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Take the inspiration & possibility we discussed in the last episode ... and merge it with commitment and structure to create an even more powerful approach.

In this episode, Leo looks at how we can choose into structure & commitment from an inspired place.

Topics Covered

  • The importance of commitment and structure in pursuing meaningful projects
  • The tendency to procrastinate and delay important tasks when lacking commitment and structure
  • Commitment: setting clear goals and being unwavering in pursuing them
  • Various forms of structure — including setting specific timeframes, identifying when, where, and how the work will be done, and establishing consequences or accountability measures
  • Why you should write down your commitments and share them with others
  • The importance of practicing commitment and devotion in pursuing meaningful work


 Welcome to the Zen Habits podcast, where we dive into how to work with uncertainty, resistance, and fear around our meaningful work. This is for anyone who wants to create an impact in the world and cares deeply enough to do the work. I'm your host, Leo Pabauta, creator of the Zen Habits blog.

Hello, hello, hello, hello. This is Leo. I am here with you in this podcast and I'm excited to be talking with you. Today's topic is commitment and structure. Everybody's favorite stuff. So in the last episode we talked about inspiration and possibility and that, that's something where we might feel lit up.

And so there's a really great reason to talk about all of that. But then we get to commitment, we get to structure and some people are just like I don't want to talk about that kind of stuff, but actually it's really meaningful, powerful stuff. And I really ask you to stick with me with this. If that's your reaction, other people are like, yes, give me commitment.

Give me structure. That's something that I want in my life. So Why talk about this? Before we get into the nuts and bolts of it, the tactics and methods and all of that kind of stuff, let's talk about the why. When we are working with something meaningful, our purpose work, we've picked a project, we have a reason to do it, and...

We, we have it right in front of us and we say, okay, I'm going to, you know, write this book. For some reason, I keep choosing write a book as the example project, but it could really be anything. So just insert your project when I say write a book, say, Oh create my podcast or make my art or, or put my music out into the world or start my nonprofit organization.

Okay. So write a book. So I'm ready to write a book. And then I'm like, Oh, it's, you know, morning time. And let me start with my coffee. Let me check my email first. Let me, and what happens is like, we start to push it back and we're like, I'll find a time for it sometime. And day goes by, we don't find the time.

It's near the end of the day, and it's like, well, now I probably should do it, but, oh, but I have all of these other things, or it's time, my family wants to spend time with me it's okay, I'll put it off one day. One day won't hurt, because I've been putting this off for years now, so one day is not going to hurt.

Tomorrow I'll definitely do it, and then we repeat. Next day, same thing, I'll find a time, it'll be okay if I do it later, it'll be okay if I do it tomorrow. This repeats itself until we're like I haven't been doing it for the last week, two weeks, and I feel crappy about myself. And I just probably should just, this is not the right thing for me.

I'm not good enough to do this, whatever the reason is to quit. So this is kind of how it goes, but that's because we don't have commitment and we don't have structure structure would be. Well, when are you going to do it? Well, I'll find a time. It's kind of like, I'll do it tomorrow. So tomorrow comes, like, well, when tomorrow?

You know, sometime. I've got a lot of things to do, so I'll just find the time. And this is what people really want. They don't want to, like, commit to a certain time. They want a flow. They want to just do it whenever they feel like it. But you'll never feel like it because you're feeling resistance. If you're not feeling resistance, it's easy, you know, great, you know, that can last for a little while, but eventually, if it's anything where you're putting yourself into the unknown, doing something you don't already know how to do really easily, then you will feel resistance.

Without structure, we just kind of put it off, put it, do it anytime we feel like it. Maybe we do do it some days, maybe we don't, but just it really doesn't call us forward when we're feeling that resistance. That's okay. It's not particularly powerful when we're working with resistance. It doesn't, it doesn't have us actually turning towards and facing the resistance because we're just basically avoiding the resistance and doing it when we feel like it, when there's no resistance, or little.

What you might notice about that is there's no real commitment. We're not really firmly committed to it. There's no like, I am doing this. We're just kind of not committed. We're doing it whenever we feel like it. You can imagine in a relationship where it's like, Oh yeah, I'll, I'm, I'm going to be in this relationship with you, just me and you, you know, as long as we feel like it, you know, just like tomorrow, maybe I didn't feel like it.

And I go and start making it out with his other person. So that's not really a commitment. Fine, right? Like you can live your life like that. It's not like you're a bad person, but there's not a commitment there. A commitment is it is me and you only. And I am not, you know, as long as we're committed to each other, there is no one else.

