Get Your Hands Dirty – How To Commit To Your Goals

Sand Hand Dirty

I love the peace of hiking up into the Koolau Range.  Far away from the road, it’s silent except for the crunching of pine needles under my feet and the occasional pebble I kick rolling off the cliff to my right.  I’m wearing my favorite tank top, blue hiking boots and a bright orange backpack with the water hose from my CamelBak snaking over my left shoulder.  The sun streams in from between the trees and for a moment I am completely enveloped by the pine forest.

I exhale as I hoist myself over some rocks.  I wipe my face, survey the terrain and continue my trek up the mountain.

Here we go.

Look Ma – No Hands

A little further up the trail it starts to get a little muddy.  The mud squishes under my feet as I duck under tree branches.  Through it all, I try to avoid touching the rocks and muddy trees with my hands to keep them clean.  I try different things like carefully balancing on one foot, waving my hands for balance and using my knuckles to push off a rock and up the side of the mountain.

Unfortunately, that never lasts – at some point along the way I always slip, or encounter a difficult obstacle where I have to use my hands to grab a dirty tree branch or rocks.  Once that happens though, the trail suddenly becomes much easier – once I’ve gotten my hands a little dirty, there’s no point in trying to avoid the mud anymore, and I can dig in and focus on hiking.

Making Excuses To Keep My Hands Clean

Over time I’ve begun to see this as a metaphor for my life.  So often I will start down a path towards a goal, but I won’t fully commit to it.  Just like when I’m hiking, you can tell when I’m fully committed – it’s after I’ve gotten my hands dirty.

You know what I’m talking about, we’ve all done it. We “sort-of” want to accomplish something.  It’s “on our radar.”  Some of the ways I rationalize when I’m making excuses include:

  • I’m Hedging My Bets.  There’s a time and a place to hedge your bets, but sometimes what we’re really doing is just making excuses to avoid committing to a single course of action.
  • I’m Still Considering My Options.  This is what I call getting stuck in the metawork. Planning, planning, planning – but never jumping in and actually doing the work that needs to be done.
  • I’m Waiting For ….  This is one of the subjects Alex Fayle touches on in his great book, I’ll Get Around To It Someday.  We’re waiting for the time to be right, we’re waiting for one more thing to be finished – just waiting and waiting. Well the time is never exactly just right – it’s all about taking advantage of the opportunities while they’re here!

I could list more, but these are some of the most common excuses I make when I’m avoiding fully committing to a project.  The way I see it, it’s ok to test things out for a little while (hell why not, right?) – but at some point, either commit to it fully, or let it go.

If there’ something on your plate that you’re on the fence about, and want to commit fully to it, here are some strategies you can use to solidify the commitment today.

Getting Your Hands Dirty – Committing To Your Goals

I’ve found a few things that help me commit to my goals and really get my hands dirty.

  • Commit Time To It.  Many of you guys know how important my time is, and how much I value it.  When I really want to commit to a goal, I’ll set aside a weekly, or often daily block of time for it.  My prime hours are immediately before work in the morning, and after work in the evening. Find your prime hours, the times you are most productive – and if possible, commit to spending that time on yourself.
  • Write It Down.  I’ve previously discussed research about written goals, so I won’t reiterate all the details here.  The bottom line is this – when I write down my goal and read it every day, it makes a significant difference in my mindset.  In fact, I think this is so important that I make it the very first lesson in my free personal development course, Personal Development 101.
  • Spend Some Money.  Let me be clear, I’m not advocating buying frivolous stuff.  I don’t think we need to spend money on products to always accomplish our goals, and in fact often will keep purchasing products looking for an easy way out instead of putting in the work required.  However, if I purposely am not buying resources I need, it shows that I’m not really committed to success. For example, when I wanted to get serious about lifting weights, I knew I needed to either get a gym membership or build a home gym.  There’s no way to lift weights if you don’t have weight to lift.  Similarly, if there are tools you know you need, get them. In some cases, such as my personal development course, the resources you need may be free – and you just need to take a step and acquire them.
  • Do Something.  Sometimes we have projects that are so big we get stuck because we don’t know where to begin. Just do something, anything to move it forward. Make a phone call.  Look up one piece of information. Whatever it is, take one immediate step.

Go Forth

Do you disagree? Are you on the fence about something? What are some ways you use to commit to your goals – or perhaps, are there excuses you recognize yourself making?

Go forth.  Commit to your goals, build something real – and get your hands dirty.

Share your thoughts with me in the comments, over email or over Twitter!

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