Ep. #22: Honoring Your Commitments

How many times have you sworn off something, or sworn to do better, only to find yourself deviating from your commitment later on? Our commitments are guideposts to our wealth, so it’s important to honor them. Listen today to find out how to do that, and how to make it easy for yourself.


Welcome to Rich & Thin™ Radio, the only podcast that helps you get more bank with less bulk. Today’s episode is for every listener who struggles to honor their commitments. I’m Kelly Hollingsworth and I’m happy you’re here because our commitments reveal what we value, and in this respect, they are guideposts on the path to our wealth. So today I’d like to share with you some ideas that will help you honor your commitments and stay on course.

Strategy #1: Shore up the Cracks in Your Commitment

The first strategy is to shore up the cracks in your commitments. I’ve been thinking about this a lot because this past weekend was my second weekend without sugar, and I had four outings scheduled where I would normally eat sugar. A LOT of sugar. I had a dinner at a friend’s house, a day trip into the mountains to pick huckleberries, a birthday party for my friend’s mom who is turning 80, and a family dinner at my house on Sunday night.

The first thing I’d like to report about this weekend, no surprise here, is that sugar was everywhere. There were desserts aplenty. Plus sugar was in almost every food at each event. The main dishes. The side dishes. The salads–even when they’re prepared at home, salad dressing generally contain sugar. And sugar is the major component of most types of fruit. If you look at the nutritional profile for watermelon, a very common party offering in the summer, it’s basically pure sugar. Yes, it comes with some antioxidants and other nutritional benefits, but those are delivered via a firehose of sugar.

The second thing I’d like to report is that I experienced some struggles this weekend. This is probably not terribly surprising—most of us would listen to the weekend I just described and think, “Yeah. Not eating sugar is going to be tough in those situations.”

But here’s what is surprising. The situations—all those tables laden with sugar-laced food–weren’t causing my struggles, because commitment isn’t situational. It doesn’t relate to or depend on a set of circumstances or a state of affairs.

With our food commitments, this is often difficult for us to accept. With food, we tend to view our struggles with commitment as situational. We think it’s more likely that we’ll be able to honor our commitments in certain environments. At home, maybe it’s easier. But at a birthday party or on vacation? On a cruise ship? We tend to think that those situations are impossible. We tend to say things like, “You’re going to deviate. Count on it.”

But here’s the thing about commitment: it’s not situational. When we get married, and we commit to fidelity, no one pulls us aside and says, “Look. We know what you’re going to say when you get to the altar, but (wink, wink, nod, nod) we all know what’s really going to happen. Once in a while you’re going to find yourself in a situation. You’re going to be somewhere with a lot of really attractive people and you’re not going to be able to help yourself. It happens to all of us. It’s impossible to resist so just go with it or you’ll feel deprived and unhappy.”

To most of us, the idea of situational commitment within a marriage sounds ridiculous, but we readily accept this kind of thought process when we’re talking about food. I witnessed my own thoughts on this at the birthday party of my weekend. My friend Rachel is in the wedding cake business, and she brought to the birthday party these gorgeous cupcake bouquets that looked like actual flowers. From five feet away I thought they were bouquets of real flowers. And I’m not known for having stellar eyesight, but it wasn’t just me. Everyone agreed that the artistry was amazing, and they said that the cupcakes tasted amazing, too.

So there I was, standing in the kitchen ogling these cupcake bouquets and at times I was tempted. I wanted to dance with that devil. And I was questioning my commitment. Was this really a good idea? Is it realistic? That’s where my brain wanted to go. And a big part of this questioning was, “Well, am I going to slip? Is a slip something that’s going to happen here?”

Those of us who have issues honoring certain commitments do so because we expect to have slips. You’re there, the cupcakes are gorgeous and delicious, of course you’re going to eat one. Who could resist?

