November 13, 2019

Make a “Do or Die” Commitment to Get Unstuck


The other morning, I woke up, got out of bed, and peeked out the back door. It was cold and rainy. My kitty, Remy, took a few steps onto the porch and ran back in. Our hot Texas summer had just skipped over fall and landed smack dab into winter. 40 degrees is not winter in most places, but in Texas, I’m calling it winter.

This would not normally be an issue.  However, 33 days ago, I had made a  “do or die” commitment to meditate outside on my bench every day for 365 days. Crazy idea, right? That’s what I was thinking that morning. For the first month, I’d managed with the swarms of mosquitoes and sticky, humid mornings, but there is a reason I moved from NJ to TX. I can’t take the cold. 23andMe says I have some Neanderthal blood, but honestly, I’m feeling more of a reptilian thing going on.

I shut the door and tip-toed back to my warm bed. Ahhh…. it felt so good. The comforting thought came to me that I hadn’t actually told anyone I was committing to meditate outside every day for a year. To a few folks, I’d only declared my intention to meditate. I never qualified where. I told myself, if I meditate inside today, who would know? I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.

But I couldn’t. I felt restless. Something was nagging at me. After about 5 minutes, I got up and opened the back door again. Still cold. Still rainy. Then it hit me. I had made a commitment. I made that commitment because I was feeling stuck in an area of my life (it’s actually easier for me to help others get unstuck!). I had this feeling that if I committed to something that challenged me and took me out of my comfort zone, it might help me get unstuck.  Staying in bed was giving in to the stuckness.

So I put on my rain jacket and plastic cycling pants and grabbed my umbrella. Yes, it was cold and wet. And the rain kept coming. But I ended up having a delightful time. Remy even ran out to join me for a few minutes.


It was really empowering to push through the resistance to something uncomfortable. By the end of my meditation, I could hardly sit still on the bench, I was so pumped with energy. I was half-expecting to take flight with my umbrella.

One of the main reasons why I’m telling this story is because I have come to believe that the single most powerful tool we have when we are making changes in our lives is a “do or die” commitment.

Too often, we wish for change or say we will try, but we don’t fully commit to going after what we want.

A “do or die” commitment can be as simple as, “I AM going to be happier in my career and have quality time for my family. I WILL DO whatever it takes to make this happen.”

When you make a “do or die” commitment, you are doing something powerful. You’re saying to yourself,

“I believe in you. I believe you have what it takes to do this!”

This mindset is so important, because what often gets in our way is a barrage of motivation-zapping thoughts, such as:

I don’t know where to begin.
I need to see all the steps.
I’m not sure I have what it takes.
Other people are better than me.
What if I fail?

These limiting thoughts are so not rocket fuel. In fact, they are anti-rocket fuel. They are the wet blankets that can put out the wildfire of our dreams.

If you want to make changes in your career, but you don’t know exactly how to move beyond stuck, this is normal and not a deal breaker. Start with a “do or die” commitment for something you desire. Let’s call this your “Big C” commitment. Then make a “Little c” commitment to doing something WITHOUT FAIL on a regular basis to support your overarching goal.

Here are a few examples of “Do or Die” Commitments:

Big C – I will do everything in my power to have work I enjoy by 2020.
Little c – I will spend 2 hours every week working on my career direction.

Big C – I will get healthy and in shape by the summer of 2019.
Little c – I will exercise three times a week and prepare food for the week on Sundays.

Big C – I will write a novel by 2020.
Little c – I will write 2,500 words a week on my novel.

Big C – I will be out of debt in 5 years.
Little c – I will devote one hour a week to my finances until I have a good plan in place to be out of debt.

The Little c commitment needs to be as strong as the Big C commitment. It is called “little,” not because it is insignificant, but because it is a smaller step, that when repeated consistently, will help take you to your Big C commitment. We can get overwhelmed by a goal that seems unobtainable, but each of us has the power to take one step at a time.

The SECRET of success is that as you keep your commitments to yourself, you send a powerful message to your subconscious that you have faith in yourself.

And that faith in self, combined with the carbon fibers of commitment, transforms our desires from mere wishes to marching orders.

So if you are feeling weak on faith in yourself, your Little c commitments will start to build that faith. Through keeping a commitment, even when it’s hard or uncomfortable, you start to trust yourself more. What could have been feelings of guilt and self-reproach are instead feelings of self-confidence, and that is rocket fuel. So then the next challenge becomes not only more doable, but even enticing.

If you’d like to make your own “Do or Die” Commitments for 2019 and beyond, you are welcome to download this Commitment Worksheet to get started! If you’d like to share your commitments with me, please feel free to send them to my confidential email at

Postscript – on day 48, as I was finishing this blog, the tectonic plates started shifting and a chunk of something broke loose. I don’t feel so stuck anymore (Yay!). I’m going to keep returning to the bench, and there’s plenty of room if anyone would like to join me!


