Hard To Get, Hard To Keep.

In almost thirty years of teaching health, I find that I still want to talk about health stuff. You’d think I would be sick to death of trying to help people feel better. But, I’m a stubborn little know-it-all and I can’t stop myself.

So here goes.

I was giving a talk on Feeling Good Even When Totally Stressed at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Women’s Leadership Conference and I heard myself say this about trying a new health thing. 

“I can’t commit to things I’m not committed to.”

I’d never uttered these words before but an audience member asked me, “Why do I have so much trouble staying on a diet? Also, what is the harm of quick fixes that have only short-term results?”

I answered, “The thing about quick fixes is that they don’t fix anything. The quick fix implies short-term behavior, so it stands to reason that we get short-term results.”

Then I said, “If we want long-term results, we have to engage in long-term behavior.”

Everybody yawned.

Ann – this is not news. 

I KNOW. I KNOW it isn’t news, but let’s look at why.

I think we optimistically engage in short-term behavior in the hope that we will see big results fast and that will convince us to keep it up.  That this time, our quick behavior will turn into genuine long-term change.

So many hearts are broken with this kind of thinking. So many dreams dashed.

Think of that gorgeous person you dated on the rebound from your long-term relationship. Maybe this happened in college, they were in a band and drank too much. Maybe they played hockey. Had blond hair. They were some quick fun, weren’t they? But you didn’t commit, did you? (I mean, maybe you did, and if you did, F’n good for you.)

We break up with our quick-fixes because they usually don’t work for us. We can’t commit to them for whatever reason: it’s too hard, it doesn’t fit our life, it doesn’t ultimately make sense to us. And so we wander off.

You want to commit. But if you don’t believe in the new behavior as a long-term commitment you won’t be able to do it forever.

A quick-fix should be renamed a quick-broken.

I think we need a new term. A Commit-Fix

Commit – to pledge or engage oneself. 

Fix – to become stable or permanent.

In the future, I think we need to keep this in mind when someone offers something that seems too good to be true. An elimination diet; an exercise program that is half the sweat for twice the fitness; a new app the promises to keep you on track in life; a breathless forever love on the first date.

You have to ask your commitment questions. Is this something that is going to break your heart or will it stay up all night with you when you accidentally take your Adderall?

Are you and this new thing in it for the long haul? 

Know this: We can’t, or don’t or won’t commit to things we are not committed to.

There you have it. I’m going to take a nap now because I’m retired.

I talk a little more about how to commit even when you fail, here