This is the kind of thinking that leads to a slip, because here’s the thing: the idea that slips are going to happen is in large part what leads to them happening. Remember: our thoughts create our emotions, which drive our actions, which determine our results. If I think that slips into a pile of cupcakes are going to happen—they’re inevitable—I feel the emotion of resignation. I’m going to feel resigned. And from this emotional place of resignation, what would I do? I would pluck a cupcake out of the bouquet and devour it. And the result is, with that process going in mind, is that slips do happen. Here’s something to notice here: the result proves the thought. If you think you’re going to slip up and eat sugar, that’s exactly what you’re to do, and then when that happens, this will confirm your thought and the unmanaged mind in that scenario will begin thinking that the thought is an accurate statement of how the world works, when really the thought is just driving what is created.

The same thing happens in a marriage. It’s totally similar. A person who thinks the thought that slips are going to happen might feel moral license or justification to have an affair, and then jump through that emotional loophole straight into an affair. Maybe it’s only one night, maybe it’s an extended affair, but that would then create the result. The thought that slips are going to happen, that they’re inevitable, leads to the result of slips, in a marriage or in any other kind of commitment.

Those of us who think differently about slips get an entirely different result. If we don’t expect to  deviate from our commitments, if we don’t view that as normal, we’re less likely to deviate from our commitments. We’re more likely to honor them. So this is the first thing I have for you today. If you are not honoring your commitment, look for the cracks in it. The cracks are caused by the thoughts that you are having about your commitment. If you find yourself deviating, look at what you’re thinking about the commitment. If it’s okay with you that there is a little slip here and there, you don’t really have a commitment. You have an intention, maybe a direction that you’re headed, or an awareness of something you want to do, but you’re not truly committed yet. You’re not truly committed until you clean up those thoughts that are undermining your commitment.

Strategy #2: Direct Your Desire

My second thought about honoring our commitments is that it’s easier to honor our commitments when we’re not tempted. This is probably obvious. If you commit never to eat chocolate cake, but you hate chocolate cake, the risk that you won’t honor that commitment is pretty slim. But if you commit never to eating chocolate cake, but you feel very tempted by chocolate cake whenever it’s around, honoring your commitment is going to require something more of you.

What is this something more? It can be one of two things. The first, and the least effective in my mind, is white-knuckling. White knuckling is essentially to want something and deprive yourself of having it through sheer force of will. The far better approach, in my mind, especially for entrepreneurs, is changing your mind about the thing. This option essentially involves deciding to live in the no-deprivation scenario. You’re committed to never eating chocolate cake, and you decide that you’re not going to like chocolate cake anymore. If you do this, then white-knuckling isn’t required. It becomes effortless for you to honor your commitment. It’s effortless, because instead of fighting against constant temptation, you eliminate temptation from your life so you can think about more important things.

This is the essence of weight loss for entrepreneurs. This is the key. This is so important, because white knuckling sucks up your energy, your focus, it drains you emotionally. It is a disaster for your business. I can’t tell you how many entrepreneurs I talk with who say, “I’m tabling all of my business goals for right now to focus exclusively on losing weight. That’s just where I have to put all of my attention right now because this is so difficult it’s taking every ounce of my mental energy.”

These, my friends, are the words of a white-knuckler. And what do we know about white-knuckling? It’s unsustainable. Eventually we get tired of feeling deprived. Eventually something happens, in our business, or our family, or with our health, that requires our mental energy and focus, and as soon as we take our eyes off the ball of depriving ourselves, as soon as some fraction of our mental energy goes away from withholding foods that our unmanaged minds want to consume, that’s when all of our white knuckling efforts go down the drain. We start eating those foods again, and too much of them, and then the weight piles right back on.

This is a one-two punch for your business and your body, and it can go on forever. You can find yourself going up the scale and down the scale, and up and down in your revenue, as you constantly switch back and forth between what you’re going to focus on.

So if you don’t want to play and endless game of yo-yo with your weight or your revenue or anything else, the solution is not white-knuckling. It is to redirect your desire to things that actually serve you. With food, alcohol– anything we ingest that adds extra body weight, most of us have no idea that we can do this. We don’t know that we can redirect our desire. We say things like, “I just love cake and I just hate vegetables. That’s just the way it is.” The same thing happens with our businesses. We say things like, “I just love coming up with new ideas, but I hate following through, and I hate sales. That’s just how I’m made.”

