Jumping out of a perfectly good plane?
I definitely would not do that, but I do have a sense of what it might feel like to do that. That moment of commitment when there’s no turning back; you’re all in whether you like it or not.
What is it about commitment that has us buy-in – that has us jump in feet first? Typically, I think for most people they commit because they see something for themselves in taking something on. We get excited when we see the possibility of something. It’s tantalizing for us. It pulls us forward. We get a glimpse of the unlived life. We get enrolled in our own possibility. You know, those moments of clarity where you just simply have to say “yes”.
What’s in the way? Lots to fear…
What is it that actually holds us back from committing? Interestingly, when I thought about this, it’s a number of things, but right at the very top of it is fear, and the fear shows up in three very interesting ways.
First of all, there’s the fear of making the wrong choice. Think about it. We oftentimes don’t act because we’re scared that we’re not making an informed decision or that we don’t have all the information or that somehow whatever it is that we choose to do is going to be the wrong thing and it’s going to give us something that we don’t actually want.
The second type of fear is a fear of making any choice. We don’t want to choose simply because there are so many different options and choosing one of them shuts down all the rest of the possibilities. It’s actually a real fear.
The third type of fear is the fear of making the right choice. You hesitate to actually commit to making a choice because you know that once you do, you’re going to have to deliver upon that commitment.
Another thing that holds us back, that I covered in one of my previous videos, is circumstances: money, time, resources, energy. Those are all things that we put in the way of making our commitments.
A real fear we don’t consider as often is our fear of making a commitment because we would much prefer to be safe and secure. There’s a fear of the unknown. When you step into a commitment, you’re not always knowing what the results are going to be or what things you’re going to be facing. It’s much easier to stick with those things that we know and keep ourselves small and safe.
Finally, there’s actually a lack trust that we have in our ability to deliver the desired results. We live with a certain number of stories about who we are in the world and what we’re able to do. We live within our limitations. All of these things conspire against us making any major commitments.
Listen to your speaking
Putting the fear aside, how do we actually recognize when we’re avoiding commitment? This is a really interesting and fun place to play and I do this myself a lot, so what I noticed for myself is that I often get so enrolled in the possibility that I hide out in the possibility.
How do we recognize when we’re avoiding possibility? Creating possibility is really great and can be a ton of fun, but it also provides us sometimes with a really great place to hide out. I know I do this for myself. I spend a ton of time dreaming about all of the possibilities, but I catch myself actually not moving anything forward because it’s so safe and fun to live in the possibility and not actually commit.
One of the ways that I noticed this is in my language. It’s a really great red flag. I call it “wallowing in maybe-ness”. When you’re “wallowing in maybe-ness”, you’re actually looking really good without taking any risk whatsoever. In his recent book, atomic habits, James clear talks about being in motion versus being an action. That’s what “wallowing in maybe-ness” actually is. You’re sort of playing around, but not actually taking the steps to move yourself forward in any concrete way.
So, when you find yourself avoiding commitment, how do you move yourself forward? I’m not going to lie. Making a commitment is an act of courage. First, you have to exhaust yourself and get tired of all of the excuses and your lack of forward momentum. Then secondly, you have to actually want the thing on the other side of the commitment enough that it will move you past all of the obstacles that you put in your own way. Thirdly, you have to create some urgency, and finally, you have to close all the exits. You have to make it impossible for you to turn back from your commitment.
I can give you a concrete example from my own life. Last March, I declared that I wasn’t going to be spending the winter in Chicago and that I was going to go live abroad and eventually I settled on Lisbon as the place I wanted to go.
In a coworking and accountability call in late August, one of my colleagues pointed to the fact that I hadn’t actually fully committed. She said, “When are you going to buy the darn ticket?” Well, I hate to admit it, but she was right. In a fit of frustration I said, fine, I’ll buy the ticket by September 15th.
Now, I have to be honest with you, I had all sorts of objections coming up. I didn’t know how I was going to pay for it. I had lots of things that were in the way. But I also noticed that my language up until that point had been very, very much “wallowing in maybe-ness”. I was talking about the possibility of going to Lisbon. I was talking about how I planned to go to Lisbon. I was saying “I think I’m going to Lisbon” or “it’s my intention to go to Lisbon”. You can hear it in the language. It’s not very powerful at all.
Well, I actually did go out and I bought the ticket by September 15th and what was amazing was, immediately the power in my language and in my being shifted phenomenally. All of a sudden, I became the guy who was going to Lisbon. I could actually embody that possibility and after that, all sorts of possibilities started to open up in terms of being able to pay for it or working out the logistics. Just that one major commitment, that one step, made all the difference.
