Research Paper By Natali Sanchez Rheault
(Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
COMMITMENT – some of us look at that word and it speaks out to us loudly, sort of the way you see it written. It actually is so loud that it becomes intimidating. The mere mention of the word sends us to the hills, as far away from it as possible. We simply shy away from commitment because we are overwhelmed by its magnificence. It is too overwhelming; too long a road to take to whatever it is we need to commit to. We see commitment as a big mountain that we have to climb.
I was in Japan recently; I actually lived there for two years and during that time my husband organized a team building exercise with his colleagues. As my husband is grand in his thinking, the team building exercise was to climb Mt. Fuji together. He invited me. I was thrilled to go. I often wondered if sitting around the table, sharing great work-related ideas or going on a hiking trip that did not entail climbing 3,776 m (12,388 ft) would have served the purpose of team building, but it was not my call and everyone else agreed to it, so we went. It was a wonderful experience and we made it to the highest point of the mountain called Kengamine. Out of seven of us, four made it to the top, my husband, two of his colleagues, and I. It is an experience I will never forget and for sure one of the most physically challenging and rewarding things I have done.
The climb was exhausting. I joked as we climbed and afterwards about the mountain zombies. The mountain zombies were all the people climbing up the mountain. Let me explain, I noticed as I was climbing up that due to the exhaustion my body was feeling, my arms tended to fall to my sides in a sort of limp, they-are-no-longer-attached-to-my-body manner and my body would tend to lean forward in order to keep myself from falling back or just stopping. My legs were weak and my movements were sluggish. When we stopped to rest, I would turn back and funny enough see everyone else that was climbing up behind us, do the exact same thing (the mountain zombie walk). I remember that inspite of my exhaustion, I felt accompanied, not because I knew the people behind us, but because I and they were humans and we were all going through the same pains, the same struggles to put one foot in front of the other. The body becomes so exhausted that it takes everything in us to just stay focused to put one foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other. I told myself that for 3,776 m. Though it was long and exhausting, it was exhilarating to be at the top, to know that it was because of my efforts and sweat that I had finally arrived. My persistence had paid off and I felt like a champion!
So what did climbing Mt. Fuji teach me about commitment? It taught me that if you are persistent, you can fulfill your goals. It taught me that commitment and the will to continue can take you to the top. You could now be thinking to yourself that climbing a mountain is different from committing yourself to your goals on a daily basis. Climbing a mountain you may think is a one day (two days for those that want to go slower) phenomenon, but living your life committed to your goals is a daily task in which is difficult to stay focused and be impassioned about every single day. But is it really that different?
In life we have to put one foot in front of the other and not only do we have to do it for just a day, which is the time to climb Mt. Fuji, but we have to do it on a daily basis. So how do we consistently put one foot in front of the other and stay committed to what we have set out to do? How can we day in and day out, feel the same passion that we once did for our goals?
As a coach I cannot tell you how you should stay committed, but I can share with you what things help me to stay committed and make the correlation with climbing Mt. Fuji. If you see staying committed as overwhelming as climbing a mountain, then hopefully this article can help to reframe your perspective.
Climbing a mountain is a lot more fun and doable when you have companionship, someone who is helping you along the way. The support that others can bring when times are tough, are many times underestimated. In my case, my husband was my companion. When I was exhausted and felt I could no longer climb, he encouraged me by telling me to look up and see the top. He would tell me how close we were, that we just needed to make it to the following station, to rest, re-energize and continue. When we got to the rocky parts, and I could not climb them alone, he held my hand and pulled me up.
In life the same applies, find a colleague, a friend, a spouse, a mentor, a coach that will walk with you in your life journey, that will encourage you and help to empower you in those days when you feel you can never reach your goals. We all have those days. Give yourself a break. Just ask for help when you no longer have strength. Extend your hand and ask that someone help you climb through the rocky parts of your journey.
Putting one foot in front of the other will help you commit yourself to fulfilling your goals because action begets further action, which results in commitment. Many people have dreams; actually some have very big dreams, which is great. I believe in dreaming, the bigger the better. However, dreams in order to be accomplished, need to be backed up with action. Dreaming and visualizing alone will not get you where you want to go. Dreaming and action will.
In Mt. Fuji, I consistently thought about putting one foot in front of the other because that was the only way to continue moving forward. My mind’s sole purpose at the time was to focus on getting to the top. Due to the exhaustion as I got higher and higher up the mountain, my mind could no longer focus on anything else but my legs and my feet. I learned the concept of putting one foot in front of the other years earlier when my husband and I were running our usual run and I was very tired that day. I remember asking him as we were running how I would be able to finish the run since I was already tired and we had just started. He said to me, “Just put one foot in front of the other”. Ever since that day, any time I would run and my body wanted to give up, I would tell myself to just put one foot in front of the other. This encouraged me to go on. I could finish my run. I competed in a race in Tokyo and came in 14th place out of several hundred people. The first time I ever raced and I did it by putting one foot in front of the other. In Mt. Fuji, I did the same. I focused on my feet. I looked at the ground in front of me and I walked it, claiming every step of the way, just one foot in front of the other. Such was my concentration that putting one foot in front of the other on the way up became my main focus. When the body is that exhausted, it can only think about putting one foot in front of the other, it cannot see the big picture (the top). There is no strength, but it can think of the immediacy of putting one foot in front of the other. That it can do. With that thought, I climbed to the top of Mt. Fuji, with that thought I ran, with that thought I raced, with that thought I live.
