I want you to think of a promise you made to yourself, and then broke.
Maybe you told yourself you’d stop drinking but reached for the bottle of wine after a hard day at work.
Or maybe you swore you’d work on your business for an hour every morning, but when the alarm went off, you hit the snooze button instead.
These are your conscious commitments.
But you don’t keep them.
What went wrong?
You probably attribute it to a lack of willpower. You think you weren’t committed enough, and that you need to work on being more disciplined.
But the truth is, it has nothing to do with discipline.
So what got in the way?
Your unconscious commitments.
Unconscious commitments are the things we never explicitly decided we’d commit to, but at some point we unconsciously committed to doing them.
For example, most of us are unconsciously committed to putting on clothes before we leave the house. We never explicitly agreed to this “rule,” but at some point we accepted it as truth, and committed to it.
Some of them are wise and help us exist in the world (like getting dressed in the morning).
But many of our unconscious commitments aren’t so harmless.
In fact, you’re probably unconsciously committed to some pretty harmful stories about yourself.
Maybe you’re unconsciously committed to believing that it’s too hard to change, or that you’re fundamentally unlovable.
Most of us are unconsciously committed to feeling comfortable. We’re so married to this, we’ll do just about anything to avoid feeling uncomfortable.
We’ll eat when we’re not hungry, we’ll drink until we blackout, we’ll spend money we don’t have on stuff we don’t need, we’ll watch Netflix while scrolling our phone at the same time, we’ll even go to sleep to avoid ourselves.
You’ve probably never stopped to ask yourself if you want to make these commitments. And yet you unconsciously accept them.
It’s important to recognize your unconscious commitments because they’re the reason you have trouble acting on your CONSCIOUS commitments.
If you’re trying to stop drinking, you may beat yourself up for your lack of commitment.
But what you don’t see is that you ARE committed – you’re just unconsciously committed to something else that’s at odds with not drinking.
Think about it: you can consciously commit to drinking less, but if you’re unconsciously committed to never feeling lonely at night, and you use alcohol to avoid that feeling, then your conscious commitment doesn’t stand a chance.
Your unconscious commitments usually take priority over your conscious ones because they’ve been around longer and have strong neural pathways. Plus, they’re hidden. You don’t see or understand them, so you aren’t prepared to handle them when they start operating.
Where do our unconscious commitments come from?
Some of them are evolutionary.
Many of us have an unconscious commitment to not expend energy that we might need later.
So if you consciously commit to going to the gym without understanding this unconscious commitment that will keep you on the couch, it’s going to seem like an uphill battle.
Some of our unconscious commitments are stories we have about ourselves.
If you consciously commit to finding a partner, but you’re unconsciously committed to your story that you’re unlovable, you’ll always find reasons to believe your story. You’ll even fit the facts to that story without recognizing what you’re doing.
When you start examining your unconscious commitments, you may be shocked at how many you have and what they are.
You’re not alone.
Most people never examine their unconscious commitments, yet these unconscious commitments are running their decision-making in every area of their lives.
They unconsciously commit to playing small, to not drawing attention to themselves, to valuing what other people think above their own dreams.
But you don’t have to be ruled by these beliefs.
Imagine what it would be like if when you set a new goal – when you made a conscious commitment – you could actually trust yourself to follow through on it.
You can learn how to do this. It is not an innate ability or an issue of character. It is a skill that you have to practice.
The first step to prevent being ruled by an unconscious commitment is to recognize it.
Then you can begin to tip the scale between your old unconscious commitment and your new conscious one by shifting those thought patterns.
To remove the power from your unconscious commitments, you have to look at them with curiosity, not judgment.
So get curious.
The next time you notice yourself breaking a conscious commitment, ask yourself: What am I unconsciously committed to that is outweighing my conscious commitment here?
And then work on changing your unconscious beliefs and thoughts.
So many of us believe we can’t change.
We’re more committed to this unconscious belief about ourselves than we are to consciously committing to our possibility and growth.
But you can always believe in your boundless possibility. You can always believe in your ability to change. The choice is always yours.