Committing Before You See the Solution

A simple yet common common difference I’ve repeatedly seen between various friends could be described like this:

  • Some friends commit themselves to a problem before they’ve figured out the solution.
  • Some friends try to figure out the solution before they commit themselves to the problem.

By and large the first group makes significantly faster progress while the second group so often gets bogged down and stuck.

Consider on which side you normally fall here.

Are you able to commit yourself to tackling a problem or undertaking a lifestyle transition before you have it all figured out?

Or do you need to have all of the major pieces figured out first before you can get moving?

I like committing to challenges where I don’t know how everything will work out in advance. Life feels more fun and adventurous that way. Risk adds some nice edginess to life.

Another advantage to committing first is that it upgrades your motivation. When you feel committed to a problem, you push yourself harder to solve it versus when you’re still in pre-commitment. And so you come up with more creative solutions because you have more pressure to do so.

Some people fear and avoid this kind of pressure, but used judiciously it can be a tremendous ally. You find out what you’re really made of when you have to come up with a solution or suffer some significant consequences. You’ll do a lot more to figure out the how-to details once you’re in motion.

Will you always pull through and avoid failure? Probably not. I sure didn’t. Sometimes I over-committed myself and failed. But I still prefer that option because the more I commit first, the more I can fine-tune my calibration. I get better at figuring out when I’m really over-committing and when I should lean in, stretch, and trust myself more.

There’s still uncertainty and risk though. You could always guess wrong. But it’s okay to have some failures. You can recover and learn a lot from a spectacular failure.

Note that there’s a character sculpting effect here too. Each option causes you to develop into a different type of character. It takes more trust and self-confidence to commit before you can see the full solution, so the first option is good if you want to play that kind of character. If, however, you’d prefer to play a slower moving and more cautious character who skips a lot of opportunities and is very selective, the second option might be a better fit for you.

Just be aware that you do have options. Some problems can be pre-solved before you commit to them. Some problems are way too difficult to pre-solve until you’re fully committed, especially when the details or circumstances keep fluctuating.

Many times when people pre-solve a problem, they have to throw out their solution when it doesn’t actually work. But at least it may get them moving towards and eventual solution.

Especially take note of any areas in your life where you’ve been trying to figure out a solution for such a long time, and you’ve gotten stuck because you really haven’t committed yourself yet. Do you think it’s time to commit first and just move forward before you’ve figured out the details, trusting that you’ll solve whatever needs to be solved along the way? Remember that you always have that option, and it’s a powerful one.

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Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina is an American self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He is the author of the web site and the book Personal Development for Smart People.

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