It wasn't until this past Christmas vacation that I realized I had been making a terrible mistake.
Yes, I had surrendered. I had said "yes" to the lease and said "yes" to the opportunity. I had said "yes" to biting off more than I could chew and I was chewing it. I had a big beautiful brick-and-mortar business, I had sold-out trainings and retreats on the calendar. I had a full house every Sunday morning for Yoga Church.
But lurking under all of those 'yeses' was a pretty substantial 'no' because I hadn't fully committed. To be clear, I had committed on paper, I had committed financially and I had committed by showing up. But after making those commitments, I started to fantasize about my other life, my previous life. The life where I didn't sign the lease, the life where I didn't take the plunge, the life where I didn't have overhead or seven-days-a-week commitments.
I wasn't aware of how big this fantasy habit had become until one morning on my yoga mat, I caught myself thinking, "If this doesn't work, I can always just go back to the way things were." These types of thoughts had been whirring through my head for months, unchecked, but for some reason on that morning I heard the distinct ludicrousness of my mind. Up until that point, I had been running a business with one foot in the building and the other foot out the door. I had been telling myself that I was committed but I was equally entertaining all possible escape routes.
I realized that I needed to commit. Like really really commit. The kind of do or die commitment that burned all possible escape routes and kept me focused on just one outcome: success.
And then I remembered the story about Cortés. In 1519, Hernán Cortés, 600 Spaniards, 16 horses and 11 boats, landed on the shore of what we now call Mexico. (PS. I tell this story not to advocate the conquering native peoples, but to demonstrate commitment to one's cause.) For more than 600 years, conquerors with far more resources had attempted to colonize the Yucatan Peninsula, yet never succeeded. Cortés was well-aware of this fact and for this reason, he took a different approach when he landed. Instead of charging through cities and forcing his men into immediate battle, Cortés stayed on the beach and gave a series motivational speeches.
In his most famous speech, he ordered his men to, “Burn the boats.” They lit the boats aflame as they stood on the beach and watched their only way home turn to ash and salt water.
At that point, they were left with only two choices — die, or ensure victory. To be clear: they did not burn the boats and then sit on the beach staring at the horizon waiting for their ship to come in. They left the beach and got to work and Cortés became the first man in 600 years to successfully conquer Mexico.
All change happens with a choice, a decision, a commitment to change. Whether we want to start a new business, take a new training, change our body, pay off debt, the crucial step to change is the decision to change in the first place. This might sound overly simplistic, and I know it's a thousand times harder than this, yet it's still in that magic of the commitment where change actually happens. I'm talking about when you make a real decision, one where you will not go back. One where you do not entertain all the other ghost ships of your life, nor do you sit on the shore waiting for your ship to come in. One where you do not fantasize about what woulda, coulda, shoulda happened, and instead fully commit to exactly what you've set out to do.
If you really want it, burn the boats. Make the commitment. And get busy.