  1. Stephanie M. Culver, M.D. says:

    Wonderful piece. Thank you for your description on how those little c’s turn to the big C. As a mom of 5 kids, 4 school aged still, and trying to find the path to return to work, a couple hours a day can be directed towards a larger goal by adding up smaller personal victories. Thank you for sharing your insights and I can’t wait to download and work on my little c’s!

    • You are incredibly welcome Stephanie! I really appreciate your taking the time to read and share your kind and thoughtful comments. I have full confidence that you can meet your goal of returning to work. I will hold this intention and “keep the light on” for you as you stay committed and persevere!

  2. Hany Eryan says:

    Awesome mindset preparation. This article simply describes how perseverance can be an actual day-to-day attitude. Thanks for the practical idea. it gave me a boost!!!

  3. Dr. Heather! Were you speaking DIRECTLY to me with this blog post? I feel you were. Change is HARD! The creepy crawlies of ‘self-doubt” squiggle in and out of your mind. First you feel “Yeah, I can do that!” and the next thought (sometimes very negative) says “No you can’t!”

    So my BIG C Commitment is: “Just Say YES!” and see where it takes me.

    This commitment is important to me because: There are so many reasons to say “No” to everything. “It’s not the right time. I don’t have the time. I don’t want to make the time. I have little time left on this earth, so why clutter it with THIS!” Whatever this is. So I will embrace this “YES” and take a leap of faith that the world will not explode because of my decision. And maybe something unforeseen and good will come out of my decision for me and for others.

    My commitment fulfill date was today! I said “YES” to something in my business that I originally said “NO” to.

    My first little “c” was to write this response to your blog thanking you for all you have done for me. I will share other little “c’s” with you later and have you as my accountability buddy (everyone needs one!)

    I am excited to get started because I need to “get back on the horse”! LOL!

    • Awesome sauce Lynette!!! It’s really helpful to others to have you share your own personal experience. People who met you at SEAK and heard your great intro likely think that now that you made it to being a paid speaker, the doubts and uncertainty are gone. If we want to continue to grow and challenge ourselves and not gather moss, we have to keep facing new doubts and fears. But you are a great example of getting back on the horse and galloping into the unknown boldly and with unbridled enthusiasm. Go Lynette! Thanks for being a beacon to other physicians and showing how one can forge a creative path.

  4. Lynette D Charity MD says:

    Thanks Heather!

  5. Thank you for this post. It is so relevant for me at the moment. I am on the precipice of needing to make a change, but the leap seems too big and honestly, scary. I’m making little steps to feel my way into what would interest me, but I’m barely dipping my toe in the water and in a flash, it is out. Anyway, your ideas make sense and I love reading about your own challenges.

    • Hi Andrea, I very much appreciate your commenting and sharing your own experience. I can so picture the toe dip that barely makes it into the water. It is sooooo common to have these challenges around making changes. The more we speak out about the struggle, the more it becomes normalized and that can actually be freeing. I hope the waters start feeling a little better to your toe and you can linger a bit to learn what they experience can tell you! Wishing you much success on the journey.

  6. Megan Leivant says:

    Thank you for this post, Heather! As others have said, your timing is impeccable! It is amazing how much you can be dragged down by self-limiting thoughts and there’s so much to be said for personal accountability and perseverance. I am proud of you for keeping your commitment to yourself. At the end of the day we answer to ourselves and it does create positive momentum when promises are kept, whether they are a little c or big C. The concept is so simple yet often one of the hardest to embrace and put into motion. Thank you for sharing your story and for all that you have done to help me and so many others.

    • Thank you Megan for your very sweet comments. All of you have made my day. I never know when I write a blog whether or not it will be helpful. I learn so much through the work I do and consider it a true privilege to help other physicians. Each one of you teaches me so much with how you move forward in your own lives, often juggling incredible loads and responsibilities, and not giving in or giving up. You have made a lot of inspiring changes this year Megan, and I am proud of your commitment and courage – so back at you!

  7. Thomas L Denley, M.D. says:


  8. I love the specificity of these “Big C” commitments. I often tell aspiring authors that the most important step to write a book is to schedule specific dates and times to write and schedule them in as if they were importants meetings–they are!

  9. Thanks for this post. It is so relevant for me at the moment. I learn so much through the work.

    • You are most welcome Dr. Kip! I’m really glad that this post was helpful for you. I’m sending you some Texas-sized encouragement to keep on doing whatever practice works for you and know that you have company on the journey. Wishing you all the best for a great new year.

  10. It’s very detailed and relevant to me. Thank you for posting.

    • You are most welcome Dr. Singh! I really appreciate your taking the time to read and comment. I am happy that the post was helpful for you.
      I was intrigued by your website and thought it meant, “Dentist in Luck Now!” And then I googled and saw that you are a dentist in Lucknow, India! Loved your website by the way. All the best to you.

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