When I was in college, I decided to take a yoga class. I had some back problems and friends who raved about how much they loved Yoga, so I decided to give it a try. It was terrible. I’m not exaggerating at all when I say I was the worst yogi in the class. Years of lifting weights and running, without the slightest hint of stretching, had left me with very little flexibility. I couldn’t even do the most basic positions.
As I sat there, failing to do the modified pose the instructor had suggested, I looked around at all of the other people in the room. They were exactly what you expect to see when you walk into a Yoga studio. Their bodies contorted. Their faces serene. Their breath calm and deep. Disgusting. “Of course they’re good at Yoga”, I thought. “They look like people who should be good at yoga.” I certainly did not.
Fast forward two years and I’m doing yoga on a daily basis. After rolling up my mat one morning I looked in the mirror and realized that I looked like someone who was good at yoga. Then it hit me. All of those people in that first class looked like they were good at yoga because they did yoga.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that this applies to pretty much everything. Sprinters weren’t born looking like sprinters. They look like that because of all the sprinting. The hands of piano players were shaped by years of playing the piano. Bodybuilders devote their lives to lifting weights for years in order to look like that. And it doesn’t just apply to your physical self. The things you do day in and day out – the things you commit yourself to – shape who you are. You want to be a good writer? Write. You want to be a good sales person? Pick up the phone. Start practicing your pitch. Want to be a good speaker? You’ve got to get in the habit of standing in front of people and giving presentations. You might suck at first. It might be hard. It might be awkward and embarrassing. Almost everything new sucks for the first few weeks. But it’s the only way. No one ever learned to surf from reading a book.
As time goes on, you’ll get better. You’ll get used to the fundamentals. You’ll realize the adjustments that you have to make to get better. And over time, you’ll begin to change. This is the real value in committing yourself to something. When you commit yourself to a course of action – when you commit yourself to mastery of something – you’re giving yourself an opportunity to grow. The superficial changes are the tip of the iceberg. The real value in committing yourself to something lies in the mental and psychological changes that occur in you. Running a marathon is great. Becoming the kind of person who has the discipline to prepare for a marathon is something that carries over to everything else in your life.
I’m not sure if you have a resolution, but whatever it is that you plan to accomplish this year, make sure that you don’t just commit yourself to the goal. Instead, commit yourself to the course of action that will get you there. Commit yourself to the practice. That steady, consistent practice will ultimately shape who you are.