The idea that our desires are an innate and immutable part of us that can’t possibly be changed, is just that—a mere idea. And it’s one that doesn’t serve us at all.

To see why, let’s take another look at those cupcake bouquets that tempted me this weekend. I guess I should say that I was tempted by this weekend. I may have mentioned that I’m known as a dessert hound and birthday cake is the dessert that I’m best known to consume with utter abandon. Before the birthday party, one friend said to me, “You think you’re going to a birthday party and you’re not going to eat cake? Think again, honey.”

So I’m still known to others as a cake lover, but there’s an internal shift happening for me. I’ve decided to change my mind about cake. I’ve decided that I don’t want to love it anymore and I’m not going to. So now I’m looking for all the reasons that I don’t love cake. And once I decided to start looking, the list was pretty long. The fact is that cake, for me, is a bad boyfriend. It’s fun for about three minutes. And then it’s a big drag.

In this respect, the bad boyfriend analogy is spot on. When you’re in a relationship that you were in that didn’t serve you, that dragged you down. And if you’re out of it now, look back. When you were in it, you thought, “I love the person and you can’t live without them.” These are the thoughts that lead us to stay in the bad relationship and it continues to drag us down the entire time we’re in it. Later on, when your thoughts about that person have changed, that’s when you wonder how on earth you could have been with that person for even five minutes.

People love to talk about getting over a breakup taking time. They will assure you, it’s going to take time for you to get over this. But it doesn’t really take time, and this is revealed by how we talk about our obsession with the bad boyfriend or girlfriend once we’re past it and we can no longer understand why we were obsessed. We never say, “oh, well you get into those kinds of relationships when it’s 2 o’clock or 1995. And now that 8 o’clock or 2018, I’m past it because the time has changed.” That’s ridiculous. The time is irrelevant. What we always say is instead, “what on earth was I thinking when I was in that relationship?”

This is so revealing. What you are thinking determines whether you will feel like you can’t live without someone or something, or whether you’ll be just fine without it and make room to choose something better. It doesn’t take time to get over someone or something, all it takes is changing your mind, and that can happen in an instance.

I cannot underscore this enough. In terms of meeting your commitments, honoring your intentions and doing what you say you are going to do, doing the things you really want to do and not doing the things you don’t want to do anymore, you have to realize that temptation comes from your thoughts. Not the object of your desire. It is never about the object itself.

So let’s go back to our marriage analogy to look at that as an example. Imagine your spouse came home and confessed to an affair, saying, “I know, honey. But you had to see this person I met. There was no way I wasn’t cheating. That situation was out of control.”

Is that something you would accept? Is that an idea you accept? My guess is no. Most of us expect our spouse not to even be tempted by seductive strangers. We think this about our marital obligations, and we also think the same thing about our professional obligations. At least some of them. For example, I’m an attorney, and when my clients give me a retainer, it goes into an escrow account, and it doesn’t transfer into my checking account until I’ve actually done the work and earned the money. It would never occur to me to transfer that money before I’ve done the work and the fee is actually due to me. I don’t feel a whisper of temptation.

So notice what happens here: The money is right under my nose. Like the cupcakes, it’s right under my nose. With about three clicks of a mouse, I could have that money in my possession. The same thing happened when I was managing my hedge fund. I could have taken possession of all that money at any moment, but I felt no temptation there, either.

So why didn’t I experience any temptation in those situations, but I did experience temptation over those cupcake bouquets?

The answer is because of the thoughts I was thinking about the cupcakes. It wasn’t because those beautiful cupcake bouquets were right under my nose. And now you may be asking yourself, how do we know this for sure?

Because I wasn’t tempted by the cupcakes throughout the entire night. There were times when I was thinking, “I wouldn’t dream of eating those. They have nothing to do with me. I don’t even want those,” and I felt absolutely no temptation at all. I just enjoyed the party, and I felt relaxed and fine about the cupcakes that were off in the corner. I felt exactly the same way when I arrived at the party and saw the bar. Whenever I see all the cocktails being served at a party, or anywhere else, my thought is, “That has nothing to do with me. I don’t even want those.” And when I had this going on in my head, there is no temptation. I feel absolutely no desire. I feel disinterested. I feel that way about alcohol now, because , which is exactly what I want to feel around sugar. When I was thinking those thoughts that I didn’t want the cupcakes, they had nothing to do with me, that’s how I felt. Disinterested.

