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The Oxford English Dictionary defines commitment as

  • "a promise or firm decision to do something"

  • "the willingness to give your time and energy to a job, activity, or something that you believe in"

  • "something that you must do or deal with that takes your time"

When used as a verb, it is possible "to commit" to someone else, like your family, friends, collegues or partner, or to yourself, or even to a project or cause that you are passionate about. Commitments are scary for a lot of people, perhaps because compared to "goals," commitments imply an even stronger emotional tie. They also imply a sacrifice: You promise to sacrifice time and energy for someone or something without necessarily knowing whether the outcome will be positive. Another difference between commitments and goals is that commitments don't have an expiration date. For a goal, you set a deadline by which you have either reached or failed it. But time can't tell you whether you've fulfilled your commitment, only you or the person(s) you've committed to can be the judge of that.

So how can we make commitments productive and helpful rather than scary? I've got a few tips for you that I picked up recently:

  1. Make your commitment positive by focusing on what you want more of rather than what you want less of.


DON'T: "I commit to spending less time at work so I have more time for family."

DO: "I commit to my family by improving my time management"

2. Don't self-sabotage by

  • keeping yourself small

  • procrastinating

  • giving up before trying

  • staying comfortable

  • settling for less

  • staying in your head


  • Be realistic about your tools and capabilities and work to improve and expand them

  • organize

  • accept the possibility of failure

  • get comfortable with being uncomfortable

  • do your best

  • take action

3. Hold yourself accountable by

  • tracking progress

  • evaluating your work with kindness

  • having a challenge network: people whom you can trust to tell you the truth about the quality of your work and who challenge you to rethink your opinions and beliefs

Now, I know this sounds like an awful lot of work. But it's worth it. Why? Because being committed to the people and projects that truly matter to you gives you the certainty that you're spending your time and energy in a fulfilling way, in other words, it gives you the sense of purposeful living that we all crave.

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