And that's the same kind of thing with a project is like, I am committed to doing this. It's not like when I feel like it, it's not like whenever, it's not just like if the inspiration hits me, it's like, no, I am actually committed. That's a different way of being. It's a different way of being with your purposeful work.

And what it does is it has us actually turning towards whatever we're resisting and working with it, as opposed to just letting that resistance push us to whenever we, it wants to. And one, we're actually taking ownership, taking leadership in our lives. I'm committed. I'm going to turn towards that resistance.

I'm going to work with it. And then the other one is just like, kind of letting the resistance push us around and let us, and like doing it, you know, if The circumstances are okay to do it. So commitment, it's a really important way of working with resistance and then structure and they, they go together.

They're really two, two parts of the same thing. So I talked about some ways that it typically goes, let's talk about different kinds of structure before we actually. Talk about how you might want to actually work with that here with your current project that you've chosen. Different kinds of structure one is I am going to do this every day for 30 days.

I am going to do this five days a week for six months. That's, it's setting a length of days or months that you're going to do it, weeks. This is a four week challenge. So that's structure. And then saying you're going to do it every day, or three times, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or five times a week, or every Saturday.

This is a kind of structure. What other kinds of structure are there? Well, what about what time of day? I'm going to do it before you know, I will do my push ups before I actually have coffee. So then the coffee becomes the reward. So when am I going to do it? It doesn't have to be a specific time, but it could be 12, 12 p.m., noon, every single day. Or 5 a. m. And so I've, I've worked with those kinds, but the other one is just like, as soon as I wake up right after I use the restroom, then I'm going to do it. So that's kind of a structure. I have a, maybe I'll have a glass of water and then I'm going to get out the door and go for my run, or I'm going to have a cup of coffee while I'm opening up my book project and looking over my notes and then.

I will start. So that's kind of the when you're going to do it. Where? Am I going to do it here in my office? Am I going to do it in the living room? Am I going to do it in the coffee shop? How long? Are you going to do it for five minutes, 20 minutes, half an hour, an hour, two hours? Other structure would be consequences.

When I'm done, I get to have a cookie, you know, I get to Share it with my peeps on social media. I did it. I did my challenge for today. I wrote my book or whatever it is that I want to do. Or if I don't, I have to, you know, do some push ups or donate some money to a political candidate I really don't like.

Something I've personally done, by the way, all of these things. I've had one where I sing a song and upload it and post it somewhere. I'm a bad singer, just to let you know. Or that's my story about myself. Singing is not something I'm really proud of, but I do it. You know, that's my consequence. Then it actually, it's a structure that I'm setting for myself.

What other kinds of structure are there? You can structure things in intervals. I'm going to do, you know, pomodoros, 25 minutes on, five minutes off. Or is it 20 minutes? I forget. I do, I've used different kinds of interval. I think Pomodoro is one it's a name for one kind of interval. I think it might be 20 minutes on, 5 minutes off, something like that.

But 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off. But people have done 15 minutes on, 5 minutes off. And when I say 15 5 minutes off, that means take a break for 5 minutes. And then come back and repeat. Another 15 minutes, another 5. Another 15 minutes, another five, I've seen people do 12 and three, 12 minutes writing, three minute break, 12 minute writing, three minute break.

And you repeat that four times. So that's structure. Let's see. I think that's all I want to share around structure. There's, there's other possibilities for structure, but I think those are some of the, the ones that I wanted to touch on. So commitment is telling someone you're going to do it. And I know that there's been studies saying, don't tell people you're going to do something.

If you're going to do a goal, don't tell people about it because that like fulfills the part of your brain that feels like you're going to do it. Now that might be true, so I'm not going to like argue with that study, but what I'm talking about isn't like, Oh, I'm going to run a marathon someday, and then I like feel like I, I did it.

Yay. No, what I'm talking about is committing yourself. I am going to do this by Friday. I am going to do this every day for the next month. I'm going to do this five days a week for the next six months. And you tell someone that you're committed to it, and you might even tell them a consequence. If I don't, then I'll do this.

It doesn't have to have a consequence, but you're committing to it. This is my commitment. And I will let you know once a week. Every, every Friday, I'm going to report to you. So that's, that's actually part of structure as well. Letting accountability, how are you going to hold yourself accountable? You know, once a week, every single day I've had, you know, I've had text groups where I'm doing a fitness challenge and I will report at the end of every day, how I did with my fitness challenge and everyone else does the same that structure and that's committing yourself.

