Six Questions to Restore Your Power to Meet Your Commitments
Have you ever wondered why, no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to manage to get in action toward achieving the goals that are important to you? If you have read my posts or attended my training, you know that I place a great deal of emphasis on the value of examining and strengthening your own commitment to the outcome you want to achieve, as opposed to merely playing “whack-a-mole” with the external factors that seem to be working against you. This is because, as I like to say, you always have more success by feeding the grass rather than wasting time trying to kill the weeds.
In today’s post, I want to give you a few very practical steps that you can use, by yourself or with the help of a coach, to distinguish between those things to which you are 100% committed and those causes where commitment seems to be lacking in some way. These would be minor things that you halfheartedly engage in and which leave you with little energy to invest in those things to which you are truly committed. I call these your partial and conditional commitments, or 50/50 commitments. What characterizes these commitments is that you’re reluctantly willing to do your part, but only as long as all the conditions are ideal and others do their own part. Because your conditional commitments are entirely contingent on external factors beyond your control, as soon as one of those factors moves out of alignment, your level of commitment plunges dramatically as your level of frustration shoots up.
I am a firm believer that if there is a will, there is always a way. Unfortunately, however, sometimes even when there is no will, we pretend like there is! And then we make half-hearted attempts to achieve progress based on this inauthenticity, and, as a result, when we encounter enough barriers, we feel not only justified but also almost relieved in being able to finally have an excuse to give up. We tend to then justify our failure or the choice to give up by telling ourselves that we have done all that we could or that we have done our part, and, not be willing to take responsibility for having taken on a 50/50 commitment, we may even commence to blame other people or circumstances for having not achieved our objective.
The problem is not that we encounter setbacks or that we fail to achieve our objectives. In fact, it is a given that many things we set out to accomplish will not end up coming to fruition, and this is almost a requirement if you are playing a big game and aiming for transforming your circumstances and results, rather than merely changing them. The real problem is that we can’t—or don’t want to—distinguish between those things to which we are truly committed and those to which we only say we are committed. The challenges in the former category seem to always call us to action until we either get what we want or powerfully decide that it is not worth any more effort. The challenges in the latter category are the ones that neither call us to action nor provide us a clear opportunity for closure, and, as such, become a source of frustration and loss of power and vitality.
In the spirit of not coaching on hypotheticals, I’d like to help you identify one of your partial and conditional commitments, so that you can take the steps below for a test drive by the time you’re done reading this post. Let me give you an example from my own life. I have recently re-committed myself to exercising regularly, but for most of my life, my attitude about exercise has been: “I am 100% committed to it…if the weather is nice…and I get enough sleep the night before…and I feel like getting up in the morning to exercise!” Does that feel like 100% commitment to you?! Of course not! If there is an “if” anywhere in your 100% commitment, then 100% of your commitment is 100% conditional! The conditions that must be met to trigger my commitment and get me in action are almost always guaranteed not to be met (thus enabling me to honor my hidden commitment to be lazy!). Is this happening to you in any area of your personal or professional life? Is there a topic you have been pretending you are committed to, when you know full well that the right thing to do is to either really kick it in gear or bow out and accept the consequences?
By the way, we all have several of these conditional commitments, so there's no reason to be alarmed or feel bad. There is nothing wrong. If you have one, it just means you are human and you are still alive! We have all learned how to live with these partial commitments and succeed anyway. That’s one reason why we are reluctant to even deal with them. Because, we reason, why bother if we don’t absolutely have to and why mess with success? The bad news is that holding on to conditional commitments is precisely what keeps you from being as successful as you truly could be. The good news is that if you are willing to effectively deal with your partial and conditional commitments, you will recover significant amount of energy and vitality that you can channel into accomplishing those outcomes or experiences that are truly important to you and to which you are truly committed.
