I used to think commitments were things I gave to other people so that they could hold me accountable for something. Or sometimes I made a commitment to do something I didn’t want to do because I thought I should — and the commitment would force me to do it.
Keeping those commitments made me feel good about myself and certainly made working with others easier. Not keeping them often made me go unconscious and defensive and generally made me feel bad. However, years later I have learned the true nature of commitments (for me,) and the amazing power they hold!
Consider that you are making your way through a deep jungle — your vision is limited to what is directly in front of you. It is often hard to tell which way to go. In the moment it isn’t clear what direction you should go — do you take the clear path up a steep incline, or the dense path down a gentle slope? Its easy to walk in circles, never getting anywhere — it might be easy to turn around or to the side — “how do I get where I want to go, how do I know what is important?”
Our life can be a jungle — our needs and desires, our friends, families, communities, work … all pull us in different directions at times. How can we tell what is the right thing to do? What direction should I take? Where do I put my energy?As you walk through the jungle, you come to a clearing… you come out into the light and can see the broad vista below you… you take a compass setting!
Now you can see where you want to go … and as you head back down into the jungle, you can follow your compass. You don’t need to follow your compass. You aren’t a bad person if you don’t follow your compass — but you are not going to go where you wanted to go if you don’t!
So in life we come to a clearing — this is a place where we can see what we want, what is in our best interest. Usually this coincides with a time when we are encouraged (in-courage). And from that place of encouragement and knowing, we take a compass heading — we make a commitment. This commitment is for us! It can guide us through the seeming-contradictions and distracting demands of our lives so that we can move towards what we know is in our best interest even when we are scared or discouraged.
If we don’t follow our commitments are we bad? No, of course not! But we will not likely be moving in a direction that we choose, that is in our best interest — as determined by US — when we could see clearly!
Your commitments are there to help you, to focus you, to guide you and keep you safe in a confusing world… and never to beat you down or make you feel bad. We generally don’t follow through with our commitments because we are discouraged — and so deep in the jungle we have lost our way. This isn’t a good time for self-condemnation!
It is aways time to celebrate when you regain your bearings and start moving towards your compass heading! Often it is helpful to let the people in your life that are relying on you know something of yourside-trip — but what is most important is how you feel when you are on-course and in integrity with yourself.
When you understand that your commitments are solely for your benefit, it is much easier to stick with them when times get difficult.