Wisdom A Small Commitment Can Change Your Life Starting small leads to big changes. By Leslie Carvitto Photo by Ali Kaukas My alarm coaxes me out of bed at 4:45am. I lift up the covers, walk to my kitchen, and turn on the kettle. As it heats, I climb back into bed and drift for a few moments before my second alarm goes off. The kettle is whistling, and I move on to begin my day with coffee, reading, and journaling. That’s my ideal morning agenda, but it didn’t always turn out that way. For a while, I fell into a pattern that looked more like this: wake up at 4:45am, read through emails while making coffee, climb back into bed, scroll through Instagram, wonder what kind of enlightened post to share, ignore my meditation because news on Twitter is more important, and then look at the time to realize I’ve wasted an hour spiraling into negative news and other people’s lives. Any of that sound familiar? The first scenario is entirely more appealing, but I was stuck in the bad habits of scenario two. This chronic disruptive behavior needed to stop, and the most powerful method was through declaring a commitment to change. When Making Big Changes, Start Small I decided to make this healthier, more aware morning routine my project. I committed to engaging in zero technology before 8am. If I woke up at 4:45 (occasionally five) this gave me three hours of space to fill, and I could dedicate those precious hours to activities that fueled me rather than ones that caused depletion. That may seem like an easy commitment to start. What’s the big deal? You just hide your phone from yourself, turn it off completely, or sleep in longer. But I beg the question: When’s the last time you didn’t have your phone on you? Or by your side? Or in your hand? The tiny device has become our connection to everything, but when used compulsively can sever the connection to ourselves. Excuses stopped me from making an earlier commitment. I reasoned it wasn’t actually an issue, just a bad habit. I reasoned that I was just getting an early start to my day, checking in on friends and family, keeping up with current events and so forth. I had become accustomed to the agitated or frantic feelings it brought up in me. It wasn’t until I did a compare and contrast experiment that I realized the profound difference in my entire day when I didn’t habitually reach for my phone. I felt grounded and at peace. I felt space in my body and mind. And I knew that if I could focus on positive practices in the morning, I would set myself up for success for the rest of the day. I traded in reading CNN and draining my energy and picked up spiritual texts. Rather than focusing on which picture and caption to post, I concentrated on personal writing that was for my eyes only. In lieu of burying my face into my phone, I turned my attention to my partner to connect and check in with him. My meditation practice began again, and I found fresh engagement with sitting in stillness, focusing on my breath and mantra. The Benefits of Commitment Pursuing a commitment challenges us to act with integrity and act in accordance with our highest values, even when it’s tiny. Committing to no technology in the morning was a small step, but it has benefited my life in more ways than one. I learned that following through on a commitment builds mental strength. It proves that if you deem something important, it becomes a priority. And it can change the way you show up for yourself and others. It may not be pleasurable in the moment, but it’s worth the short-term discomfort in exchange for the long-term gain. A small commitment may seem as though it won’t make much difference, but over time, those two to three hours add up to weeks, even years. Changing your habits by declaring a commitment really does alter your life; You slowly reframe your routine. You change everything. How to Implement Your Commitments Okay, you’ve declared your commitment—now what? The hard part doesn’t need to be hard, so long as you implement practical steps: Declare It: Turn to your trusted friends and family and let them in our your pledge. What is your new commitment? Less technology and more yoga? An exercise routine? Friends are there to help. Ask loved ones to help you remain accountable and confide in them when you’re feeling weak or unmotivated. Write It Down: Get your commitment on paper and put it in a place you’ll see it every morning. If you need more encouragement, begin each day by writing down the commitment in a journal and note the ways you will keep your promise. Show self-love and remind yourself that your commitment is designed to help you. Think Long Term: The commitment might not be fun in the short term, but focusing on the future benefits may help keep you motivated. Celebrate small victories along the way and keep stock of the positive changes you’re seeing or feeling. The best time to begin is now. Declare those commitments now and share them with us! What is your commitment to yourself? — Leslie Carvitto is a freelance writer and photographer based in Seattle, WA. She is fueled by creativity, community, coffee, and the great outdoors. A traveler at heart, she’s constantly adding stamps to her passport and seeking out adventure at home and abroad. Follow her travels at Forever Stoked and Instagram.