Commitment to any given activity is a must for the successful person. You should give yourself 100 percent towards any particular task or activity you are engaged in. Whether it’s work, a hobby, or being with friends. You must concentrate your mind and body on one activity at a time.
Many times in the past I remember going to a tae kwon do class with many things weighing heavily on my mind. I found that if I started to think about anything else (e.g., my studies, my life, my job) I became distracted and sensed a tension inside which seemed to be saying to me: “Why are you here when you know you’ve got so much work to do?” This kind of thinking can paralyze your effort to relax, work out, or do whatever else you might be trying to do. Most often it’s when you are trying to relax or do something you enjoy.
What I did and continue to do in these situations is take control of my thoughts and effectively say right back to that little voice inside:
“Now look here. I have come to exercise for the next hour. Everything else in my life can wait until I get home or until I need to deal with that specific area in its own allotted time. I will not have my relaxation/physical fitness time destroyed by such negative and anxious thinking.”
I then usually proceed to give my best to the session, my mind quiets down, and I really enjoy my time away from the rest of my life.
I find the following quote quite useful in this regard:
“One step enough for me.”
We must realize that everything has a time and a place. You should never try and do more than one thing at a time. This does not mean that you can’t have a whole bunch of projects on the go at the same time. What it means is that if you are dealing with project number 1, you must concentrate completely on that project. You can move to number 2 later, and then you concentrate completely on number 2.
It wastes your time and energy and it can also leave you feeling torn if you are busy with project one and you are trying to think about how you are going to handle project two at the same time. It doesn’t work, it’s not efficient, so don’t do it.
If you deal with each part of your life in its allotted time, giving yourself fully to that part while you are engaged in it, you will find that you can start to enjoy each part more and more. You start to lose that sense of tension that you create by being in one place and thinking about being in another.
This is especially important when it comes to being with friends and family. It is so important to use that time wisely and not waste it by not being with them 100 percent. People can often sense when we are not completely there and when we are distracted by something else. Our lack of “mindfulness”’ can lead to feelings of frustration and hurt, especially if a loved one is trying to tell us something and we are not really listening. Work must never dominate your life so much so that it intrudes on your moments alone with friends or family. Like I said, it wastes your time, and more importantly it takes away from the richness of the other activity you are engaged in.
To explain further the value of commitment and self-discipline, let me again use an example from the many years of experience I have in Tae Kwon Do.
You can learn so much about human behavior and personality when you take part in a Tae Kwon Do class over a period of years, or any martial art for that matter. When I first began, I was not the fastest or the best athlete in the world — far from it! I often struggled to run up the hills when we did our fitness training and I had to keep working really hard on my kicks to try and get them right. I would often get very frustrated when a kick we had been learning for a few years wasn’t working out for me.
There were others in the class, however, who seemed to be able to do the hardest kicks with the greatest of ease and with the greatest confidence. There were a few guys in the class who had started at roughly the same time as I did. They had a definite talent for Tae Kwon Do and I suppose for sports in general. They kicked really well, were super-fit and often became the “favourites” of the instructor. What I noticed, however, as the years went by, was that no matter how fast they came out kicking (if you will excuse the expression) and no matter how brilliant they were, after a certain amount of time they would leave. It didn’t matter that they may have been the most talented people, with the most potential to become world champions at tae kwon do; if they didn’t have what it took mentally to stick it out and to have the discipline to see it through, then all the talent in the world was for nothing.
I, on the other hand, who began with maybe a little less talent and athletic prowess, began to improve and get better over the years. Eventually my kicks started becoming really accurate and powerful. My confidence improved as I got better and one day, after having seen how my skills compared to other clubs and belts, I realised how far I had come and that the discipline and commitment that I put into tae kwon do had paid off.
I gained so many other benefits from doing Tae Kwon Do over the years – such as the levels of physical fitness I achieved and the confidence – but the one thing that it really taught me was the value of being disciplined and committed to doing something and seeing it through. Now, please bear in mind that I am not saying that you must remain committed to something even when you feel it no longer serves you or when it has started to become a real drain on you. You will need to walk that line carefully and continuously test the waters to see whether what you are doing is benefiting you and whether you are achieving your goals in life. There came a time for me when I decided to leave tae kwon do when I felt it no longer — at that moment — served me. I have since returned to it and now train my own children in it, but I made the decision to leave after doing it for seven years.
