Cortez knew what commitment meant
Even in 1519 Cortez learned what Commitment meant. When he arrived on the eastern shore of Mexico in the spring of 1519, his men were hungry, tired and homesick. Day after day they would stare out at the ships anchored in the harbour and dream of returning to Spain; to the life they knew.
When Cortez realised his men had no commitment to remaining in Mexico he had a somewhat violent reaction… Even today, when things aren’t going as well as you’d hoped, it can be a fairly natural thing to hanker for how things used to be, rather than committing to what is. And thus, you can miss out on a lot.
First hand experience of lack of commitment
Before I came to NZ, I lived in France for a year. For most of the time I was there I felt ‘homesick.’ It was easy to do; I just focused on missing my friends, family, places I used to go etc. When I went home, as a surprise, for Christmas, I was shocked. In my homesickness I’d forgotten all about the dismal and somewhat short English winter days, the fog, the black ice. Without me being around, my friends had moved on – and my family had all gone to Jamaica for a holiday!
I’d single-mindedly focused on everything that was good about ‘home’ without really committing myself to enjoying, and making the most of where I was – in one of the most beautiful places in France – the Loire Valley.
The realisation came as a shock to me.
But it opened my eyes at the same time. I went back to France with a whole new way of thinking and a new appreciation for my (then) current life.
Fast Forward a few years
So when I came to New Zealand a few years later, I vowed not to do the same thing. My intention was to wholeheartedly embrace my new country. I made that commitment. It wasn’t always easy for those first few years. But whenever I felt homesick I just reminded myself of some of the things I didn’t like about the UK and focused on what I liked about New Zealand.
A foot in both camps
It can be tempting to leave a door open to go back to your previous life. As an example, some folks want to go into business for themselves. So they venture into business – but still retain a job that gives them a regular income. With one foot still in their work comfort zone, they often never make a full commitment to being in business. Sometimes, they give up because they realise that being in business is not really for them – and that’s a good learning. But oftentimes it’s because they have not fully left behind their job. They haven’t made the complete commitment to do whatever it takes to make the business a success.
Cortez realised that the only way he would ever get his men to leave the past behind and focus on the future in Mexico, would be to make sure they had no other options. So he burnt the ships!
How does this apply to you?
I’m wondering if the principle of, ‘burn the ships’ may be useful in any context of your life where you want to move forward? As well as the above example, here are some other ways I’ve experienced people avoiding committing themselves
- Relationships; There’s always a possibility that someone ‘better’ might come along. Without commitment you’re not really in the relationship anyway.
- Training. You always need to do ‘just a bit more’ training before you can commit to practising fully what you already know.
- The job. It’s easier to complain about the job, the situation or the boss than it is to do something about it.
- Dietary or exercise changes. It can be too easy to stay in bed instead of getting out and exercising, or go back to the foods that taste good instead of the foods that are good for you.
Avoid the Knee Jerk Reaction
Bailing out when when times get tough is often a knee-jerk reaction. But it’s having the commitment, drive and persistence to go through with the changes that will bring you increased rewards, greater self esteem and the sheer joy of winning.
So the next time you’re tempted to give up on a goal, ask yourself whether you’ve given it 100% commitment. And, if you ‘burn your ships,’ whether you would have more urgency and impetus to make the necessary changes and achieve your goal.