Are You Ready To Commit?

What does it mean to commit? So many of think about commitment in terms of relationship, but do you ever consider what it means to commit in your everyday life and toward your everyday goals? Today examine your commitments to see if you have taken the steps to actually make them happen and see how this shapes and changes your view point of what commitment means in creating the best life ever. Read more to get ideas on changing your perspective on what it means to commit to yourself and create the life you want.

Many of us think of commitment as a long term concept and maybe even as being “stuck” in our dull routines. 

The dictionary defines commitment as:

“the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc, a pledge or undertaking, and an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action”. 

So many people only pay attention to the last one. The restriction part. When we focus on the first two it actually shows us a way to find ourselves at a deeper level. It gives us direction on what to say no to and what to say yes to. It shows us what we care about and how we want to live our lives. Below outlines a few ways to work with commitment in your own life so you are not feeling burdened or stuck in the same old routines. Becker (1960) states:

“The concept of commitment is widely used but has received little formal analysis. It contains an implicit explanation of one mechanism producing consistent human behavior. Commitments come into being when a person, by making a side bet, links extraneous interests with a consistent line of activity. Side bets are often a consequence of the person’s participation in social organizations. To understand commitments fully, an analysis of the system of value within which side bets are made is necessary”. 

Howard Becker

He goes onto define and outline how people work with and need commitment to engage in a variety of activities and to help define the limits of participation in said activities. In addition, he discusses how making your goal social and examining the culture it is made within is crucial to helping make sure you remain committed. So if we think about commitment being an activity we engage in (commitment to do something) or a state of being we are in (being committed) we can use these concepts to help us define and reach our own goals. 

Think about what you would like to have, accomplish, be known for. If you can define your goals then you will know what you need to commit to. These could be activities, people, occupational trainings, etc. They could also be things you need to let go of under the same headings. You might need to let go of not doing something to reach your overall goal. 

These are your side bets. The items you need to consider participating (or not) in are the things that help build your goal. Often people do not do a good job of figuring out the side bets to accomplishing hopes, dreams, and overall goals. They often have a good idea of what they would like to do, have, become but fail to consider what steps to take and how to accomplish them. In effect, they commit to the goal, but not the side bets that will help make it possible. As a result the desire for and commitment to the idea of the goal is alive, but often feels out of reach or unattainable. In order to be successful then, one must commit to the side bets. This is the art of being dedicated to the cause, activity, goal within the social culture. This is their pledge to themselves. This is the piece that actually does the work and gets the goal finished. This is also the part that people tend to focus on negatively because it does limit choices and takes away choice for any and all behaviors and activities. 

When you begin to think about commitment being something much more than just one decision and you are stuck with it forever. You begin to see how much more flexibility is in making a commitment. Within the decision to accomplish something, have something, or be something you actually have a lot of flexibility in your choices to make goals happen. You actually have a number of ways you can go about making them happen, too. From this perspective you have a lot more control in your choices and behaviors. Let’s look at a couple of examples. 

Healthy Eating: 

Commitment is to a particular food/diet choice:

First, you have to determine what you want. Then why. This is a crucial step as it tells us what to really focus on for side bets. Remember those are all the little steps and items you commit to outside the bigger goal. If I want to change my eating to a Keto diet it will look different than a vegetarian diet. If I am choosing a vegetating diet due to ethical reasons it will look different than endurance training options. 

Once you have figured out your what and your why, you must take steps to make it come alive in your life. This is where vision boards happen, meal planning and preparation, learning to deal with eating out, other people’s opinions, and shifts in your regular behavior to take on the small everyday steps to change how you have been eating in the past. This is also where people begin to struggle to remain committed to their personal goals because it gets boring and routine. It becomes very mundane. However, if you can make it through the small decisions and routine commitment choices you will reach your goal

Let’s look at something more abstract – Relationships: 

Commitment is to a particular person, lifestyle choice, social construct. 

For many people they blindly follow their personal cultural norms around relationship commitments. Often these are view points and behaviors we saw our parents and other adults in our lives acting out and we just absorbed them as truth about the way relationships are. BUT … there are many more options and ideas about what it means to be in a long term committed relationship than the options presented to us in childhood. The steps remain the same, but the choice points and side bets look different because of our culture and societal norms of the communities we live within as adults working to form relationships. 

Many people like to blame one gender or the other for the difficulties of remaining in long term intimate relationships, instead of doing the work to determine what it is they really want and figure out ways to get it in healthy co-created side bets and awareness of team building a shared life. Often partners do things “because that’s the way it goes” rather than examine what they would like and commit to creating a life from future visioning rather than past experiences. When it gets mundane and difficult people retreat to their corner licking wounds of vulnerability instead of coming together and discussing what is hurtful, difficult, or unappealing about personal culture expression. 

For example, if one partner believes that men should not show their feelings and have never been taught to speak about or how to show feeling in authentic connection, it will be difficult to maintain a partnership where one person is focused on reciprocated emotional sharing. In this case, it is best to communicate about wants and needs effectively – which is very very difficult when we are talking about blind spots in our culture, especially when they trigger vulnerability. 

To remain committed in a long term relationship we much consistently grow “together” and expand our personal cultures, sometimes abandoning pieces and parts of old cultural norms, to co-create a new shared culture together. We must work together to focus on common goals and negotiate comprise well. Take for example one partner who wants to build a large savings account but the other partner is a spender and sees no point in saving money now. They will continue to have a difficult time reaching the safety needs of the 1st partner (to have savings) if they cannot share ideas, vulnerabilities, reasons, and commitment to the goal. In the conversation there is room for negation around how much and when to spend freely so partner 2 doesn’t feel controlled and loss of enjoyment etc.  