My instructor had returned to France and I felt that the class was no longer teaching me and helping me grow. The difference was that I stuck it out and really enjoyed the benefits I gained from it even though there were so many times I wanted to quit.
As another example, I know a young man who is extremely talented when it comes to music. He was born with a “musical ear.” By age 11, he was playing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the piano just from listening to it and then learning it by trial and error on the piano. Later in life he taught himself the guitar and then the electric guitar. There was a time I didn’t see him for a period of a year or so because he was overseas and when he came back he had learned to play the electric guitar on his own and he was playing the likes of Gary Moore and Santana. He played them almost to a tee! But this young man had never learned the discipline to stick to something and he was always getting himself into some form of trouble or another. There was no doubt in my mind that he had the potential to reach rock star status if he even had a little discipline to see it through and to make it happen for himself. It really is such a pity to see talent go to waste.
I believe that we all have innate potential and the seeds of greatness in us, but it is the discipline and commitment to water those seeds and to develop those talents that is needed before any measure of success will come about. I don’t think you will often find people who have made it to the top in any field who have not spent a lot of time grooming and preparing themselves to be there. They probably spent hours and hours, days, months and even years preparing themselves and taking steps along the way before they finally “made it.”
There is no doubt that life requires us to put in the time to reap the rewards. We often have to keep going when we feel that there is nothing left in us to move us forward. I have often used Edgar A. Guest’s poem “Don’t Quit” during difficult times such as these.
When you are faced with a difficult path along your journey in life or when you come up against an obstacle that seems like it cannot be overcome, you may find yourself thinking that you should quit. When you come to that moment you can often see how your life is at a crossroads and that one decision will take you one way and the other decision another way. Although I must admit that most people probably wouldn’t take the time to think about which way their decisions are going to take them in life. It can be a very emotional time when you are on that brink and you feel like it’s just so much easier to let it go and to give up. But don’t do it, not unless you are very sure that this is no longer what you want for yourself.
A useful thing to remember and to say to yourself when you are in this kind of situation is to say that it is very easy to quit and give up. Remind yourself that you always have the choice to quit and give up but it takes someone with that little bit of something in them to carry on going when the going gets tough and that you are one of those people. The option to quit is there, your escape button will always be there but you can make the decision to not use it just yet (keep it like an ace up your sleeve) and stick it out and stay committed. Again this is assuming that the thing you want to stay committed to is good for you and for your development and growth.
You will always look back on your ability to stick with something and realize that you have a lot of strength and staying power within you. The best thing is that it’s a transferable skill. It does not only apply to the activity or goal you are working on at the moment. Once you learn to flex your discipline and commitment “muscles,” you can learn to transfer those skills to other areas of your life. I found that my discipline in tae kwon do gave me extra discipline when it came to completing my honours and master’s degrees. If you decide that you want to begin an exercise regime, there is no doubt that you will need to develop your discipline “muscles” as well as your actual muscles. If you want to learn how to play the guitar or how to play golf, you will need that discipline and commitment to carry on.
Commitment and self discipline are directly related to the level of motivation that you can create for yourself to get yourself moving. Motivation and discipline are two sides of the same coin. It’s an intricate relationship that can be useful to understand. The really important thing to take note of is the effect that discipline has on motivation. It will be the levels of discipline that you can create in your life that will allow you to lift your levels of motivation, and not usually the other way around.
As an example, I am sure most of you have experienced the lack of motivation to go and do a physical activity. Whether that activity is going to the gym, going for a jog, going for a swim, taking the dog for a walk, or even just taking out the trash!
When we feel low with motivation to do something, it is our level of discipline that will get us to get up and get going. It is an intricate play going on in your mind about the pros and cons of actually getting up and doing it. Your mind starts to play mental football, knocking around the ball and trying to find enough reason or motivation to make it happen. When you have spent enough time developing the discipline and have learned to put this mental game on the side and focus on why you want to do your activity and how you will feel afterwards rather than the reasons you don’t want to do it, you will find it becoming easier and easier to just get up and go and make it happen.
So, create a routine in your life (not a boring one but a disciplined one) that will help you to get going without too much mental ping pong.
One of the benefits of developing your skills at being disciplined and committed is increasing your ability to achieve your goals and desires.
Some of these goals may include your desire to rid yourself of anxiety and/or depression. When you know that you have what it takes to make it happen in your life and when you start to see yourself as a disciplined person and thus a successful person, you will really begin to change your life.