The Tao of Commitment

don't ask why. ask why not.

The Tao of Commitment


The fall and winter holidays always seem to elicit images of home, family, and stability. For some people, these ideas of being rooted feels safe and wonderful. For others, they cause a bit of anxiety of being “stuck.” Whether at work or in their personal lives, some of us are more comfortable with commitment than others. We all know the folks who feel a deep commitment to their work, their purpose, and mission in life. We know others who mistake obligation for commitment in the work they choose, going through the motions. We also know others who flit from opportunity to opportunity, fearful of settling down on any one decision. Regardless of where our natural comfort level may be with commitment, being aware of what that is can help us to make better decisions, avoid falling into situations out of obligation, and instead, engage and embrace commitments that speak to our passions.

What is Commitment

Psychologist Heidi Reeder notes that two-thirds of American employees simply go through the motions at work. While this is a commitment to the job, it is not a commitment to the work. She notes that commitment differs from obligation in that it is and intentional “psychological attachment to something.” Yet it is out of such attachments that great things can be achieved.

“Commitment is an act, not a word.”

~ Jean-Paul Sartre

  1. Decide, not slide

For many of us, it’s easy to just get into situations that we then “commit” to, when in fact, we might be aware they are not right for us. It then becomes more obligation, an obligation we may resent, that we fulfill but at a cost to ourselves and others. We may go through the motions, but never truly commit in a way that allows us to fully engage. Being more purposeful of our decisions, rather than letting decisions be made for us can help deepen our genuine commitment with mind, body, and spirit.

  1. Let go

For those of us who have a fear of commitment, letting go of other opportunities is one of the most difficult things. Saying no seems to shut doors that we don’t want to close yet or are afraid of closing. Yet to be more fully committed to what is in front of, we have to learn to prioritize and say goodbye to some other things. Without doing so, we are never fully jumping in, but rather, wading in with our two feet in two or more different places.

3. Remain open

Sometimes, we mistake being committed to one thing or person as being closed off. Rather, being focused on one entity or being can allow us to be more fully present and therefore, remain open to the opportunities within. It is therefore important to stay open-minded to take advantage of what we have hopefully decided to make our commitment.

  1. Acknowledge the everyday

We often get nervous about “putting our eggs in one basket” or making that big decision. Yet it’s important to celebrate the mundane commitments we make and honor, for those small commitments also change the way we may see larger commitments. When we see that we are capable of making mini commitments, which may help us to be better bosses, teammates, or family members, we can then start to visualize the bigger ones.

  1. Put the effort in

Having a psychological contract with something is one thing, but commitment alone isn’t enough to make great things happen. Genuine effort and hard work are necessary to ensure that commitment translates to action. After all, Michael Jordan wasn’t just committed to his craft with all his being, but he put a superhuman level of effort, which translated to a phenomenal talent.