Unless a commitment is made there are only promises and hopes, but no plans. – Peter Drucker
Every year I create a board filled with ideas and goals. It’s not a vision board per se but a poster-board filled with business goals, books I want to read, places to travel to and home projects. I like to complete this in the later summer. I ask myself what is it that I want to have, be and do in the forthcoming year? How do I want to live? And what do I want my daily life to look like?
This is how the dream becomes a reality for me. Every so often the goals demand more time than initially estimated and other times they are realized more rapidly. That has something to do with circumstances and timing but in the end it has to do with commitment. I was reminded of this after reading a brief article by Leo Babauta, a Zen teacher and coach.
In the article, he shared his thoughts on what it’s like to be truly committed to something. His life-long and personal struggle is about being half-committed. This got me thinking more deeply about my own commitments. My commitment issues are different.
Periodically I might find myself half-committed to a project simply because I’m over-committed and there just isn’t enough time to devote to it. Ordinarily when I make a commitment, especially to the big stuff – I stick to it wholeheartedly. Sometimes I am then over-committed in a different
Commitment is an act, not a word. – Jean-Paul Sartre
A notable example for me was my experience almost 20 years ago when, at the end of 2000, I opened a boutique “Where the Wild Bee Wings” in Montclair, NJ. Organic towels, cozy blankets, essential oils, organic body products, meditation pillows, yoga mats and other good for you and the world products were stocked and sold. And, the whole reason I opened the shop, to begin with, was a recycled highway billboard and rubber tire yoga mat bag that I designed and sold. It was my way to make a contribution to the world.
The shop was featured in a few magazines; it was listed in NJ Magazines article as one of the best places to shop. But it didn’t work for a variety of reasons but I refused to let it go and five years later I finally did. Ego? Pride? I didn’t want to be labelled as a failure? Not sure why I held on so long. It ended in failure. All the love, labor and money that I invested in it, gone. Nevertheless, it was an experience to remember.
‘Just hang on and success will find you’ is a message that we hear frequently in the entrepreneurial world but success wasn’t on the horizon. Sometimes it’s okay to let go.
Then there is over-commitment can create a circumstance where we are half-committed – we can say yes without really wanting to do something – without meaning to and then again we become half-committed feeling obligated and maybe even resentful. Or maybe we just don’t show up to the commitment and our friends lose trust in us. We lose trust in us.
At this time in my life, it’s not just what others expect of you, but the what and why of what you are truly committed to. Spending time examining these things once each year and even checking in with yourself every month or quarterly can help to put things in perspective.
Without commitment nothing happens. – TD Jakes
In 2017, my list which is broken into categories included an entire section dedicated to my art career. Things changed. Some months later that chunk on the board didn’t get checked off as completed goals. Instead it was simply crossed off and changed to reflect the new direction that it would take. Unlike a boutique that I barely kept afloat – I didn’t pay myself for 5 years back then this was a change of commitment – a change in direction and I didn’t hold on to tight to it anymore. It wasn’t working for me, and I decided and committed to changing the way I make art. Looking at that board was not a feeling of giving up – ‘don’t be a quitter’ or failure ‘ ‘success is just around the corner’ – it was liberating and shocking to me too.
Are you thoroughly committed to something or half-committed?
Are you completely committed to something or half-committed? Here are four things you can do to choose, strengthen and deepen or let go of commitments:
Learn to say no to some commitments.
When you say no, you free yourself from becoming half-committed and from resentment. Being half-committed to something saps you of energy. It makes others trust you less. It makes you trust yourself less. Saying no can provoke unease for all parties involved. If you don’t possess the time and energy initially your friends or family may be disappointed but it undoubtedly is a win-win for everyone in the long run. When you can show up for them another time, you’ll be in it wholeheartedly and gratitude will abound.
Let go of the commitment.
This is the best option in many cases. Let go without judgment. It’s OK to not be committed to every possible thing — in fact, it’s impossible to be committed to every single thing you want to do. It’s more constructive to be committed to fewer things, but more deeply. So examine your commitments, especially ones that you feel are only half-committing to right now. Ask yourself whether you want to make this one of your few commitments, or whether it’s worth letting go. If you don’t feel you’d walk through walls for this, let it go without guilt. Like you’re letting go of a caged bird.
Deepen your commitment.
Choose your commitments. Deepen your commitment to only a limited number of things (maybe 4-6). When you are absolutely committed, there is no question in your mind that these things will happen.
Figure out the what and why.
Deepening your commitments and examining them aren’t tasks for your to do list, you can reflect on your life and commitments with ease:
- Go for a walk in nature. Solitude in nature, especially while moving, is ideal. Walk, consciously listening to all the sounds around you. Then find a rock or log to sit on and find stillness or if ‘nature’ is in the city find a bench or curb to sit on. The solitude creates space to more deeply deliberate. No phone.
- Gut check, identify your feelings. Ask, ‘Am I genuinely committed to this? Would I do absolutely anything possible to make this happen?’ Feel deep inside to understand how much you care about this.
- Ask, ‘Why do I care deeply about this?’ Is it because of my love for my family? Love for the people I serve? Compassion for others’ pains? If it’s a self-centered reason, then it’s less likely to be wholly committed. If it’s to serve the world or people that we love, we’re much more likely to do it.
- Firm our resolve. When we’re truly committed, we need to feel it in our guts – our heart and how much more important this is than self-concern.
- Ask, ‘What do I need to do to make this happen?’ What steps need to happen to make this a reality.
How to Deepen Your Commitments
When you figure out the what and the why behind your commitments and decided to deepen the few, check in weekly:
- Say it out loud. Commit to it, including committing to other people.
- Accountability with structure can make it easier to sustain a commitment when the going gets tough – establish structure.
- Take 5 minutes each day to celebrate when things go well. Share your happiness and gratitude by writing down or uttering it aloud.
- If you find that commitments fall off or are put temporarily on hold ask yourself why? Re-examine take some time to get clear. Ask yourself how am I showing up? Where do I need to deepen my commitment?
- Reflect on your commitments. Think of the ways that you are of service to others or the rewards of doing something for the sake of doing it.
Deepen your commitments for the sake of the people you love most and don’t forget that includes you. Let go of other people’s expectations of you and do something because you want to do it, that – you care about your family or you want to be of service to the greater good.
What represents your struggle? Over-committed? Half-committed? A little of each?
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