For my 30th birthday last August, I decided I wanted to practice making better commitments to myself. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that when the commitment is external — a class, a friend, a job — I can appreciate the sense of obligation that it brings and marshal my energy into following through. When it’s for myself, though? Not so much. I remember when I was teaching with Redmoon back in 2011 and we put together a curriculum called The Commitment Project with students from Audubon Elementary in Chicago. I loved exploring the topic with wise 6th graders who thought deeply about their own roles in their communities — both micro and macro. It makes me smile to think of that exploration now, as the concept of commitment shifts back into focus for me so many years later.
So, my plan is 30 commitments throughout the year (#30in30), which means approximately two per month. As my dear, sparkle-clad friend Ellie wrote in response to this idea, “Love you B.B. but that sounds like a lot of commitment to me.” She’s right.
The goal isn’t necessarily to sustain the commitments indefinitely or to do anything particularly epic; it’s just to try out some different things and see what the act of committing reveals. Some of them might become sustainable practices and others end up with a “well...that was nice.” That’s okay with me. I believe in flexibility, adaptability. I was never the kind of person who could eat the same breakfast every day or manage a consistent bedtime. Total stability, for me, is stultifying.
But commitment is useful, I have found, and there are definitely some practices worth keeping up over time. My first two commitments in September were to myself: meditate daily and practice yoga weekly. I had done the daily meditation part before, during the #MindfulinMay campaign (which I recommend as an excellent motivator and support, especially for beginners). To sustain my yoga practice I chose the same day each week and put it in my calendar in advance. This was a real game-changer. It totally shifted the way that I planned out my weeks, and allowed me to prioritize this act of self-care above other kinds of work and obligations that would later emerge. (I also dragged my friend Hannah along with me and motivated myself by scheduling post-yoga wine-dates with my friend Allida.)
I realized as the weeks went on that my body came to crave these regular yoga sessions every Wednesday (er, Thursday? — flexibility!). I was in the routine and my body felt different if I missed a week. It was like taking a kind of medicine. My commitment had become something that was now nourishing other parts of my life, making it easier to focus on everything else.
My October was packed, so I aimed for some low-key commitments. The first was to practice what I call “do-it-now” inboxing — responding to emails right away rather than letting them build up (a bad habit I have). This was also my attempt to shift the commitments into a space that would benefit other people I interact with more directly. My most recent commitment was to show up for a small bit of direct political action (a #YesonThree Massachusetts phone bank), which my friends Amelia and Joe helped inspire me to join. I hate talking on the phone to strangers and I’m always a bit hesitant to show up for events like this, but I am super glad that I did. In its own way, this was medicine, too: for myself and I hope for others. Anytime we rearrange priorities, we make space for what we need. Anytime we look honestly at our habits, we grow softer toward the world.
And so, I wonder — in this intense moment of the world — what is your medicine? Are you committing to it right now? If not, why?