Commitment: How to Be More Committed...
Keep Taking the Shot!
I've been reflecting on commitment this week and wondering whether it's as important as we think for achievement. And, if it is, how do we make ourselves more 'committed'?
We hear a lot about commitment, about ‘taking the shot’, about staying in the game, and, of course, we can see the results of this. But what is it that creates the behaviour that has someone show up again and again with the energy to keep doing something, even when they’re tired or it doesn’t look like results are happening?
What’s going on here and how does it apply to you and me? How come one person can, seemingly, commit, and another not? And how can we adapt our own behaviour so that we get more of the results we want in the areas we want to achieve them?
What ‘Commitment’ Looks Like on the Outside…
I’m coordinating a group of coaches who are delivering a project for leaders in an international organisation. As part of one of our regular round-ups on ‘how it’s going’, the issue of commitment has come up.
Some of the coaching relationships are going ahead with a huge amount of momentum, the coachees are seeing new perspectives and achieving results in their work. Some of the relationships are on a slower track and there is a bit less energy, less of the momentum, and less engagement from the coachee side.
I want to be clear here, that I don’t believe there is one single way to get results—when it comes to the gym for example, I’m definitely on the slow track, and yet I feel like I meet the description of committed I’m going to come on to at the end of this post.
What I’m noticing is deeper than that, it’s more about how the person’s showing up, what we might call their state of mind, rather than the speed with which the coaching is progressing.
What Commitment Looks Like on the Inside…
As I dig into why this seems to be the case and therefore what I can do about it, one of the coaches told me, of his client,
She’s a very committed person, and she was committed to this from the outset, even though she didn’t know what it involved.
It seems like an obvious statement of what’s true—that when we’re committed to something, we ‘show up’, we ‘do what it takes’, we carry on even before we’re sure that we’re getting results… all of those things happen when we have commitment.
And so, it often looks as if ‘commitment’ is a prescription for, or at least a necessary part of achieving results.
Is that true though?
While I have no doubt that what the coach described is 100% true—that his client is committed, that she did carry even if she didn’t really know what coaching involved, that she was prepared to try something she hadn’t experienced before, that she had an openness…. even with all of that, I found myself asking whether the ‘commitment’ was the cause of the positive coaching experience, or whether the ‘commitment’ was the result of something else.
What if commitment isn’t something we have to gird our loins for, what if it isn’t a decision we take—to be committed or not? What if it’s, rather, the result of not thinking too much about imagined future problems? Or not constantly ruminating on whether or not we should be doing something.
I know I’ve found this for myself in the past. When I feel like I need ‘commitment’ for a particularly thorny challenge, what I’m actually doing is asking myself, repeatedly, whether the thing I want to do will get me the results I want (or think that I want).
Is this working / is this going to work?
Can I put up with this thing I don't like doing (let's use going to the gym as an everyday example) in order to get the result I want?
While these seem like legitimate questions—who doesn’t ask themselves “will it work?”, they’re actually what is getting in the way of me showing up with what looks, externally, like commitment.
The Girlfriend Experience
A good friend recently broke up with his new-ish girlfriend. I was surprised, they seemed really well match and got along well. I thought he liked her.
Yeah, she was moving away for a few months and I’ve seen what it takes to do that whole long-distance thing,
he told me.
I laughed, out loud—to break up now on the basis of future imagined problems seems crazy to me.
That’s like me having my young dog put down now because I don’t want to have to deal with his infirmity when he gets old.
the dog’s not even two years old.
And he’s right. My last dog suffered when he was old and he lost control of the nerves in his back. But why would I take action now on something that may or may not happen and that, if it does, is an inevitable part of owning a dog? It’s so far in the future, it makes no sense for me to take action now. (unless, of course, it did look as if it made sense—because that’s what we all do—we act from what looks most real.)
That’s what you’re doing though,
I told my friend,
Who knows how it will go with the GF and maybe you guys will break up but to decide now looks a bit premature to me.
A Definition of Commitment (and, therefore, how to create it)
The definition of commitment and lack of commitment in these examples isn’t coming from a decision that someone made to ‘be committed’ (no matter how much it looks like that); no, the commitment appears when someone pays little or no attention to imagined future problems, or to as-yet-unknown answers to current questions.
Maybe my friend just doesn’t like his GF as much as I think he does and maybe the clients who are not as engaged with coaching have other priorities to focus on—that’s completely legitimate. Mostly in life, we can choose what we’re pulled to do and it’s very rare for someone to hbe holding a gun to our heads to make us do things we don’t want to do—we’re quite good enough at holding imaginary guns over ourselves!
We do what makes sense for us to do. And, given that, when we constantly question that, or we try to seek answers to questions that just can’t be answered right now, then we’re spending time and energy chasing our tail.
How to Be More Committed
If there’s something you want to be more committed to, let me suggest that the first step is to notice how much you ruminate on your commitment. How much you question what you’re doing, what results you’re going to get and how uncomfortable it might be in the process.
Sure, there might be discomfort and that might be a sign to change how you’re doing something, but going over the same question again and again… how productive does that feel?
Yeah, interesting to notice right?
I bet, if you looked at all those places where you’re doing this, you might start to see something new, you might put some of those questions down, and you might even be able, with a clearer mind, to be able to get on and do the very thing you’ve been questioning.
Or maybe you’d decide it just isn’t a priority and you’d be free to move on to something else. (remember, the gun to your head is likely in your own imagination…)
Commitment isn’t something we ‘decide’; it’s what’s already there when throw ourselves into just playing with the thing in front of us.
Who knows, we might enjoy doing that thing so much that we keep on doing it, we throw ourselves into it, we start to enthuse with all our friends and colleagues and, all of a sudden, everyone else is marvelling at how ‘committed’ we are.
Wouldn't it be interesting to give that a go?