So now think of your feet as being actions, of putting one action after another to get to your summit, to the top of your mountain. The actions that you create and deliver on will beget more action, which will turn into commitment. I know that the standard way of looking at things is that you need to commit first and then act. I do agree with that up to a point. I believe that humans are complicated and that not everything is this straight forward. My thinking is that action towards a goal even if a person is not fully committed yet, will get them to become committed the more actions they take towards that goal. So it is not necessary to think that being committed is such a drastic change from where you are today. Think of the actions instead that will help you meet your goals. You will see that if you focus on completing those actions, you will get momentum. That momentum turns into commitment without you really noticing it. It is a gradual change that takes place.
You no longer need to fear commitment. Just think of your goals, put some concrete actions to meet those goals, act, and commitment will naturally flow in.
It is the same concept as keeping an eye on my feet as I climbed Mt. Fuji. At times I could not look up and see the top. It was only when my husband and I were resting and he was encouraging me that I would look up. The rest of the time I had to keep my focus on my feet, to get them one step closer every time to the top.
Your actions are your feet. Keep an eye on them to ensure that they are planted firmly on the ground. Your actions should be concrete and drive you towards your goals. Since your actions have to take you to the top of your mountain, ensure that every step takes you closer to the top. Do not sidetrack as you may get exhausted halfway or three-fourths of the way there. Do not linger as night time may come sooner than you think. Step one action after another so that you can get momentum to accomplish your goal.
Before becoming a coach I worked in the corporate world for thirteen years. I had different roles within those thirteen years but the one role I had, which I learned very much from, was Project Manager. In managing projects, we first started projects by listing the actions that my team and I needed to complete. This was done with a simple spreadsheet where we listed the actions needed, the person(s) responsible for those particular actions and the timeframe needed to complete our actions. Coming up with all the actions was a team effort in which the team got together and brainstormed what we needed to do. Once we had those actions outlined, we went down the list and assigned the tasks to the person(s) responsible. Lastly we reviewed our timeframe and got commitment from the team to stick to the timeline. Obviously this was not a one sitting deal. We met several times to come up with the plan and went back and forth on timeframes, etc. But there came a time when we finally got it down and everyone was working towards completing the actions defined in the timeframe allotted.
What I remember the most about these times and working with my colleagues was the satisfaction we felt as we saw progress in our plan. This was one of the most encouraging things to see, the momentum the team would pick up from seeing their completed tasks. Action begets further action. The more they acted and saw progress, the more committed they were to sticking to the plan. The higher up we walked Mt. Fuji, the more committed we were to not giving up, even though we were exhausted. Dreams without action do not get you to the top of your mountain, dreaming of getting to the top and acting by completing one action after another, do.
The willpower needed to succeed is in all of us. We need willpower, which is basically the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals, in order to stay committed and focused. In 2011, 27 percent of Stress in America survey respondents reported that lack of willpower was the most significant barrier to change. In Mt. Fuji, my long-term goal was to get to the top and the short-term temptation was to stop or turn back, in essence to give up. Do not take me wrong, I have often thought about the climb and what made me continue. I mean after all, what is the big deal right? Why did I need to climb it and put myself through that exhausting ordeal? Not all of us made it. I would not have stood out, so why continue?
For me, it was about the challenge of it all; the challenge to my body and mind. I wanted to see if I could do it. I wanted to see what I was made of, how I would react to the hardship of climbing this mountain. I must say that I have this attitude about most things I set out to do. My biggest thing is that I want to challenge myself and see what I will learn from different life experiences. The drive to stretch myself is very present in me. However I also get tired like everyone else and need to “recharge” my willpower. The good news is that we can all strengthen our willpower.
In Psychology Today, willpower experts say that just like you can strengthen your muscles with exercise, you can do the same with willpower.
Here are some ways:
Don’t keep yourself in a constant state of willpower depletion – give yourself a break; being too hard on yourself is a way to deplete your willpower.
- Use your imagination – the body often responds to imagined situations in the same way it responds to experienced ones. If you imagine a good, relaxing experience, your body will be relaxed. If instead you imagine a negative experience, your body will react as if you are living the bad experience. Experts say you can use imagination to strengthen your willpower.
- Think about something else – every time you get tempted, think of something else that will replace the temptation so that you can stay focused on your goal.
- Build good habits; you’ll need them when you’re stressed – stress depletes willpower. Under stress, experts explain, you will go back to your habits. If you build and have in place good habits that work for you, then when you are stressed, you will fall back on habits that will not harm you but work for you.
- One step at a time – in order to not feel overwhelmed by your goals, break them down to “manageable pieces, and line them up in a sequence that guarantees success”.
- Be yourself – stay true to who you are and focused on your goals. Do not try to please others as it is found that being a people pleaser depletes willpower since it takes effort to suppress who you are.
- Don’t put yourself in temptation’s way, or if you do, have a plan – you know yourself, if you know you have a chance to falter, proactively counteract your behavior.
In conclusion, committing to your goals does not have to be such an overwhelming experience. Remember, get the right support structure that can help you along the way and encourage you when you want to give up. Break down your goals to doable actions that you can manage one after another (put one foot in front of the other). Finally, exercise your willpower so that it works for you in the course of climbing your Mt. Fuji.
Charm of Fuji (http://www.yamanashi-kankou.jp/kokuritsukoen/en/miryoku/hiking/course1.html)
American Psychological Association (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/willpower.aspx)
Psychology Today (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/good-thinking/201306/how-boost-your-willpower)