I was asked to speak to a group of women in March on the Power of Commitment. I was disappointed to be given a topic that seemed like old news. I could tell good stories, but everyone knows that once you commit, magic is possible. And if you don’t commit, you don’t complete.
Then I started thinking about what I am committed to in my life. I realized that every action I take, or avoid, demonstrates my commitment to something.
For example, this morning I demonstrated my commitment to puttering. Since I felt a sense of peace in my puttering, I think the action represents my commitment to my sanity, to allow myself a break between projects. However, I recognize my mindlessness could also be fed by my commitment to comfort since I was delaying a project I knew would be intense and difficult. When I was honest about what I was committing to at that moment, I had clarity about my choices. I could set a deadline on my puttering and then begin the difficult project that could lead to exciting possibilities.
Commitment is a choice. This choice is based on an emotion. You commit on how to use each moment based on what emotion is aroused: passion, fear, exhaustion, anger, sadness, and desire to name a few.
We generally think of commitment as a representation of our passion. When people ask me how I find the time to write books, I tell them that I commit my time because I’m passionate about my message and mission.
Brain Tip #1: If you can’t commit to something, ask yourself if you lack passion for the project. If you do, is there anything about the outcome that you can hitch your passion to? You can deal with drudgery much better if you are passionate about the results. Clearly define what you are passionate about achieving, then post reminders where you will see them to help you stay on track.
Fear can be just as powerful as passion when choosing what to commit to. The brain loves status quo. You commit to avoiding pain then masterfully rationalize your decision.
- If you commit to comfort over anxiety, you won’t take risks.
- On the other hand, if you fear the consequences for not carrying out a task, you may fearfully commit to doing something you don’t want to, which leads to resentment and half-hearted work. Don’t kid yourself—people sense when you are working out of obligation; your emotions will negatively impact the results.
- Fear of committing to others may drive you to create standards that no one can meet. You commit to these standards then you are disappointed by any job, manager or partner in your life. Your disappointment gives you a good excuse for leaving, mentally or physically.
Brain Tip #2: When you are ready and willing to release a fear so you can commit more to your passions, ask yourself the following questions:
- In five words or less, define the mission or ultimate goal you want to achieve.
- What stories are you telling about the people you are dealing with? Could these stories be excuses to justify your fear-based commitment?
- What do you like about yourself right now? What doesn’t feel so good?
- Based on your actions, what are you committed to? What emotions are driving this commitment? Is this a commitment you want to uphold?
- What emotion would you like to drive your thoughts and actions? What emotion would empower your mission or ultimate goal? What can you do to shift your emotional state so you feel more positively right now? What memory, picture, story or quote can you keep nearby to keep you in this desired state?
Anger can fuel a commitment. Many great things have happened after the words, “I’ll show you.” Yet over time, anger can deplete your energy and drive away your allies.
Brain Tip #3: Shift your anger away from what you don’t like to the passion you have for what you want to create. Your commitment will yield quicker and better results.
When you are sad, your brain slows down your mental and physical functions to allow for healing. It’s good to allow yourself to grieve, whether for a person, a project or a dream. Yet while grieving, your commitments are based on the past, not the future.
Brain Tip #4: Commit to your mental health by fully grieving your loss or unmet expectation, and then let go. You need time to express your sadness before you can recommit your passion more thoroughly. However, if you don’t allow yourself to let go—to say goodbye and to forgive anyone if you need to—you may be committing to the past because of a fear of moving forward or because of a desire for retribution. If you need to, ask for help. Then commit to composing a new life, dream or project.
Brain Challenge: Stop yourself at least three times today and ask yourself what you are committed to. What do your actions represent as a commitment? What emotions are fueling this drive? What would you like to feel instead? How would this change your commitment and subsequent actions?
Love your commitment or change it. It’s your choice.