Many people don’t know that one of the inspirations to the Mr. Thank You Project was a book called, “The Year of Living Biblically: One man’s Humble Quest to live the Bible as Literally as Possible” by A.J. Jacobs.
In this book, non-practicing Jewish writer, A.J. Jacobs, undergoes a personal experiment to see what might happen if he tried to live out the Bible (specifically Old Testament) as literally as he can while maintaining his work, marriage, fatherhood, and living in New York City. From wearing only clothes of the same fabric, not shaving his beard, hailing cabs with ram horns, this book is hilarious and insightful.
I came to learn this is just one of many experiments where he was a human guinea pig. From reading the Encyclopedia Brittanica from A-Z in a year, and trying every healthy diet and exercise routine he could find for a year…he’s quite the character.
While A.J.’s books are entertaining, they taught me a valuable lesson. You can do ANYTHING for extended periods (weeks, months, or years) if you wanted to.
I tested cleanses where I didn’t eat for 10 straight days and only drank a concoction of Lemon Juice, Cayenne Pepper, Organic maple syrup, and water. I gave up dessert for an entire year (one of my greatest vices).
I became fascinated with the idea, you can change your life by simply changing your habits.
When it came to the idea of writing 5 thank you cards every day for 365 days in a row, it became another challenge to see what’s possible when you commit to something.
My friend and Pastor Tarik El-Ansary told me this when I was struggling with following through on a project,“Most of us are professional starters. Few of us are professional finishers.”Tweet This
This is true of most people when it comes to commitment because few of us are truly committed. Most of us are simply “interested”.
We like the idea of doing something. We might even succumb to the social pressure to make a saying we will do something. But if we want to truly commit and follow-through, there is a process to it.
Here are my 3 rules to hitting the commitments you set:
1. Get Clarity- Get extremely clear on what it is you are committing to. Leaving gray area allows for cheating. Ex. When I gave up dessert for a year…well…what qualifies a dessert? Is a Snickers Bar in the middle of the afternoon a dessert? What about a donut? It’s first thing in the morning, so clearly it’s not a dessert. I never made that distinction and it made situations difficult. You need to make sure the commitment is extremely clear so you know if you are “doing it, or NOT”.
Case in point why the commitment to the Mr. Thank You Project was: to handwrite 5 Thank You cards every day for 365 days in a row. Handwrite- couldn’t be text, 5-not 3, every day (even Sunday), 365 days (deadline). This clarity made it easy to know what I was committed to and how to do it every day.
2. Set Rules: Every game has rules. Basketball has rules…if you start playing a version of basketball where you don’t have to dribble the ball…you aren’t playing basketball. You’re playing some other game. Rules make things fun. They make the game more challenging. They give you parameters to act within.
For me: I had to add rules to this project: Every day resets at zero. If I don’t have this rule, I might stack days together. Would it be honoring the idea of a daily habit otherwise? Max of 3 cards per person- Without this rule, I could technically write 5 cards every day to the same person. Would that have the impact I wanted? Of course not. $1000 to charity for every day I miss! If you do an illegal move in hockey, they send you to the penalty box. WHY? Otherwise, any behavior is acceptable. All major commitments need accountability.
3. Think through the commitment. There is a 30% higher likely hood of marital success for couples who receive pre-marital counseling before their wedding than those who didn’t. WHY? You have to think through the decision you are about to make. I remember going through premarital counseling with my wife and all the hard questions our pastor had us answer about our goals, beliefs, values, raising children, how will we respond when something traumatic happens. This saved our marriage before it started. Many salespeople I work with make commitments because they think they are supposed to, hoping the commitment will make them do it. But after failing over and over again to hit their numbers, I come to find that most of them hadn’t done the due diligence to think through what actions they needed to hit their goal. Same for most people with their commitments.
Before launching the Mr. Thank You Project, my coach had me take a week and think through all the challenges I might experience throughout the year, and write down how I will respond when that happens. This thoughtful experience made all the difference when times got tough.
I remember a mentor asking me, “What is your word worth?” Another way of saying, “What will it take for you to break your commitment?”
It’s a difficult question because we’d love to say, “Nothing will stop me. My word is GOLD. I’ll never stop.” But then things get hard.
Commitments aren’t easy. They aren’t meant to be. Because the commitments change us. The commitment is the crucible of learning. We become forged in fire. This is why, who you are at the beginning of a large commitment, is not who you are at the end. You allow yourself to be forged in fire.
No one said the commitment would be easy. But they did say, it would be worth it.
What commitments have changed your life? Do you ever have a hard time following through on your commitments?