing we'll falter, we have to decide what we’ll do when we miss the mark. We have to choose to make our mis-take a turnaround, we have to recommit.
Psychotherapist Phil Stutz has a concept he calls turnarounds. They look like this:
Notice that quick and steep fall, have you ever felt yourself doing this? You decide you want to install a journal practice so you buy yourself a journal, write in it, and then a year later you think...I should could journal more...and then you see that journal you bought the year prior. Just remember, this fall is baked into the model.
(I decided to keep in how I almost used a dangerous word: should. It’s easy to should on ourselves, and it's never helpful. When I say “should”, I catch myself and say something much more productive, “could”. It helps me move from shameful thinking to neutral thinking.)
Ray Dalio’s 5-Step Model works the same way. You have a goal? That’s great, but keep in mind that you’re immediately going to be met with problems.
Then what can you do? Well, you can figure out what happened, design a better system, and then most importantly: take action.
Building positive habits and becoming the person we want to be takes a series of turnarounds and a lifetime of recommitments.
So then, how do we go about recommitting?
- Be Committed to Recommitting: Whenever you start a positive habit, or seek to make a positive change in your life, know that you’ll have to recommit and be committed to recommitting.
- Notice When You Fall Off: When, not if. Notice when you’ve fallen off track. Maybe you had planned to workout 3x a week and before you realize it, it has been two weeks since your last workout. We want to notice this as soon as we can so that we can most quickly...
- Create a Turnaround: As it’s shown in the graphic, we have to know we’re slumping downwards before we can do what it takes to turn it around and put us back on the upward trajectory. How do we do that?
- Recommitment (Take Action): So you had planned to workout 3x a week and haven’t done so for two weeks. Perfect. Let’s recommit to a short workout today.
Through this process you’ll get to know yourself better, you’ll more quickly and easily notice when you’re slipping, and you’ll know what you can do to better set yourself up for future success.
Take a look back at Ray Dalio’s 5-Step Model. Right after “doing” (step 5) the process repeats itself. We’ll encounter more problems and we’ll have to create a new turnaround. This time, though, we’ll be doing so at a higher level of awareness, with a deeper level of commitment, and with a greater ability to create a speedy turnaround. When your good intentions fall short, start with Common Humanity. Remember that meeting problems or obstacles is actually built into the design. Then, recommit. Is today a good day to recommit to ______?