As we rebuild our lives using the success skills necessary for personal growth and development, we’re forced to face the reality of our commitments in this life. Without commitment, your life—along with your dreams, hopes and desires—is like a sailboat without a sail. It keeps going, but with little direction and progress. Now, I know it seems that I’m stating the obvious; but bear with me as I explain why it’s not as simple as it seems.
Commitment to Results
In the most general sense of the term commitment, most people get it. It makes perfect sense that commitment is the precursor to results, but from there things get strangely complex.
If results follow commitment and everyone understands what it means to make a commitment, where is the disconnect? Let’s explore this together.
Think back to the last time you broke a promise to yourself or someone else. Maybe there was a habit that you wanted to break or a goal you wanted to achieve. You started off with amazing intentions that included a commitment statement (or thought) like: “I will be more organized” or “I will spend more quality time with my sweetheart” or “I will lose 10 pounds” or “I will not drink (or smoke, use credit cards, show up late to work, gamble, eat sweets,etc.) for 30 days.”
Somewhere between day 1 and the end of the line, something goes wrong. All of a sudden, the commitment you made is out of the window. You feel like a failure, you’ve let yourself or someone else down and you’re back to square one. What went wrong? Are you a bad person? Are you just bad at keeping commitments? Did you truly make a commitment in the first place?
Analyze the Results
In order to understand why you sometimes have trouble keeping commitments, take a look at what you want versus the unwanted results that you keep getting. If you have a moment, take a pencil and actually write down 3 things:
- What do you want? (i.e. stop procrastinating)
- What do you keep getting instead? (i.e. waiting until the last minute, missed deadlines, unfinished projects, strained relations with others)
When you take some time to analyze the undesirable results that you keep getting, it’s tough to imagine that you somehow have a vested interest in them. But I’m going to suggest that you do.
All too often, we as individuals are not consciously aware of the ties that bind us to the results that we’re getting over and over again. These ties are our underlying commitments.
Defining the Underlying Commitments
The underlying commitment is the true commitment- the commitment that produces the end results. It is the payoff that comes quite pleasantly packaged along with the behaviors that keep us tied to the past. Let’s look at some examples to clarify how underlying commitments may be lurking in your life.
If you’re saying that you want to become healthier, but you’re eating french fries and lounging in front of the television instead of working out; is the commitment really there? Is there a separate underlying commitment that’s the driving force behind your behavior?
Well, yes and yes. The commitment is there; but the commitment is not to a healthy lifestyle. The true commitment—the underlying commitment—is to the payoff you get from what keeps showing up in your life.
The Payoffs of an Underlying Commitment
So what are these payoffs, anyway? The payoffs are the benefits that keep you coming back to square one. You say that you want X, but you keep ending up with Y. If X is a healthy body, maybe the payoff of Y is the convenience of fast food or the ease that comes with not disciplining yourself. Maybe it’s the freedom of eating what you want when you want it or the temporary sense of emotional fulfillment that comes with stuffing yourself with comfort food. Worse yet, maybe a deep part of you doesn’t believe that you deserve what you really want; and that part of you thrives on the opportunity to beat you up repeatedly for “failing” yet another diet.
Need another example?
If X is a new career, maybe the payoff of Y is the safety and security of the job you supposedly hate. You won’t have to face the fear of interviewing and possible rejections if you just stay there. Right? Maybe your vested interest is the pity that others show when you gripe about how much you’re mistreated at work; or the opportunity to come home and watch television in the evenings rather than taking classes to help move your career forward.
In either case, there is something there that is far more familiar and comfortable to you than the journey toward what you say that you want.
Keep Your Commitments or Your Payoffs
Now, if you’re feeling very uncomfortable with the idea that you’re holding on to the benefits of not getting what you want—GOOD FOR YOU. Discomfort is a wonderful sign of awareness. It means you’re getting it. It’s natural for some part of you to reject the notion that you have not fully committed to what you say you want—only to the idea of it and the payoffs of not having it.
The great thing about achieving a state of awareness around your underlying commitments is that you have the power to do something about it. Yes, if you give up smoking, you will experience extremely uncomfortable emotions that you’ll have to face without your usual crutch; and you will miss the smoke breaks you always took with your usual crew. But it’s your choice.
Yes, if you decide to increase your productivity, you’ll have to give up late night T.V. and stop giving in to the nagging thoughts that tell you to check your Facebook messages again and again. But it’s your choice.
In order to honor commitments to what you really want, you’ll have to tell yourself “no.” It won’t feel good, but it is your choice.
You can remain committed to the way it feels in the moment when you’re waking up too late to get to work on time, lounging instead of getting an early start on a project, skipping out on exercise, gambling your rent money, puffing that cigarette or indulging in some other old habit. Or you can commit to pushing yourself and working through the discomfort that so often comes with change.
Know Yourself to Keep Your Commitments
More important to living your best life than any words, plans or efforts is commitment. It is the stepping stone to getting the results that you want in life. However, until you are aware of who you are, where you stand, and what your true commitments are; every step is taken in the dark. Aren’t you ready to turn the lights on?
Take a long hard look in the mirror, peering past the obvious to get to know yourself on a deeper level. Discover your own truths and use them as your starting point. With openness and complete honesty, acknowledge both the commitments you have and the commitments required in order to have what you want. It is from this place of conscious awareness that you are most empowered to chart the course for your life.
It is comment time, dear friends. What is your truth? What do you want? What underlying commitments have you been holding on to? How will you approach your attachment to the payoffs of what you don’t want?
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