Theory: You are more likely to be happy once you’ve committed to something and are determined to make it work.

The reporter on This American Life gave the example of his marriage: while they were engaged he was aware of all his fiancee’s faults. Once they married, and his commitment to the relationship was total, her faults faded into insignificance and he felt himself to be the luckiest man alive. (I hope, for his sake, that this honeymoon period lasts a long time, and that his awareness of those faults doesn’t come back with a vengeance….)

W H Murray knew this (although often incorrectly attributed to Goethe):

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one element of truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans – that moment one commits oneself, then providence moves all.”

Before I decided to start rowing oceans there were a number of other projects I had considered – an organic baking business, a tugboat-home conversion, a chain of coffee shops – but I never committed. I don’t think they were necessarily bad ideas, and if I had committed I would certainly have done my darnedest to make them work, but none of them seemed quite right.

When the notion to row an ocean hit me one day with all the force of a thunderbolt, I knew immediately that this was the project for me. After a one-week period during which I tried to talk myself out of this insane idea, I gave in to the inevitable and committed myself to making it happen. Over the following 14 months leading up to my launch on the Atlantic, I often had moments of doubt, nerves, and occasionally blind panic, but my commitment carried me through.

During that preparation period I heard an ocean rower giving a talk in which he said, “It is not the decisions you make, it’s how you execute them”. That made such sense. Consider, commit and then push on without looking back. It’s that doubting and dithering around a half-hearted commitment that gets in the way of success.

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