What It’s Like to Be Truly Committed to Something
By Leo Babauta
All my life, I’ve struggled with being half-committed.
Not always, but more than I’d usually like to admit. I say I’m going to stick to something, and I actually believe it … but then a week later (sometimes sooner, sometimes longer), I falter. I justify it. I feel guilty. I try not to think about it. I resolve to do better.
Repeat, for life.
Recently I read a post by a coach and teacher I respect, Kendra Cunov, on Getting Clear on Commitment. It was thought-provoking, as always, and made me sit down and re-examine what I’m truly committed to. Not “I’m committed, but …” What I’m truly committed to.
I’ve done this before, notably last December when I was doing an annual re-examination of my life and commitments. It’s always useful to re-examine what you’re committed to, and to re-commit. But as the year has progressed, it’s become clear that I’m only truly committed to some of the things on my list.
So I’ve been spending some time looking at what makes me truly committed in one area (my family, for example), and not so committed in another (reading books).
What I’ve found is that when I’m truly committed, there is a deeper feeling, in my gut, that there is no way I’m going to fail at the commitment.
It’s not, “I really want to fulfill this commitment” … instead, it’s, “There is no question in my mind I’m going to fulfill it.”
When I feel discomfort and have an urge to put off the commitment, if I’m not really committed, I’ll justify putting it off. If I’m truly committed, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll make it happen.
To paraphrase a teacher of mine, if I’m committed, I become a man who would walk through walls to make it happen.
What are you truly committed to? Are you willing to walk through walls for it? Is there no question in your mind that you’ll do it?
If you’re not fully committed, you have three choices:
- Keep being half-committed. This is what most of us do. I don’t recommend this at all. It saps you of energy. It makes you feel like committing to something isn’t really important. It makes others trust you less. It makes you trust yourself less. Instead, do one of the two next options.
- 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 everything — in fact, it’s impossible to be committed to every single thing you want to do. It’s better to be committed to fewer things, but more deeply. So examine a half-commitment, and ask 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. For only a small number of things (maybe 4-6), you want to be truly committed. There is no question in your mind that these things will happen. If you are only partly there, don’t fret. You can deepen. We’ll look at that in the next section.
So let go of the habit of being half-committed, and either let go of a half-commitment (best option, usually), or deepen to true commitment.
How to Deepen
For me, the process of deepening commitments this year has looked something like this:
- Commit to it, including committing to other people that I’ll do it.
- Create a structure to hold me in that commitment even when things get tough. (This includes a “Sacred Council” who I email every week.)
- Things go well, I’m on track, I feel great. I report weekly to my Sacred Council, things are awesome.
- Then I get busy and some of the commitments fall off or are put temporarily on hold. I justify it to myself.
- I re-examine my commitment — from how things have gone, it becomes apparent that I’m not as committed as I thought. I get clear on how I’m showing up and where I need to deepen my commitment.
- Then I spend some time reflecting on this commitment. I deepen it inside of my heart.
At this point, I spend some time deliberating and meditating. My deepening session goes a bit like this:
- Go for a walk in nature. I’ve found that solitude in nature, especially while moving, is ideal. I also will find a rock or log to sit on and find stillness. But first I like to walk, to get the blood circulating. The solitude creates space to more deeply deliberate. No phone.
- Ask myself, “Am I truly committed to this? Would I do just about anything possible to make this happen?” This is a gut check. Feeling deep inside myself to understand how much I care about this.
- Ask myself, “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’ pain? If it’s a self-centered reason, I’m less likely to walk through walls to stroke my ego. If it’s to serve the world or people I love, I’m much more likely to walk through walls. I’d do anything for my kids. And my discomfort is so much less important than the people I care about.
- Firm my resolve. If I’m truly committed, I need to feel it in my gut. Even more, I need to feel it in my heart. This is a matter of feeling into my heart for the love that I feel deeply. And how much more important this is than my self-concern.
- Ask what I need to do to make this happen. Now that I’m resolved, I ask what steps need to happen to make this a reality. If I’m committed to impeccable structure for my family’s finances, what actions need to happen?
This isn’t an exact science, but I’m hoping you can see through this example that it’s a process of searching your heart for what you care most deeply about, and what your heart’s priorities are.
Deepen your commitments for the sake of the people you love most.