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Make A Commitment, Burn The Boat

by jenny sansouci on August 16, 2009

Tony Robbins posted a very thought-provoking tweet the other day: “If you want to take the island, then burn your boats. With absolute commitment come the insights that create real victory.”

When I read that, it resonated with me immediately. Many times when we make goals for ourselves, there’s a part of us (no matter how small) that mentally makes room for an escape route. No matter how badly we want something, the thought of possibly failing is often on the table. But what if we took failure off the table? Where does that put us?

I did a little bit of research on the “burn the boats” phenomenon and found that it origniated with the ancient Greeks. When the warriors arrived on enemy shores, they would receive an order to burn their boats so they had no way of retreating. This way, they had a “fight or die” mentality that led to fierce passion towards victory.

Tony Robbins says that when there’s a tough task to accomplish, people often equate fighting with pain and escaping with pleasure. But if we burn the boat and have no escape route, we learn to equate fighting with pleasure, and failing with pain.

I think this is a really powerful way of thinking. Think about last time you made a goal for yourself. Did you think about what would happen if you didn’t accomplish it? What if you didn’t even give yourself the option of failing? What if you burned the boat instead and fought for your goal with all the passion you have?

I realize this mentality may not work for every goal you set due to external factors affecting your success, but try it with something like diet or exercise. This can work especially if you have the tendency towards self-sabotage. If you give yourself a goal of jogging every day for 2 weeks, burn the boat and jog every day for 2 weeks, no exceptions. When the mind sneaks up on you and tries to talk you out of it, tell your mind that you already burned the boat so you have no choice but to run. Even if you just get out there for a slow or short jog, you’re training your mind to believe that there’s no escape route, therefore meeting your goals with a higher success rate.

Happy boat burning! 🙂

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