At the beginning of a year, when people tend to express their optimism for the next twelve months by espousing great intentions, it’s every so easy to feel a sense of accomplishment merely by setting those intentions. There’s actually neuroscience to support this notion: The act of proclaiming to another person that you’re intending to do something produces pretty much the same dopamine response as actually doing the thing. Announcing to the world that you’re going to improve your health, or start a business, or write that book, or begin an exercise program, or take up dancing, or whatever… well, your brain already has received the positive feelings that would come from actually doing those things, at least from a neurotransmitter perspective!
There’s another side to that coin, however. When one is actually intending to serve a cause – be it a public cause or one that is more individually beneficial in its scope and intent – declaring the commitment and tracking its follow-through can help. Once someone has made a strong commitment and made it public, the more personal accountability they might feel to actually follow through on that declared commitment. This becomes especially true if (a) the commitment touches or reflects on one’s strongly held values and beliefs, (b) the commitment directly ties to one’s important, long-term goals and objectives, or (c) the commitment contributes to the individual’s sense of who they are, in other words, their identity as a person.
To go from the profoundly general to the mundanely specific, think about your sense of self as a dancer. If you can say to yourself, “I am the type of person who dances” and feel good about making that statement in public—fantastic! If, on the other hand, you are like most people, with having taken “a few dance lessons at…. Uhhhh…. this club somewhere…” or used up your 5 classes on an old Salsaholics Groupon, perhaps it’s time to reconsider yourself as “the type of person who dances.”
Commitments work better when you have at least an implicit feeling of having to be accountable to someone. They work better when you make the connection between the commitment and the type of person you aspire to be. And once you follow through on the commitment once, the ever-easier it is to find time in your busy and prioritized schedule to prioritize yourself.
If you haven’t joined us on Thursday evenings at Salsaholics for a while, this week would be a great time to step up to your personal commitment that “I’m the type of person who dances.” Tell your best friend at work, your boss, the bus driver, the cashier in the supermarket. What’s even better is to bring them to class with you. If you’ve been away since the summer (or longer) it’s only $5 for each of you. And especially if you’re a follower who knows the fundamentals and can stay for two hours at both Foundation and Repertoire… Wow! What a deal to do something great for your physical self, your identity self, and all those great neuro-transmitters—the “happy hormones.”
See you on the dance floor.