How to Achieve Difficult Goals.
Ulysses Contract – a freely made decision that is designed and intended to bind oneself in the future. Wikipedia
Most of us succumb to lapses in willpower from time to time. I believe I’m more prone than most. Perhaps it’s in my nature. You don’t allow yourself to balloon up to 242 lbs. if you’re genuinely capable of exerting self control. I also believe that people don’t really change their character over time. They either learn to accept themselves, warts and all, or they learn how to cope …or they fail. I’m not really the accepting type, so my efforts focus on coping.
There’s no middle ground for me. I’m all in or I’m all out. Today I keep my weight down with a strict workout regimen and a rigid set of eating rules. Because I know I can’t just have one peanut M&M (my personal crack cocaine), over time I’ve developed coping mechanisms that work for me. I’m a big advocate of “cold turkey” – once I decide that there’s a destructive impulse or behaviour pattern that should be fixed, I muster the resolve to quit and then do so. But of course it’s not that simple; difficult goals are never attained that easily. We break the commitments made to ourselves perhaps more than any other. And that’s where the Ulysses Contract comes in.
Ulysses famously tied himself to the mast of his ship so that he could hear the Sirens’ song but not perish. I (less poetically) tweeted my daily scale readings when my weight started creeping back up and lost over twenty pounds as a result. In creating an audience to witness my “contract” I built both incentive to honour the commitment and a support network to help achieve the goal. Putting oneself out there, publicly announcing your resolve, even if only to those close to you (and not necessarily thousands of Twitter followers), is an incredibly powerful tool.
I’m currently working on a big new project, which will bring the concepts of goal achievement, personal growth and the public utilization of the Ulysses contract together. I ask you all to please keep reading Tonic over the coming months to learn about the details. And yes, this article does serve as a Ulysses contract, in and of itself, specifically designed so that I’m bound to follow through with my plan. Stay tuned.
While you’re waiting for my pending announcement, please enjoy the September issue. Bryce Wylde has written a great piece on finding zen in the workplace (p33); Lisa Cantkier will tell you how to prepare your gluten-intolerant child for school (p 45)) and Joel Thuna reports on natural treatments in the far east (p 63). As always, if you want to talk to me about Tonic, feel free to email me at Jamie@tonictoronto.com.