By Leo Babauta
As we move into Week 2 of our Courageous Self-Discipline Challenge â€¦ let’s talk about deepening commitment and focus.
First, ask yourself how things have gone this past week. Then notice what effect this has has on different parts of your life. For example, perhaps things have gone in one of these ways:
- Everything has gone amazingly well: You’ve stuck to the challenge, and you’re feeling great about it. You notice the effects it has on your confidence and trust in yourself, which radiates to all parts of your life.
- You did mostly well: You did your discipline challenge task on most days, with only one or two misses. You feel pretty good about this, but a little guilty about the ones you missed. You rationalize the misses by saying it’s OK, missing one or two isn’t a problem. But you notice the effects this has â€” you know that you are not deeply committed, and realize this is an ongoing pattern in your life that you’re reinforcing here.
- You barely did the challenge: You’re not feeling great about this. You offer some token rationalizations, but maybe beat yourself up more than anything. The effect is that you feel bad, and don’t really want to think about the challenge. You avoid, but you notice this kind of avoidance is present in other parts of your life as well. It reinforces.
- You said you’d do the challenge but then didn’t: You feel pretty bad. Again, you’re likely to avoid thinking about it. The effect is that not only do you feel worse about yourself, but you are less likely to stick to other things you’ve committed to in other parts of your life.
As you can see, how you did with this challenge the past week is likely to have effects in all parts of your life. The important thing is not to be judgmental and beat ourselves up, but to see the effects clearly. To be open-eyed about all of it, even as we give ourselves compassion.
If you did anything but the first item above (stuck to the challenge perfectly), I don’t want you to beat yourself up about it. Here’s what you should do instead:
- Ask yourself what pattern is getting in the way. Watch the webinar on patterns if you haven’t yet.
- Decide that you don’t want to keep doing this pattern, nor do you want to keep having these effects on your life. Again, it’s not about beating yourself up about this, but about resolving not to keep doing this to yourself, or at least try not to (without expecting perfection).
- Commit yourself even more. Go deeper into your commitment. How can you be someone who would walk through walls for this? Why is this important to you? Is it worth discomfort? Is it worth putting aside other things until it gets done? Is it worth putting your reputation on the line as you commit publicly to it? Find a way to make it so that you won’t back out. If it doesn’t work, find another way until it does.
I mentioned this on the webinar, but I’ve committed to challenges where a friend promised to throw a pie in my face if I didn’t do it. Something fun like that, but something you want to avoid. You should set it up so that you know there’s no way you’re going to fail.
Feel what it’s like to deepen your commitment, in your heart.
Deepen Your Focus
Once you’re doing the task you’ve committed to doing each day … can you be fully focused as you do it?
If you’ve only been half in it, waiting for the session to end so you can get to the next thing … or switching back and forth between the task and your favorite distractions … it’s a beautiful practice to open up to full focus.
Here’s how you might practice this:
- Don’t multitask. If this task is important enough to commit yourself to, then be all in and single-task. Do nothing but this one thing. Set aside this time, shut everything else off, and be all in.
- Don’t give yourself a choice. Often we let ourselves renegotiate when it comes to doing the task. We say we’re going to do it, then when the time comes, we start bargaining: “Just a few more minutes of checking my messages. I’ll do it in a little bit.” Don’t engage in this kind of negotiation. Instead, figure out what you’re going to do beforehand, and when the time comes, just do it. There’s no decision to be made at that point â€” you already made the decision before. Don’t question it.
- When you start, notice the urge to switch â€” and don’t indulge that urge. There will be some uncertainty and discomfort in doing this task. That’s OK! Just notice that you want to switch to something else. Then don’t do it. Notice how the urge feels, but don’t think of it as a command, just as an interesting phenomenon to be curious about. Stay with the feeling of the urge for a moment. Then return to the task. You are only allowed to do 2 things: do the task, or sit with the urge to run from it.
- Open up to the joy of the task. When you’re doing the task, it’s not about rushing through it to get done with it. Instead, be fully there with the task. Open up to enjoying it. Play! See the joy in it, and savor the pleasure of doing.
Full focus takes practice. It also takes noticing â€” what are all the sensations of doing this task? How can I appreciate it more? How can I do this out of love for myself and those I serve?
Practice full focus this week and the rest of this month!