By Leo Babauta
How often have you half-assedly committed to something, but didn’t really put your entire being into following through on that commitment?
How often have you said you were going to do something, and then just dropped it because you were too busy or didn’t have the energy?
How often have you said you were going to change your habits … and then didn’t stick to it?
How many times have you said you were going to take a course, read a book, take on a challenge, start a new hobby, write a book, start a business … and then you barely even start on it (if you start at all)?
For myself, this all happens at an alarming rate. My commitments are often not even half commitments, they’re like quarter commitments. And interestingly, I’d say I’m better at it than most people! Maybe not the best in the world, but better at sticking to my commitments than 75% of the world.
And I suck at it, in many ways. I start a diet and barely last a couple days on it. I pick an exercise program and last 3 weeks. I buy a book and barely get a quarter of the way through. Over and over, my commitments fall like flies.
What if we could deepen our commitments?
What would it be like to be so deeply committed, we’d be unshakable? What would it be like to be the person who would walk through walls to meet their purpose in life? How much more would people trust us if we showed up fully every single time we commit to something?
Our lives could be transformed.
I’ve been meditating on commitment lately, and experimenting with it in my life. Looking at where I’m only half committed (or less), where I don’t really believe I’ll meet my commitments. And learning how to go deeper into that commitment. Or cut it out, if I can’t commit deeply.
Here’s what I’m learning about being more deeply committed:
- Take away choice. When we’re only half committed, we keep the door open for other options. We think, “Sure, I’m going to stick to this diet, but … if I go out for dinner with friends, that’s different. Also family gatherings. And of course if there are donuts in the office.” That’s bullcrap. If we’re going to commit, let’s remove all possibility in our minds of doing anything else. There’s just this one option: doing your commitment.
- Do it with your entire being. Going through the motions doesn’t count. If you’re going to do it, do it with your entire being. Show up fully. Put your whole heart into it. Or don’t do it at all. Only half showing up for other people is painful to them. The same with only half showing up for yourself.
- Remember your deeper Why. You’re probably not taking your commitments seriously because you’ve forgotten why it’s so important. It’s just another thing on your endless todo list. Instead, remember the deeper reason you committed to this — maybe it’s to serve people you care deeply about. Keep them in your heart, and make this commitment the most important thing in the world, at least at the moment you’re doing it. Write out why you care so much about this commitment, and put that somewhere you can’t miss it.
- If you aren’t fully doing it, ask what’s holding you back. Notice if you’re not really upholding your commitment, or if you’re only going through the motions. What’s stopping you from fully showing up? What’s getting in the way? There might be fear, or maybe you aren’t giving it enough weight and giving it the focus it deserves. Pause and be with this resistance or floppiness, and ask yourself what it would take to deepen this commitment.
- Add commitments only slowly. Let’s face it: we want to do everything. And yet, this is why we can’t uphold our commitments — we’re overcommitting! Most of us should reduce our commitments (see next item), but once we get to a place where we feel we can add a new commitment … we should be very deliberate about the process of adding a new commitment. Meditate on it for a few days. Commit to it only for a week or two, so that you can see if you have room in your life. Once you feel good about it, add that commitment … but then don’t add others for a little while, until you’re sure you can add another.
- Get out of commitments you aren’t going to uphold. Most of us are overcommitted — which means we can’t possibly meet all of our commitments. In this case, we should first see if there’s a way we can meet some of those commitments for as long as we said we would (work on a project for a month, for example), but then get out of them once we’ve fulfilled that commitment. That should be our first choice — do what we said we would, but then end it when we can. Next choice is to renegotiate the commitment if necessary — maybe we said we could do it for a year, but we can only do it for the next few months. Maybe we said we could do it every day, but all we’re able to do is three days a week. Let the person know, and apologize to them. Lastly, get out of the commitment if you can’t do either of the above. Again, apologize, but recognize that this is necessary if you’re going to fully meet your more important commitments. So this is a matter of prioritizing which ones you need to meet. But if you have to get out of a commitment, let that be a grave lesson in overcommitting yourself.
I write these not so much as advice for everyone else, but as advice for myself. This is what I’m learning, and it’s so important.