The reason this works is because pretending you care about something when you don’t is emotionally draining, because most of your energy is being expended propping up a façade rather than doing what needs to be done. As you spend time and effort trying to fool others and yourself, you become exhausted even though you haven’t really done anything, and as you focus on those spurious external reasons for having not yet achieved the desired outcome, you feel like a victim and this downward cycle of lack of energy and poor results and self-condemnation and inadequacy and blame continues. But when you own up to the fact that you are no longer “all in” and you declare it, even though there may be some immediate consequences you don’t like, you are revitalized with a whole lot of energy and enthusiasm that you regain as a result of having gotten rid of the burden of pretense.
Assuming you have identified at least one of these in your own life, I’d like to take you through the following process and have you answer these questions to the best of your ability, and then act on your responses.
1. Why do you suspect this might be a 50/50 commitment? What clues do you have? The answer to this question might point to the stress you are feeling when you are engaged in activities related to this topic or when you even think about it. It might be that you acknowledge that you are just going through the motions and not necessarily doing your best. It could be that you have to pretend that you are enjoying some activity when in fact, even if you did at some point in the past, that is no longer the case. If any of these things are true, you are on the right track.
2. What negative consequences are you experiencing as a result of your pretense? This could involve feeling like you’re out of integrity and not being honest with yourself and others. It could be that you don’t feel good about not being your best when it comes to this topic. It could also be that because you feel overloaded because you have too many irons in the fire, many of which are really not important to you.
3. Why haven’t you been straight about your lack of interest/commitment and gone on pretending for so long? Most likely you are thinking of all the negative consequences of you just coming out and declaring that you are no longer committed. You may be thinking about the people whose feelings would be hurt or negative consequences of your boss or colleagues being disappointed in you, etc. Whatever the reason is, I’m sure it is significant in your mind. That’s why you have carried the burden of hanging in there. List all of your reasons. Be realistic about them. Separate the actual consequences from your stories and speculation about the consequences, which are usually worst case scenarios. As the saying goes, “We have suffered many tragedies throughout life. And some of them have actually happened.” (By the way, if you’re nervous about coming clean about your partial commitments, don’t be: those people that you have been keeping this secret from already know your heart is not in it. They figured it out a long time ago and have just been polite by not calling you out!)
4. If you could get beyond the potential immediate negative consequences, what positive outcome could arise as a result you bowing out and setting yourself free from the pretense? This could be merely a feeling of liberation and relief, or it might also involve additional time and effort that you would recover because you no longer have to concern yourself with this topic.
5. Considering the benefits you would gain (i.e. your answers to Q4) and the negative experiences you would give up (i.e. your answer to Q2), are you willing to accept the short term consequences and declare, to yourself and all parties involved, that you are no longer committed? Declaring that you are no longer committed is honorable. It is being authentic about something others already suspect and it puts you in a good place with yourself. If you are ready to do it, all you have to do is strategize about how you are going to go about it, so that you minimize the short-term damage. You may pick a time and place that makes more sense for that purpose, but whatever you do, put a stake in the ground and commit to having the conversation(s) you need to have to set yourself free.
6. If you’re not willing to declare yourself uncommitted, are you willing to re-commit yourself based on what this commitment makes available to you and others? If not, go back to Q5. Unless you are willing to say yes to Q5 or Q6, you will remain in the same disempowering cycle that you have been stuck in ad infinitum. If you do choose to re-commit yourself, begin to dwell on the possibilities and what this commitment makes available to you and others. Generate yourself and get in action.
You may need to go through this process several times, with a coach or confidant who is not willing to let you maintain the status quo. Do what it takes to answer the above questions and analyze the source of your disempowerment and then act on what needs to be done. Once you have accomplished that, you will have finally torn down the self-imposed barriers keeping you from success and fulfillment in those areas of life most important to you.
You know what you need to do. Now, go do it!
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Have a great week! May you Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary! I would love to hear about your victories and/or challenges. Please leave your comments below or send me an email at email@example.com.
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