Talking About Commitment

woman's hand climbing mountainI met a guy at a networking meeting almost two years ago. As we chatted, he bemoaned the fact that he had trouble committing to regular physical activity. Without thinking much about it, I offered to have him text me every time he took a walk.

I now have over 500 texts from him on my phone. He has walked through snow, heat, rain, freezing cold, and every kind of inclement weather, both here in Winnipeg and in Lima, Peru, where his fiancée lives. He has lost over 20 lbs without changing his diet in any way, just by keeping this commitment to himself.

What does it mean to make a commitment? Here’s what Google says:

The state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.
Synonyms: dedication, devotion, allegiance, loyalty, faithfulness, fidelity.

Dedication, devotion, allegiance. To be committed to something or someone, is to make a promise and keep it. Magic happens when we are committed. Opportunities appear, people come out of the woodwork to help us. A person who is committed to a course of action can be very attractive, and often becomes a leader. The Universe appears to align itself with those who commit.

To quote the mountaineer W.H. Murray, writing about the Scottish Himalayan expedition of 1953:

… but when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money— booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.

If commitment can lead to such great results, why is it so hard for us to do? Why are we so afraid to make a bold statement, to make a decision, to burn the bridges and cut off the way of retreat? Why do we find those who are committed to something both attractive and terrifying?

It all comes down, like everything else, to the stories we are telling in our heads. Once we can figure out what we are afraid of, we can make a start on moving beyond that fear and into the magic of commitment.

Some of the fear of commitment stems from FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. This fear not only causes people to be glued to their social media streams beyond all reason, but also makes it very difficult to make a decision that will necessarily require something to be abandoned. My daughter was bemoaning today how her commitment to advanced camp in the summer means she can never go to Ai-Kon. It can be very painful to make that choice. Yet, it cannot be avoided, if we are to be committed.

One way to avoid FOMO is to realise that it comes from a scarcity mindset, as articulated by Dr. Stephen F. Covey in his iconic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. By adopting an abundance mindset instead, it becomes OK to let go of things, because “there’s more where that came from.” My daughter may not be able to go to Ai-Kon and camp at the same time, but there will be other animé conventions. It’s OK to let go of that one. There is no scarcity here.

Sometimes we can’t commit because we still need to go through a process of trial and error to find the right person or thing to commit to. We come into adulthood with a certain set of ideas about ourselves, and expectations for our future, that may not actually align with the reality of who we are. That discordance between what we really want and what we tell ourselves we should want can wreak all kinds of havoc in our lives, and certainly makes it very difficult to commit to any course of action.

Having honest conversations with ourselves, maybe with the help of a coach, is the only way to figure out what we really really want, and then we can commit to it wholeheartedly.

None of the above means we should commit to one career or one cause for the rest of our lives – it can be just one project, such as climbing Mt. Everest. But once the decision has been made, the focus needs to narrow, at least for the time period of the commitment.

What do you think, have you found yourself being held back from a commitment by your own fears? How did you deal with it? How would you like to have dealt with it? Let me know!


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