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How to Know if They're Truly Committed

Do some people tend to let you down?

If you’re like most of us, the answer is, “Yes!” So, how do you know if someone is truly committed? How can you tell if they will actually do what they said they will do?

Whether it be in our relationships with friends, family, or those in our work environment, commitment is often a tricky subject because it is tied so directly to responsibility and accountability. And because we too often connect responsibility and accountability to blame instead of seeing their connection to personal empowerment, the entire conversation about why something didn’t happen can turn into a frustrating session of finger-pointing.

How do we better assess a person's level of real commitment?

Well, for starters, if we invite someone to join us in pursuit of a goal, are we truly willing hear their deeper answer? Or do we just want them to say, yes? Are we willing to walk through some “if-then” scenarios with them? For example, if this happens, what is the person willing to do? What are you willing to do? Too often, by not creating clarity around commitment—including considering how well a person has followed through in the past—we set ourselves up for yet another disappointment.

One of our longstanding advisors, William Guillory, PhD, states that “Commitment is best demonstrated when we encounter the greatest obstacle of difficulty and overcome it.” That’s an extremely powerful way to gauge our commitment level. Did we do it or not? Did we get there or didn’t we?

As we consider this, it’s easy to see that our level of true commitment is directly tied to our mindset about responsibility. Do we see ourselves as fully responsible to honor our word or not? And, if we utilize another one of Dr. Guillory’s axioms, “The result bears out our intent,” we can see that unless we are very clear, intentional, and conscious about our commitment upfront, we are much more likely to let ourselves off the hook when the going gets tough.

This resonates with Goethe’s famous insight about commitment: “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.”

We’ve probably all experienced both sides of this issue. We’ve hesitated and watched an opportunity vanish, or we’ve taken a risk, made a real commitment, and begun to receive unexpected support from surprising directions. Either way, the lesson is the same: our choices around commitment determine our path in life.

As we get older, we can look back and understand, with the benefit of hindsight, just how dramatic an effect those pivotal choices have been. Often a choice was unconscious, like the person in a recent news story who said yes to another drink, then got in their car and slammed head on into a van, killing two mothers. What can we learn about ourselves from a tragedy like this? That being conscious and intentional about our choices, while considering their ripple effect is key to generating real commitment.

As we describe in our book Thriving in Business and Life and our online course, everyone who works on a team knows the difference it makes when colleagues are personally committed to the work. But the Thriving leader knows how to deepen their team’s commitment by modeling what true commitment looks like. They understand that commitment is not a one-off choice, it’s a practice that creates a powerful path forward. Well-traveled, commitment leads us to greater levels of success—personally and professionally—that don’t require compromising our health or family life.

While commitment may begin with a particular project or job, it can lead to a whole other dimension of commitment to how one shows up, not just in that single circumstance but in all areas of life. Ideally, we make a universal commitment that applies to every task and relationship—the commitment to be present and conscious, to be our best, to be a team player, to learn from what happens, and to be fully accountable for results.

As we’ve shared before, none of us are perfect and we all wander off our desired path at times. That’s why having accountability partners and peer coaching relationships is so vital as we walk the path of commitment.

We can also scale our commitments, honoring the value in the small and the large, making every moment count. This can translate into something as simple as putting our phone away to be more present in a social setting, or as complex as doing the deep research necessary to fully understand a task we are engaged with. It can also mean saying, “no,” to a request or project because we’ve accurately assessed our situation and realize we don’t have the bandwidth or willingness to take it on.

As Goethe said, “… the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.” Commitment just may be the single best investment we can make.

Your Thriving Breakthrough opportunity for the week:

Consider activities where you are engaged but not fully committed.

Take a moment to contemplate why you have been holding back.

Make a choice, either to dis-engage or to fully commit.

If you choose to commit, notice what changes in how you feel about what you are doing and also in the results you get.

Will Wilkinson and Christopher Harding

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