You can even trick yourself into urgency
This doesn’t just happen with me, of course. I was in a call with a client recently. She has been creating the most amazing next step in her life and her career and she comes to the calls energized and excited and passionate.
But this last call she came a little worried because she said, “you know what? Something’s going to happen to derail this. I’m going to run up against something I don’t know how to fix or I’m going to get resigned or this new career is going to lose some of its shiny luster and I’m not going to be able to rebound from that and I’ll end up going back into the safe job that doesn’t really fulfill me.”
I asked her what it would take for her to fully commit to this new career and she said, “well, I would have to lose my job or leave my job because I have a family to support and I need to bring in income. If I lost my job, I’d have to find a way to support them.”
We got creative and we created a game where she’s actually pretending as if she’s lost her job as if she walked out the door last Friday. She said she has 60 days of income to live off of and we’re pretending that that 60 days is her deadline for creating the new project.
Now, she’s super excited about the possibility of doing this, but it really took creating some urgency and developing some motivation for her to fully commit and stay motivated for this particular career move. What’s amazing about all of this, and she acknowledged it herself, is right after making this commitment to create her job within 60 days she had a call with a potential sponsor for her new project. She told me that making that commitment to that 60 day generation period is the thing that shifted her entire being. It laid the foundation for an entirely different conversation with the sponsor than if she had been sitting back and waiting for things to happen. So, the urgency was interesting and then also the possibility that she created after it was really fascinating to me.
You’ve got to keep practicing Commitment. Over and Over.
Stepping into your commitments is an ongoing process, and it takes practice even for a coach. Recently on a call with that very same client, I noticed that I wasn’t walking the talk. Last fall I came across a company called Remote Year. They design live, work, and travel arrangements for digital nomads, and I got really interested. I started telling people, “I’m going to do that program where I’m going to visit 12 cities in 12 months and spend a year of my life as a digital nomad”.
Well, I started to notice all of the objections that were coming up. I didn’t know how I was going to pay for it. I thought, “gee, I might be safer to just sort of go with what I know and stay in Chicago”. I even doubted my ability to create the whole thing and I was really scared of actually making a choice because then I would block out a whole bunch of other opportunities or I was scared of making the wrong choice.
You can see how a lot of the stuff that typically happens to get in the way of commitment was showing up for me. Well, in speaking with my client, I realized as she started creating her great opportunity, I thought, “you know what? I’m not taking the steps that I need to fulfill on my commitment”. I noticed that my language was being very, very vague. I was “wallowing in maybe-ness”: Maybe I’ll go. I’m intending to go. I’m hoping to go. I’m thinking of going. The language was pointing to the fact that I hadn’t made the actual true commitment to going on the Remote Year program.
Pulling the trigger…
So what did I do? First, I realized that my desire to go on this program was greater than all of the obstacles that I was putting in the way. I just had to get really present to what the possibility was.
Secondly, I had to create some urgency, so I told my client right then and there – I used her as an accountability partner – I said, “I’m going to make the commitment and pay the deposit for remote year this week”. I put a date on it and I created some urgency around it. I then called up the representative from remote year. We talked through various itineraries.
Here’s where it got interesting. I went through yet another problem where I started worrying about the different itineraries. Which one would I choose? I didn’t want to choose the wrong one. I didn’t want to shut out different possibilities. You can see how all of this stuff is conspiring to keep me where I am.
Well, I thought about it. I prayed about it. I meditated on it. I asked some advice and then I got on the phone with this representative and I said, “let’s do it”. I chose an itinerary. I paid the deposit. I closed all the exits.
The result? I’ve committed to doing the Remote Year program! Starting in November of this year, I’ll be traveling to 12 cities across the globe in 12 months and creating yet another step in my life as a global architect and coach!
What’s really cool is that by actually committing to an itinerary, I saved a ton of money because they had a big discount that was available only up until that very day! I also created for myself a period of time in Chicago where I can network, build my business and really get myself prepared for an amazing and exciting adventure abroad.
Commitment ain’t for wusses
Commitment is typically a big scary thing and most people try to avoid it like the plague, but commitment can also be a really powerful way to generate new possibilities in your life.
Take a look for yourself. Where are you committed in your life? Where are you avoiding commitment? Where are you talking about your commitment but not actually taking the steps to live it fully?
Are you maybe doing the same thing I did, living in the possibility, “wallowing in maybe-ness”, in motion but not in action? Is there something in your life you say you’re committed to but you’re playing it safe and you haven’t taken the leap?
I wouldn’t recommend that people jump out of a perfectly good airplane, but perhaps it’s time to trust your heart and the universe and create that thing in your life that you truly, truly want. Whatever it is, let me know if I can support you.