I am going to report every day. I'm going to do this every day and I'm going to report every day. That's a commitment. You tell someone what your commitment is. My coach calls it making a declaration. I know that he didn't invent that, but you declare something. This is what I'm going to do by this date.

And additionally, you know, you might add how you're going to hold yourself accountable. So that's commitment. And what we do is not just say it, but we show up with that kind of commitment. I'm going to do this every day. Okay. I am committed to this. I'm going to make this happen because it matters to me because of the inspiration and possibility that I talked about in the last episode.

This is why I want to do it. And I am committed to it. Like imagine if you didn't show up with that kind of commitment to things that were important to you. So if you're a parent, right, you know, are you committed to putting food on the table for your kids? Are you committed to feeding them every day?

Yeah, that's not even a question. But imagine if you were the kind of parent who was just like, yeah, I'll probably, probably feed you. Like imagine what the kids are going to be like, well you know, like you might miss it one day because you just didn't feel like it or you're tired. And the kids are.

Well, they'll start to, like, find something that they can rely on more because, you know, you're not committed. But parents tend to be committed to feeding their kids. Tend to be, you know, in 99. 99% of cases. So we are committed to feeding our kids. And there's not even a question. I am committed to that. And it's because I care about my kids and know that it's important for them to eat every day.

And that's just like a basic commitment for kids, but you know, there's a lot of other things we're committed to doing for our kids and we don't question that we are committed to it because we care about it. Imagine bringing the same kind of commitment to whatever you want to do, whether you want to change a habit like flossing your teeth or you want to exercise more or journal or meditate, or you want to do purpose work like writing your book.

If you're committed to that writing that book where it's not even a question of whether you're going to show up, you are that committed because you care that much, that's a different thing than what most of us do. Our resistance is going to get in the way of that commitment sometimes, so they will meet up against each other.

But the commitment is... I, I know there's going to be resistance and I am committed to working with it, turning toward and working with it. We'll talk about more about that in, in the later episode, but for now, what I want to do is invite you to get committed. You, there's a reason why you care about this.

This is the inspiration you wrote out in the last episode. And there's a reason why you want to do it. And now what is your commitment? I'm going to do this every day. Or, or when, however long, when are you going to do it? What's the structure? That structure is your commitment. Is there accountability? Is there consequences?

What time, where, anything else that you want to put into your structure? Write that out below your inspiration. So we have a project. Here's what I'm going to do. Here's the inspiration. And here's my structure. And then commit this to someone else. You know, one person, two people, five people, 20 people be committed to it, to that, and then imagine that there was no question that you're going to show for it, start to practice that commitment.

And some days you just won't have it, but we're practicing showing up with commitment and then actually start doing it. Notice when you don't have it. And then notice if you can actually generate that inside of yourself. I am committed to this. There is no question. I am someone who will walk through walls and move mountains for this.

Because I care that much about it. That is a practice. It isn't something that comes free. It is something that I still have to come back to and practice. Even after practicing it for a long time, there are times when I am absolutely not committed to something. And then I can decide, do I want to be committed to it?

What do I want here? What's do I want to be devoted to it? Which is another word that I like to use here. When we talk about commitment, I am devoted. I pour my whole being into this. Even if it's just for 10 minutes a day, would you like to show up with that kind of commitment? Would you like to bring more devotion into your life?

Not just here, but everywhere that it's important to you. Would you like to show up in that way? If so, then please take some time right now to start to write out what your structure is. What are you committed to? And then commit that to someone else. Make a declaration. In the next episode, we'll talk about how to actually show up for your resistance in an inspired way.

Beautiful work, my friends. Thank you for listening. Thank you for being a part of this conversation. Please email me, podcast at zenhabits. net. I will get that email. You can put questions. You can tell me why I'm full of it. You can share your struggles with me, your story. And then, you know, I can bring that into this conversation.

Hit me up. I'd love to hear from you. And thank you again for listening, watching, subscribing, being a part of what we're creating here. It's really important work to me. I am committed to it. I'm devoted to it. And I invite you to be as well. Thanks my friends. If you haven't already, please subscribe to this podcast and your favorite podcast app.

If you found this episode useful, please share this podcast with someone, you know, who cares deeply. That would be really meaningful to me. And if you'd like to dive deeper with me into this work, please check out the blog at Zen habits. net or get in touch at Leo at Zen habits. net. Thanks for listening.

And I hope you'll join me every Wednesday for more episodes of the Zen habits podcast.

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Intro music composition: Salem Beladonna

Editor: Justin Cruz