Is commitment really a choice we make?

I’m not sure it is.

The way I see it, we’re all committed to something. The main difference is the degree to which our commitment lies outside our personal comfort zone. The farther away from familiar territory we get, the more conscious we become of our commitments. By definition, we almost have to be consciously aware of these commitments. Doing anything outside of our comfort zone on a regular basis takes effort, and effort is something we can’t help but be mindful of.


Commitment and Comfort

For example, let’s take a look at two seemingly opposed situations.

1) Bob likes to lounge around. He doesn’t have many hobbies, and often stays home watching movies and TV shows. He’d much rather spend a Sunday afternoon on his couch watching football, than go for a hike in the trails by his house. Although he aspires to hang out with his friends and socialize more, he decides to spend time alone in his apartment more often than not.

2) Joe, on the other hand, wants to become a lawyer. He’s highly driven and motivated to succeed, so he works an internship at a law firm while still in school. He puts in extra hours on the weekend to study for his classes, and takes practice exams for law school. Joe also serves as a student volunteer for a law organization on campus, and enjoys mixing and mingling with other students applying to law school.

Who would you say is the more “committed” person?

I’d venture the guess that most people would consider Joe more committed than Bob. However, could it be their commitments are just different in nature?

While Bob is committed to a clear and lofty goal that stretches him far outside of his comfort zone (getting into law school and becoming a lawyer), Bob’s commitment is much more subtle. Something about Bob’s reclusive lifestyle is comforting to him, and he derives a level of psychological and emotional enjoyment from it; otherwise, he likely wouldn’t continue living that lifestyle! Whether subconsciously or consciously, he’s made the decision that committing to the status quo is more important to him than consistently stepping outside of his comfort zone.

Commitment Is a Reflection of Our Priorities

We do what we’re committed to on a regularly basis, whether we know it or not. It may not always be a conscious choice, but even our default state reflects a level of commitment to the status quo. And though we might not have a specifically stated goal, it’s possible to be committed to certain actions and feelings that make us feel comfortable in the moment. And that, in and of itself, is its own version of commitment.

I find it funny when people say they’re bad at keeping commitments, or when women complain that guys are “scared to commit.” Those kinds of statements are too general to possibly be true. It would seem more accurate to say someone can’t keep all commitments simultaneously, or that guys are unwilling to commit to a specific relationship, or kinds of relationships.

But to say someone is incapable of committing just doesn’t compute for me.

More truthfully, we ultimately commit to what matters to us as individuals. If you decide to learn Spanish, and take action on that desire, you’ve determined learning Spanish is a goal important enough to sacrifice other things you could be doing instead. On the flip side, maybe you have a friend who is a constant flake. They are routine no-shows at social events and functions, and often arrive late when they do show up. It’s not that your friend is incapable of commitment; like Bob from our example earlier, they’ve simply prioritized other aspects of their life over prompt socializing with their friends.

Is it possible to be more consistent than others? Yes. Do some people have a knack for persistence, organization, and strong follow-through? Absolutely.

But there’s a difference between character traits and commitment.

The difference lies in what you have decided is important to you. And whether you’re aware of it or not, the decisions you make are reflected in the actions your ultimately carry out on a consistent basis.

Making Conscious Commitments

So, you might be asking yourself – How do I make sure I’m committed to the right things? 

That’s a very good question. And while I don’t have the magic bullet, one way to ensure you’re committed to worthwhile goals is to make sure they’re outside of your comfort zone. As discussed earlier, we can’t help but be conscious of things that are hard. It just so happens that anything worthwhile takes just a bit of effort to achieve.


Given that, here are three ways you can make sure your commitments are as conscious as possible:

1) Know what’s important to you. Think about your life and the way you want to live. What gives you energy? Who do you want to surround yourself with? Equally important, what people, places, and experiences do you simply not care to associate yourself with? Answering these questions can give you a solid foundation for making decisions and commitments.

2) State your intentions. A simple way to gut check your commitments is to actually write them down. Create a list of all the things you want to accomplish, and revisit that list on a fairly regular basis to check in on your progress. Once you have a list of your top commitments, it will be hard for you to justify prioritizing activities that don’t latter up to achieving those objectives.

3) Tie your behavior to a greater purpose. If all your actions are aligned towards something you care deeply about, then you’ll be committed to things that help you move closer to that greater goal. Each new commitment – or action you decide to pursue – must survive the test of comparing its importance to the ultimate purpose you’re striving towards. For example, if you have a dream of becoming a fighter pilot, the major decisions in your life should revolve around achieving that goal. You might partake in experiences that don’t necessarily move you closer to becoming a pilot, but if the net result of your actions keep you heading in that direction, you can be confident you’re committed to the right things.

My Recent Commitment

Write 500 words every day, for one month.

That’s what I’ve committed to for the month of November. I’m seven days in, and I won’t lie – it’s been tough. But it hasn’t been as hard as I’ve expected it to be. While it does take a large degree of conscious commitment (this really is no cake walk!), the biggest hurdle is just showing up. Once I clear my time and mental space to sit down and write, I usually find myself pouring well over the 500 word limit in about 30 minutes.

So that’s why commitment is on my mind lately. My point of view on this topic could be totally off, but I’m not too worried about it. These are my thoughts on the subject at this moment in time, and putting those thoughts to paper has given me something to write about over the past couple days.

Hey, I’m nothing if not committed. :-)

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