Have you ever made a New Year’s Resolution? Did you this year? How’s that going?
Personally, I tend not to make them at all, at least in the common interpretation. See, once upon a time I did, though I’d usually cave on them or forget about them. Over time, I stopped making them altogether- I mean, what’s the point of setting myself up for that inevitable disappointment, right? Now, I make commitments; in the weeks surrounding the holidays, I take a conscious approach to my work and my life to discover, and create, what would make a real difference for me and others in the coming year.
But really that’s the easy part. Sure, I can commit to something- to take some action, or produce some result- all it takes is for me to open my mouth and say I’m going to do it.
But have you noticed how quickly new commitments seem to disappear, to actually vanish from your awareness? That is what I’d like to discuss: What does it take to have a commitment persist over time?
First off, let’s clarify what a commitment is in the first place. A commitment is a speech act; it is a kind of language that doesn’t just describe something- it actually creates something new, it is an action in and of itself. See, “I now pronounce you man and wife” isn’t a description or representation- it’s an act of creation! They are now that way because someone (with the agreed-on authorization) said so. When I say the word ‘chair”, I am not creating a chair. No chair falls out of my mouth. However, when I make a promise, what I say is that promise! I’m not attempting to more-or-less accurately represent some promise out there in the world, because there IS no promise until I say it- and once I do say it, the world is now different because of it, in that I and others will orient ourselves differently (take different actions, have different expectations, etc.).
So, for this conversation, we are not relating to commitment as some way of being over time (as in, “he demonstrates such commitment” or “she’s so committed to her family”). Simply, commitment is what you make when you actually commit to some action or result. That’s it. And therein lies the issue…
Commitment only lasts for an instant. See, if we’re looking at commitments as a phenomenon of speech (or more precisely, language), then functionally and physically, your commitment disappears once you’ve made it. Have you ever noticed this with your Resolutions (or anything else)?
We say, to have a commitment persist over time, that is, to keep it present and alive so that you have a shot at fulfilling on it, you will need these primary 3 things:
- A Commitment to Your Own Integrity. If you have don’t have a high regard for your own word, if you can’t ‘stand on’ your own integrity (the state of your word being whole and complete), nothing that you will say will make much of a difference, let alone a commitment to a bold or unpredictable result. Most of us really do think that we are people of integrity- and in fact, it is that assumption/ position that blinds us from seeing the degree to which we lack integrity, which then assures that we will never be able to put it back in, and on goes a vicious cycle. Commitments are a part of your word, and if you aren’t primarily committed that your word be kept, honored and complete, then any other commitments you make will be little more than powerless noise.
- A Committed Listener. This is a person you are in regular communication with, who is committed to you fulfilling on your commitments. It can be a manager, coworker, mentor, coach, partner- heck, it could be ANYONE, as long as they are willing to support you (and push you, if need be) in fulfilling a specific commitment. The agreement must be that no matter what justifications, excuses, problems, complaints or anything else that you throw at them, they are there to listen to you as your word, and therefore hold you to your word, and accept nothing less than fulfillment of your word. This is not just to create a “tough-love”/ motivational push, for the involvement of someone else’s viewpoint will also support you in being able to see beyond the illusions created by your own blindness and self-deception (as mentioned above). This is especially true in cases where the Committed Listener has a special skill set for facilitating such breakthroughs in awareness (as is the case, for instance, with myself and the other ALS consultants).
- A Structure for Fulfillment. In other words, you have to give your commitment some sort of concrete reality by recording it in some way and then creating and implementing a plan for fulfilling it. Remember how commitments disappear? The way to counter that is to capture them in a form that persists through time- a physical form. We train people in a whole system of tools and practices that allow them to effectively and simply manage all of their commitments and any information relevant to those commitments. Our system surely isn’t the only way to achieve this, but it works and it works well. The point is that it doesn’t matter what you’re using, as long as you’re using something that actually works to keep your commitments in existence and supports you in fulfilling on them. The point is to get them out of your head and into reality. As they say, “Get real”!
When you have these 3 elements in place, you’ve given yourself an extraordinary foundation for accomplishment, no matter the size of the commitment in question.
If you are making some extraordinary new commitments this year, and can see the value in allowing yourself to be supported, let me know (either in the comments below or at firstname.lastname@example.org ). I will set up a conversation with you (totally free of course) to explore what you’re up to, recommend some effective courses of action and provide whatever feedback I can to make a difference.
Happy New Year!