A few days ago I had a conversation with a strong female leader who struggled to commit fully to what she professed to care most about — her impact and legacy. And yet, without commitment, it’s unlikely she will ever realise her vision and make the contribution she so desires.

This conversation prompted me to ask myself a question: why is commitment so hard for most of us? I believe it’s hard because we don’t truly understand the nature of commitment — instead of seeing it as a heavy burden, let’s see it for what it is.

I believe this heaviness comes from its earliest meanings, from 1600. Back then, it meant ”Action of officially consigning to the custody of the state”. Pretty tedious, right? Even the less intimidating modern definition of “committing oneself, promise, pledge” has a heaviness about it. And perhaps the biggest problem of all with all these definitions is that they confuse us; we often mess up our commitments without really understanding what we have done wrong.

Let’s get back to basics. Commitment comes from the Latin ‘committere’ meaning to unite, connect, bring together. Is there a pledge or promise in this? Yes. Does it need to be heavy? Absolutely not.

I propose there are 5 elements to bring together for commitment

  • CLARITY – You can’t commit to something without being clear about what it is. Making your actions clear means that you can show commitment by sticking to your word.
  • COMPETENCE — Competence is not as easy as being able to do your job. True competence is knowing that you have the ability to make it happen, or that you can find the capacity to hit your goals.
  • COACHING — Commitment to real change is not easy, and it is never too late to ask for help. Having the humility and maturity to accept coaching is essential for a growth mindset.
  • CONSISTENCY — This is one of the toughest ones to master. However, it’s easy to get started; begin by doing small things each day to build that sense of consistency.
  • COMPROMISE – Sometimes to get the job done you have to make some sacrifices. This also applies to your personal life as you may have to compromise with your family or friends to honour your commitments.

However, the most important thing to remember is this:


Often, it’s putting our commitment into action where we mess up. We commit to the action plan we create to realise our goal or vision rather than committing to the goal or vision itself.

Because of this, every step of your action plan is a potential point of failure. Miss one, and you’re upset. Miss two or three more, and you begin to feel you’ve lost it. Unfortunately this can spiral into you feeling that you should give up and that you’ve failed. Think of it like a gym membership; after you miss a week or two, you reckon you’ve blown it and it’s a waste of time.

The key to combatting this is to remember that there are many ways to realise your vision or achieve your goal. When you stay true and committed to the vision, different paths may well open up that can take you down a better road towards that goal. After all, why stress over not completing an action on the action plan if there’s a better approach you can take?

To go further with this, what if you saw your commitment as a journey? Imagine yourself as a pilot flying from New York to London. Although you may go off course during the journey and lose your path, you know that the overall aim is to land at Heathrow. Whenever you go off course, you can correct yourself and keep gliding on.

In summary, be gentle on yourself when you ‘mess up’. Judgement and self-doubt have no place in your life; just take a step back, course-correct and carry on.

In the final module of Making Time for What Matters I delve much deeper into these ideas and explore the idea of commitment further.

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