By Leo Babauta
I’ve been diving deep into working with full commitment lately, in my personal transformative work and working with my clients. It’s fascinating work.
The biggest stumbling point for people is the dichotomy between:
- Being detached from the goal, which can ironically make it more likely to achieve the goal. For many people though, this detachment can often mean you aren’t moving as strongly towards the goal, because you don’t care as much. It often shows up like getting up in the morning and putting the goal aside.
- Being fully committed to the goal, which can mean you work super hard on the goal … but if it’s clear you’re not going to hit the target, for many people this brings about a huge amount of disappointment. This brings about a feeling of pointlessness that we use to let ourselves off the hook and quit.
As you can see, each side of the dichotomy between detachment and commitment has a set of problems. One can be too loose, the other too tight. So how do we work with this?
The middle way is something I think of as Committed & Unattached:
- Committed: You are fully committed to the goal. You work at it as if it were one of the most important things in the world. You give it your all (within the bounds of self-care, of course). You focus, you go after it. You care deeply.
- Unattached: But while you’re committed to making it happen, you are unattached to the outcome. You care about the outcome but you’re OK if it doesn’t happen. You love life and yourself no matter what happens.
Think of it like really taking care of a seedling, and then the sapling that grows from it, then the tree, with your full devotion — but then not needing the fruits that might or might not spring from the tree.
This is one of the key lessons from the sacred text, the Bhagavad Gita — to give yourself with full devotion to your life’s purpose, but then to “let go of the fruits.”
Full devotion, but let go of the fruits.
Imagine running a marathon as if this were you life’s work — but if you didn’t make it to the finish line, you’d still lie on the ground in complete satisfaction, knowing that you gave it your best, knowing that it was still a powerful endeavor.
Imagine trying to write a book, and putting your full heart and devotion into writing the book so that you could help others — but then letting go of the need for other people to actually read it and put it into action.
It’s giving a gift without the attachment to someone accepting the gift.
What would it be like to wake up every day, giving your full commitment to the things you care most about, but not letting yourself crumble every time something doesn’t turn out as you’d hoped? If you fall short of a milestone, you recommit yourself and keep going?
This requires us to allow for heartbreak, when we fall short. And then to keep giving our full commitment and devotion, no matter what the outcome.