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Thursday, April 23, 2020


commitment (noun) / ke - 'mit - ment
1a. an agreement or pledge to do something in the future
 b. something pledged
 c. the state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally compelled
Merriam-Webster dictionary

A commitment.

It starts with a commitment, i.e., a decision, an internal agreement with yourself, or a pledge to yourself, to do something particular in the future. And not just any decision, agreement or pledge, but one that obligates or emotionally compels you to actually do that something in the future. Probably at the expense of doing something easier or more enjoyable now. And even in the face of adversity. More to the point, especially in the face of adversity.

A commitment. Start with a commitment. Everything else follows.

Sometimes, you just have to commit.
(photo by Shaun Arritola)

That's how I started bike commuting. One year, many years ago, I simply committed to ride my bike to work once a week for a year. Just once a week.

Surprisingly, it was much easier and more fun than I imagined. But it was not without challenges.

Regardless of your commitment, or your intention, motivation, determination, stubbornness, or anything else behind it, you will be challenged. Something, maybe many somethings, will attack your commitment, including your bike, gear, clothing, work, family, weather, illness, injury, etc., etc., etc. How you react to those challenges determines whether you honor your commitment and, ultimately, defines you.

So, I commit to ride once a week and everything starts out great. But then, a work week somehow runs out with my bike still hanging in the garage. What to do?

What I don't do is worry about it. And I definitely don't think of ways to make it up the following week. I know that traveling that thought process creates a mindset that tolerates and excuses a failure to honor my commitment. Riding once a week is riding once a week. It is not the same to ride 4 times a month.

Rather than play the excuse and catch up game, I use that missed opportunity to redouble my mental efforts to ride the following week. One ride at a time. One week at a time. One way or another, I'm riding in the next week.

"The Death Star plans are down there. Cassian, K2, and I will find them. We'll find a way to find them."
Jyn Erso, Star Wars: Rogue One (2016).

When I started my once a week commitment to bike commuting, I had to deliberately and doggedly ink it on my schedule. For any given week, typically only one or two days were even possible to ride in, even after juggling. My commitment focused me to somehow work it in. It also focused me to actually ride that day, because I likely would not be able to ride in another day that week. It worked because I worked at it.

The day will come when you just don't want to ride in, maybe even with good reasons. If you really cannot ride in, or if you really need a mental break, you may need to miss that day. But I challenge you to recognize that feeling when it inevitably comes. Acknowledge it. Then challenge it. After a moment of honest reflection, I usually conclude that such a day is when I really need to find a way to ride in, after all.

"Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me! A day may come, when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends, and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day! An hour of wolves and shattered shield, when the age of men comes crashing down. But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you, Stand, Men of the West!"
Aragorn, The Return of the King, The Lord of the Ring (2003).

Over the course of that first year, I learned that my commitment to ride once a week, and my working diligently to honor that commitment, built a solution-focused mindset. I found ways to ride into work, almost every week. And I eventually figured out all the logistical details that appear difficult from the outset and insurmountable from the outside.

My commitment grew into a habit, in a surprisingly enjoyable way. On my ride into work, I looked forward to a bonus ride during my favorite part of the day. On my ride home, I decompressed after another long day at the office. Along the way, I met interesting people, interacted with wildlife of all kinds, and experienced nature and community like never before. My bike commuting day became my favorite day of the week.

And it all started with a commitment to ride one day a week.

1 comment:

  1. The only thing I have missed living out here in the country was my daily ride to and from work. I never even thought about driving it was so easy. We may end up back in town someday, but, the sunrises and sunsets out here always get me.