But, there were times when I had different thoughts about the cake. Those were the times when I felt tempted.

When I thought, “I love birthday cake. It’s delicious. It’s my favorite food.” I felt tempted. And disappointed, that I couldn’t have any. This thought, “I want it, but I can’t have any,” was icing on the cake of that experience, because it made me feel self-pity. Notice the difference between, “I don’t want any.” That feels fine. whereas “I can’t have any, and I do want it” feels terrible.

Whether you want something or not, whether you are tempted to have it and disregard your commitment, or you’re not tempted at all and you’re going to honor your commitment, all comes from managing your mind, and the first step is to begin looking at what you’re thinking when you don’t want it, vs. what you’re thinking when you do want it. Just as I did at that party. I was paying attention to my thinking when I’m ogling these cupcakes and I really want them and feeling deprived at not having them, vs. what am I thinking when I don’t want these cupcakes at all and I’m just enjoying this party and I’m honoring my commitments. I promise you—if you start paying attention to your thoughts in both of those scenarios, when you’re tempted to dishonor your commitment or you’re totally on board and firm in your resolution to stick with your commitment—if you start paying attention to your thoughts in either scenario, you’ll realize that your desire is never situationally based. Your commitments are never situationally based . Your struggles do not depend on the situation. Everything—all of your struggles, and all of your successes, too, come from the thoughts you are thinking, and this is great news because no matter where we are, or what we are doing, or how many cupcake bouquets our friend Rachel has brought to the party, we are 100% in control of what we think, so we are 100% in control of our desire, we can direct it anywhere we want to, and this is true not just for desire but for every other emotions as well.

This is the single most important lesson that any entrepreneur can learn. It’s not what’s happening around you or outside of you, or what anyone else thinks that matters. It’s what’s going on in your head about it that matters. When you learn this, whether you are learning it with a commitment about sugar or alcohol or sales in your business or any other kind of commitment, or any other kind of commitment, maybe it’s the number of books you want to read—if you learn to manage your mind to honor your commitments rather than white-knuckling something, you start to see that what I think shows up in the world because I make it happen through my feelings and my actions. Whatever I think creates my result. And once you start seeing that in any aspect of your life, you can’t unlearn it. It infuses all aspects of everything else. It changes your body, if you want to change your thoughts about your body and the foods you consume. It changes your business, if you want to change your thoughts about your business, what you do, and what’s possible for you. The way you think affects everything, and changing your thoughts changes everything.

Strategy #3: Seek Out Temptation

So this brings me to the third strategy for honoring your commitments. Everyone says to avoid the thing that temps you, and I say no way, especially not for entrepreneurs. This thinking makes you a victim of your circumstances. It limits you. This kind of thinking says, “I can’t take the business trip. I can’t go to the client dinner. I can’t go to the party. Because there’s going to be stuff there that I’m not in control of. There’s going to be stuff there that’s in control of me, and I can’t put myself in that situation.”

This is how a weight-loss effort, or an effort to honor some other kind of personal commitment, hurts entrepreneurs. If you’re white-knuckling to accomplish any goal, stick to any commitment, you will necessarily have less focus, time, attention, and energy for your business. That’s fatal to business, and it’s fatal to everything else you’re trying to do, because white-knuckling is never sustainable.

So I say put yourself out there. Put yourself in any circumstance that someone else would find challenging. Laugh in the face of temptation. You can do this when you’re managing your mind, and when you do this, you become unstoppable, and I want nothing less for you.

So that’s what I have for you today, my friends. Put yourself out there, manage your mind, stick to your commitments by directing your thoughts to the things that serve you. And you will have the business you want, the body you want, and everything else you want. With that I’m going to close for today. I look forward to talking with you next week.

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