It takes commitment to the larger vision of what it means to be in relationship and then commitment to work together to accomplish those goals to make a relationship work over the long haul. This is what makes remaining in long term committed relationships difficult. The longer you are together the more shared culture you create and the more you examine “the way it is” mentalities you were handed. If you have not committed to grow together the prediction of your relationship is that it will end.

In order to make a long term commitment to yourself or others you must have a clear view of what you want and why it matters. This helps you chose the decision points you must address and gives you clarity to chose wisely to reach your goal. It helps to walk through the steps of determining what you goal(s) are, how you would like your life to look/be, and they type of person you want to be known as. These defining criteria in your life help you determine next steps in what to focus your action on and what to let go of. 

Look at it this way – you are already committed. You may be committed to a lifestyle and value system you love so no need to change. That is great. However, if you are looking around your life and seeing things you want to change, you must determine what you have been committed to: unhealthy eating, too much TV, relationships that are not what you want, people who do not lift you up, old value systems you follow blindly instead of reviewing to determine if it fits you, unexamined vulnerabilities and personhood core wounding that shapes what you believe about yourself, your options in this life, and the world at large to begin the process of committing to yourself and the life you want to lead. Start today.  

Becker, H. S. (1960). Notes on the concept of commitment. The American Journal of Sociology, 66(1). 32-40.

5 Ways To Love Yourself First

In this season of holiday many of the world’s religions are celebrating. A common theme that runs through many religions and spiritual practices is love – love of self, love of others, love of what’s around us. So as the world celebrates in many ways it is time to celebrate yourself.
How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways. First, I feed myself well.  Second, I exercise regularly.  Third, I get enough sleep. Fourth, I take time to relax and be quiet. How many of these can you say you do?

First, we must eat healthy. There are so many confusing choices out there that you must become an educated consumer if you are going to succeed in this department. Just this week a study reported that a low fat diet was not a factor. Let’s open that argument up. Low fat in general is not a factor in many diseases because our bodies need a certain amount of fat. Many vitamins are fat soluble, meaning you need fat for them to work. We now know that fat comes in many different types and a low fat diet today will look very different from the fads that hit mainstream more than a decade ago. Fat is not the problem, but what type is. First, think of fats in health vs not healthy. Then educate your self as to where each type is found. For example fats occurring in most fruits, vegetables, and nuts are considered healthy fats, although they still must be consumed in moderation.   Saturated and trans fats are considered poor choices because they tend to expedite disease. When you are making food choices choice a diet with healthy fats and avoid the unhealthy ones. Make sure you are getting enough fruits and vegetables. Lack of fruits and vegetables is the number one problem I see with client diets, and is a huge factor in many diseases. If you have questions about your diet log onto: http://www.mypyramid.gov/ This food guide will let you customize your diet.

Second, you must move. As a regular reader you are aware of the benefits of movement, make sure you are getting enough. You should be getting cardiovascular and strength training in each week according to your goals. The heart, lungs, and vascular systems are the primary aims of cardiovascular training. We can test the body’s response to this type of work in different ways, but the easiest is to monitor your heart rate. There are simple formulas for figuring your heart rate or use a rate of perceived exertion scale. The best way to monitor your heart rate continuously is to purchase a heart rate monitor. This tool goes a long way toward reaching your goals. Strength training creates stronger muscles, more lean mass, denser bones, and increases metabolism. It is an important component of health and must not be ignored. Remember, strength training should be challenging. We create strength by overloading our muscles. We overload by placing them under stress and making them work. Way back when, overload was available in our daily routines. Most of us must create overload regularly to create more strength these days.

Third, are you getting enough sleep? This is so important, and many Americans are chronically tired. Sleep is important to the overall function of our bodies. It allows our body to restore and repair. Without sleep you will not function as well during waking hours, and lack of sleep can contribute to a variety of illnesses including depression. How do you know if you are getting enough sleep? Difficulty waking in the morning, an inability to concentrate during the day, feelings of moodiness, irritability, depression, or anxiety, or falling asleep during work or class are all indicators that you need more sleep. Your body will go into sleep debt and will expect to make up the needed sleep. If you do not make up the needed sleep you will then become chronically sleep deprived, opening yourself up to a whole host of problems. Sleep time should not be compromised. It is vital to your well-being.

Fourth, taking time to relax is very important. In our culture of doing more, consuming more, and constant “on” behavior we set ourselves up for disease. Just as our bodies need sleep, our minds need down time. For many this is difficult because many associate busy with success, however you will be more productive if you take time to rest. Studies show people who take a 10-minute break every 60-90 minutes are more productive than those who push through working. Get up, move around, stretch, take a mental vacation, sit quietly, turn out the lights in your office, breathe – the list can go on. Life must contain balance. When things are out of balance we find disease, depression, and pain. Look around your world and notice that all things crave balance. Your space, if it is too cluttered it can contribute to stress, if it is too sparse it can feel empty and uninviting which leads to your moving out of it. Look around your relationships, if they are too close they can feel suffocating, if there is not enough interaction you can be left to feel alone. You determine your levels of balance, and you have the power to change your world and create the balance you need to function optimally.

Finally, In this season of giving – give to yourself. If you are looking for change in your life, remember you are in charge. Show yourself that you are important each day by making choices that reflect your importance. Take care of yourself, and take accountability for your actions. Remember, your choices determine your outcomes, which determine your quality of life, and how will you count the ways in which you love thee?

Ready to plan for your health and wellness? Check out this article on Fitting Fitness Into Your Life.