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In 2009, a 13-year old girl named Laura Dekker made an extreme decision:
To become the youngest person ever to sail around the world alone.
People thought she was crazy.
“You’re too young”, some clamored.
“You’re going to die out there”, others exclaimed.
When child services heard about her plan, they went on a crusade to stop her.
For 10 months, Laura fought a highly mediatized court battle.
If she won, she would be allowed to pursue her dream and take a shot at history.
If she lost, child services would take her away from her family and put her in foster care.
In July 2010, the verdict was rendered: Laura won and was allowed to attempt her journey around the world.
A month later, she sailed off the coast of Holland on her epic voyage.
No one could predict the countless ways in which her willpower would be tested along the way.
People doubted her. Media criticized her. Sailors questioned her.
But she had a secret weapon, and she knew it could help her overcome anything.
To understand the secret to Laura’s willpower, we need to start a simple spiritual framework:
Inside you, there are 2 “selves”:
1) Your higher self– the part of you that dreams big, believes in itself, and is willing to do whatever it takes to reach its full potential.
2) Your small self– the part of you that wants to play safe, that doubts itself, and that wants to stay comfortable at all costs.
If you’re like most people, your life is a constant battle between those 2 parts of yourself- a tug-of-war between the yearning for excellence and the comfort of mediocrity.
Willpower is the ability to operate from your higher self-consistently, without collapsing into your small self (especially in critical moments).
And let’s be honest- Laura had several occasions to collapse:
No one would have blamed her for giving up on this crazy idea.
But little did they know that in 2010, Laura made a deal with the Universe.
She decided she was willing to do whatever it takes.
She went all-in with her entire soul to this project.
Her secret weapon was, she was SUPREMELY COMMITTED to her vision.
From there, challenges became a part of the game. Nothing could break her commitment, and no obstacle was too big.
Note: Of course, even with the strongest of commitment, sometimes things don’t go our way. But supreme commitment always maximizes our chances of success, and that’s all we can ask for.
Commitment is not a sexy word. It’s not glamourous or glorified on social media.
And yet, it’s one of the most powerful forces in the Universe.
But in order to harness its force, we need to optimize our relationship with it.
How is your current relationship with commitment? To find out, let’s play a game:
When you think about the word “commitment”, what 5 words first come to mind?
Don’t overthink it- just say them out loud (or in your mind) right now. Go!
Good! What were they?
If you’re like most people, the words that came up are probably rather negative (ie, “hard”, “boring”, “scary”, “challenging”, “stuck”).
In order to achieve extraordinary willpower, you need a superb relationship with commitment.
It will be the anchor that keeps you firmly connected to your higher self when the seas of life get agitated, or downright scary.
Laura’s commitment was a tremendous anchor. The highest achievers always do.
Now it’s your turn.
You’ve heard about the concept of commitment before.
But have you ever stopped to think about why it’s so powerful?
The Indian sage Patanjali once said, “When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties, and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.” Patañjali
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties, and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”
I believe Patanjali was referring not only about being inspired by an extraordinary project but also being supremely committed to its completion.
Inspiration gets you started. Commitment keeps you going.
Why? Because 3 powerful phenomena occur when you commit.
1) You become immensely more resilient
When facing an obstacle, 2 different voices can whisper in your head.
If you’re half-in– the Small Self’s Voice:
“Why does this always happen to me?”
“This sucks- maybe it’s not meant to be”.
“Why am I doing this? I should just find something easier?”
If you’re all-in- the Higher Self’s Voice:
“How can I overcome this?”
“I love that this is making me stronger”
“I wasn’t expecting this but I sure ain’t stopping now!”
Can you see how depending on your level of commitment, the conversation in your head completely changes?
It’s almost impossible to succeed when your small self is yapping away in defeatist fashion.
It’s almost impossible to fail when your higher self is problem-solving powerfully.
2)People will want to help you
No great project can be achieved without outside help, and there’s something extremely magnetic about someone who’s all-in with their commitment.
When you’re fully committed, others feel your determination. It’s contagious.
When Laura started reaching out to potential sponsors, the support was immediate – not only was her project remarkable but the strength of her resolve was uncanny. People wanted in.
All of a sudden, she wasn’t alone in quest- she had a whole team of people supporting her. You can have the same and it starts within yourself- with your commitment.
3)It brings sacredness into your life
For so much of our life, we operate within the realm of the mundane. We go about our business, try to be good people, and not do anything stupid.
But magic happens when we start introducing more sacredness to our lives. And commitment is one of the most effective to do that.
Even it doesn’t involve chanting or deities, making a commitment is a very sacred experience.
It’s a quiet moment of making a handshake with the Universe. “I’m all in”, you say. “I know” replies the Universe.
From there, all sorts of meaningful coincidences start to happen. Things start to fall into place.
As the poet Goethe famously said, At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires to assist you. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires to assist you.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Now that we’ve explored why commitments are so powerful, it’s time to look at how we can make effective commitments (rather than weak or nebulous ones).
There are 3 elements that are necessary to making commitments that produce extraordinary results.
1) A sacred commitment must be clear. For example, let’s say you want to commit to being in great physical shape you need to identify:
Once you’re clear on all the elements of your commitment, the game becomes a lot simpler- all you have to do is execute.
2) Accountability. To help you execute consistently and prevent your small self from creeping back in, having accountability makes a big difference.
Whether it’s an accountability partner, a mentor, or a coach- having someone who’s willing to call you if you’re not showing up fully will help stay focused and prevent collapsing in moments of weakness.
3) Time frame. People often hesitate about making a commitment because they feel like they’re signing their life away. It doesn’t have to be this way.
The solution is to commit for a certain amount of time. For example, commit to working out five times a week for the next 3 months.
After the 90 days, stop and re-evaluate your commitment- is it serving you? Do you want to continue? Or do something else?
Making this “timeframe commitment” will allow you to harness the power of commitment without being too rigid in the face of an ever-changing reality.
Now let’s go from theory to practice- right now, pick one area of your life where you’ve been lacking commitment: maybe it’s a relationship, your fitness, or a new business you’re starting.
Are you willing to commit today? Is it time to make a handshake with the Universe?
If so, you’ve got 3 things to do:
1) Get clear- what exactly does this commitment entail?
Write it down so it’s clear and simple to execute.
2) Get support- who’s going to hold you accountable? Who’s going to be in your corner when things get challenging?
Send them a message right now to explain your project and see if they’d be willing to support you.
3) Create a timeframe- how long are you committing for?
Decide on how long you’re committing to, and when you’ll pause to re-evaluate your commitment.
On January 21, 2012, Laura Dekker sailed into the St-Marteens port, after more than 16 months at sea.
She had battled through long days of crushing loneliness.
She had overcome some of the most dangerous seas in the world.
She had done the unthinkable – sail solo around the world between the ages of 14 and 16.
She was covered in glory and admiration. But none of it mattered.
What was she most proud of?
That she had proved to herself she could do it.
She had committed to an extraordinary project, braved countless obstacles, and emerged on the other side victorious.
And from my own experience, that’s the most satisfying feeling in the world.
You can have that feeling too.
And it starts right here, right now.
What are you committing to? Let me know in the comments below!
Then go forth, and make magic happen.
PS This article was inspired by Maiden Trip, a documentary about Laura’s journey.