New Thought Editorials > "Just Do It"


Spring 2007

"Just Do It"

One of the many abstract terms that blow by us so often that we cease to pay attention to them is commitment. Churches and other institutions are forever trying to get us to make a commitment to some program or other, whether it’s for our own good or for theirs; and the notion of commitment frequently makes us either hesitate to proceed or else procrastinate on the follow-through.

Why do we hesitate or procrastinate, even if we believe that our commitment would be for our good? The portion of the dictionary definition that covers our difficulty is "the state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled." The Latin word committere means to connect or entrust, coming in turn from com + mittere, to send. We have sent a portion of our consciousness, our attention, our self, into someplace on Monday that we’re not at all sure we will want to be in on Tuesday or Wednesday, when something easier or more attractive may come along. We may have signed on the dotted line or demurred, depending on how we reacted to that feeling of being "obligated or emotionally impelled."

What’s missing is a piece of our freedom. If we are committed, some portion of our time, our money, or our energy is no longer at our disposal to do what we might feel like doing, come Tuesday or Wednesday. To follow through on our commitments is to be strong in what author Stephen Covey calls "hard moments, which if we are strong in, make everything else like ‘a piece of cake’". What’s hard about the hard moment is the loss of freedom.

That freedom originally got lost back whenever we developed a habit of doing or not doing something other that what we wanted to commit to. Habit, as William James famously pointed out, makes life easier because we don’t have to rethink everything we do before we do it. This works powerfully for us as well as against us. Embedded in commitment is the effort of establishing a new habit of some sort, so we hesitate or procrastinate because we dread the difficulty of establishing a new habit, for change is strange.

New Thought, reinforced by research in psychology, is forever pointing out that what we give our attention to grows. With a new commitment, where is our attention? Too often on how hard it’s going to be to change. That thought doesn’t feel good, and we want to feel good. Where does our attention need to be in order to feel good? It needs to be on all the reasons why we want to make that commitment and acquire the necessary habit or habits. Rehearsing our reasons for wanting to make the commitment and then picturing the outcome in our lives as a result of following through on the commitment fuels our desire and gives us the necessary energy to reach that outcome. Psychiatrist Milton Erickson, raised on a Wisconsin farm, taught his children to hoe potatoes by dividing up the potato bed and creating patterns so that they would become interested in the patterns they were making instead of the backbreaking labor of hoeing.

We might not need to write down our reasons for hoeing potatoes, but most of the things that we are having a hard time committing to are things that we have a long list of good reasons for adopting: better wellness habits, or money management that includes glad giving, or developing kindlier ways of dealing with family members or customers or friends. We do need to write down the reasons and keep the list handy to look at in the hard moments. Once those reasons have sunk into our subconscious mind, we will find that it is much easier to "just do it."