We all want to make it happen. Whether it is to be more profitable, more lovable, healthier, or wittier – we strive to succeed, but many of us don’t make it to the finish line. In fact, 43% of Americans create New Year’s resolutions and yet only 8% of us actually achieve it. Why is it so hard to stay committed to our goals? While there are a number of factors that relate to following through, the very thought of committing can make or break our focus to succeed.
What goes through your mind when hearing the word, “commitment?”
We take vows of commitment in marriage. We commit ourselves to our work. We commit to New Years resolutions. We commit ourselves to our friends and family. And yet, there appears to be an uneasy connotation to this word because it also carries with it the idea of responsibility, focus, prioritizing, and time. Many people worry they may not follow through with their commitment. Some worry they may over-commit. Still, others worry they may lose interest, get bored, or get sidetracked – and ultimately fail.
What people don’t realize in committing to this word (pun intended), is that it really has nothing to do with time. Eugene O’Kelly, in his book Chasing Daylight: How my Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life, offers the true definition of commitment by explaining, “Its not about time. It’s not about reliability and predictability. Commitment is about depth. It’s about passion. It’s about wanting to be in a certain place, and not somewhere else…commitment is best measured not by the time one is willing to give up but, more accurately, by the energy one wants to put in, by how present one is.”
People mistake commitment as a sense of obligation, which is where we start feeling uneasy about the deal. Ask yourself this: Is the commitment an obligation – or is it a dedication? When something – or someone – suggests we make a commitment, we may want to ask ourselves if we have the energy and passion to commit, rather than focusing on the time involved. Learning this early on, we can avoid the unpleasant feelings that commitments may typically stir up. Better yet, we may actually stick with our commitments, knowing we are agreeing to it because we truly want it.
Okay, now that you make the commitment, how do you ensure the follow-through? We want to be 100% presently engaged when we are committed. Listen, I get it. We have several different things going on at the same time – all the time. Email and texts are just some of the distractions that continuously hit us throughout the day. Yet, if we succumb to multi-tasking we are very far from being 100% engaged in the present moment – and then our dedication, aka commitment, suffers. This can result in a downward spiral of negativity because if we are not fully engaged, we end up being scattered, creating a lack of focus and eventually disinterest. Then, lack of follow-through and failure to commit often follow suit.
How do you stay in the present focus of time? By reminding yourself that you want to be. Saying to yourself, “I want to be right here, right now. I am totally engaged in the present time” is the starting point. Then, you want to stop the distractions from tempting your focus and energy. Silence the phone and all the notifications. Block time so that you are completely engaged with whomever or whatever is in front of you. Be 100% in.
I am personally and professionally committed to using a timer. I use this as a way to focus my energy in small blocks of time in order to help me stay engaged. This has helped me stick with my commitments because I know there is a beginning – and an end to the focus of energy that keeps me interested to stay on task.
Reserving special time for spending energy within your relationships can also keep things fresh and stimulating. While a common way to connect is in utilizing dinnertime to be with your family, there are more creative ways to energize your dedication. For those with partners, blocking even 20 minutes of time to sit with your loved one, phones turned off and in the other room, to chat about your day keeps one another connected while fully being present. It really isn’t enough to silence your phone while keeping it near you. Research has shown people to be more fully engaged when their phone is physically away from them.
Getting creative with how you use your time to be engaged is also the key to successful commitments. Connecting with your partner by playing a game, taking a walk, or even reading together are investments in small batches of time that reap big returns while keeping it manageable to stay 100% focused and present.
Work can be a different challenge in itself. While we may feel passionate about our work, there are always tasks involved that are obligatory in order to get the job done. What if we don’t feel like picking up the phone and calling that person? What if we are overcommitted and cannot make a deadline? What if there is simply too much to do in order to succeed? Depending on our state of mind and energy, we can wind up feeling overwhelmed and distracted within our work commitments that can quickly lead to disengagement and frustration. This is when our dedications can instantly feel like obligations.
Blocking time (and using a timer) to contain your energy to specific tasks is also successful at work. Stopping phone, email, and other distractions is a necessary step in its success. I turn this into a mini-challenge for myself using the “beat the clock” method to achieve those tasks I tend to procrastinate on. I will purposely set the timer for a short period in order for me to work diligently towards achieving it. It keeps me on my toes, which keeps me stimulated especially during boring tasks.
Reframing those boring obligations into something positive is important to staying motivated and on point. By focusing on the end result of your task – or how it relates to the bigger picture, you add more meaning to it, which in turn can help fuel your energy and motivation. For example, filling out those forms for work may initially appear frustrating because you have more important things to do. Yet, by concentrating on the end result, which may be a necessary step towards achieving something bigger (like getting paid, avoiding legal issues, etc.), you can keep the task meaningful to the investment of your energy – and time.
So there you have it. Now you can go forth and feel good about those things and people you commit to. You no longer have to play defense in order to grapple with your obligations. Gone are the days of procrastination, missing deadlines, feeling scattered and overwhelmed. Instead, you are on the offense and are taking action because you are engaged – and dedicated – when you choose to be. You want to be there, not because you have to, but more importantly, because you want to.