Do You Stick to Your Commitments?

Do You Stick to Your Commitments?

You probably read that title and thought of your most recent vow of commitment – a course, or your business, or your marketing, or that thing you’ve been putting off.

And you probably thought, “Hell yeah! I’m definitely committed!”

I’m sorry to say that you’re probably not.

Think of all those New Years’ promises people make every year – to go on a diet, to quit smoking, to spend more time with their kids, to focus on this or that.

They break those promises. They forget about their commitments. They pretend they never uttered the fateful words. Most people go back to the way things were in just a few weeks. Life’s just easier that way.

You see, commitment is easy. It’s just you making a vow. A promise. A statement of potential action. “I’m going to do this!”

There. You’ve made a commitment. Pat yourself on the back.

Sticking to your commitment takes dedication and effort. Hard, hard work. And the dedication to stick to putting in that hard work is far more difficult to achieve. Most people don’t actually have it in them to follow through on their commitments.

So once that valiant vow-making moment has passed and everyone’s forgotten you’ve cried out a promise, it’s easy to slip out of the room unnoticed.

And if by some stroke of bad luck, a friend asks how you’re doing with that commitment you made, you probably think up some plausible excuse. “Didn’t have the time – things just got too busy.”

You might even try to make your buddy think you still have good intentions to actually follow through on your commitment. “I haven’t forgotten about it. I’m going to give it another shot in a month or two when life quiets down.”

Life isn’t going to quiet down. You’re always going to be busy. And quite frankly, if you take an honest look at what’s keeping you ‘busy’, you’ll probably see that you do indeed have the time.

You just aren’t dedicated to your commitment.

One of the problems with commitments is that people tend to encourage making them. We get all excited when people say they’re going to do something. We applaud. We cheer. “Good for you!”

Well, all that encouragement and support is nice, but it’s misplaced. We shouldn’t be praising commitment.

We should be praising dedication. Effort. Sticking to it.

And each time we hear someone make a promise to take action, we shouldn’t applaud. We should say, “Yeah? Prove it.”

Harsh? Maybe. Better? I think so.

Sure, you might deflate someone’s wind-filled sails by asking them to prove their commitment. Plenty of people thrive on back-pats and warm fuzzies. They get discouraged when their Big Commitment doesn’t get them their desired response, and then they don’t follow through.

That’s just an excuse. That’s blaming your inaction on other people’s lack of back pats.

When it comes to commitments, there can’t be any excuses. This is all about you. Either you want this, and you’re ready to dedicate your efforts towards achieving your goals…

Or you don’t.

Which is it?

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. In my experience, the issue isn’t really “hard work” — it’s creating the HABIT of doing whatever your commitment requires. I have a list of tasks I do every morning and I do them EVERY DAY because they’re written down and I get to put a check mark beside them when I’m finished! This has turned them into a habit for me. When writing or editing, I have a timer going and, when I hear that timer, I don’t get distracted by email or twitter or Facebook. It’s not that the work is hard; it’s just that it’s so darn easy to get distracted!

    • Great system, Daphne. But for a lot of people, sticking to a habit like that is the hard part. I think that’s what James was referring too – the perseverance that Jacqui referred to below. Your ability to stay committed to your system is admirable. Tough for a lot of us though.

    • I agree that creating habits to get the work done is an excellent idea (and a timer as well, awesome!), but Annika is right… sometimes even the motivation to create those habits isn’t there. That’s the tough part for people, and the reason they need to ask themselves why they’re not committing.

      THEN the true answers come out!

  2. I agree completely. I value the follow through over the vow as well as the effort behind it. I don’t care if it takes X number of years to complete. What matters is consistently making progress toward that particular goal.

    Most people tend to seek instant gratification, as though the cosmic genie will just magically grant them their wish, as if it was owed to them. Once they realize that it’s hard work, or more precisely that it won’t be done in a weekend, week, month, they lose interest.

    So what else are you left to say but “What steps have you taken so far?”

    • A friend of mine is wont to say, “How’s that been working for you so far?”… and the answer is usually, “It’s not.”

      Then he says, “So are you going to get real about this now? Are you READY to get real?”

      And that’s often the toughest part!

  3. Seems to me that when it comes to commitment it’s not so much a matter of either/or as “how much?”

  4. Today, I’m feeling pretty damn fine about “commitment”. We moved my son into his house today. Open House tomorrow for all the people who helped make it happen. The pictures, curtains and toilet paper are in some box, there’s no food in the refridg, no cable, phone or a single lamp that is plugged in. But amid all the chaos there are smiles and an amazing feeling of accomplishment *sigh* and hope for a brighter future.

    Gotta find that toilet paper:)

    • YOU GO. Good for you – that comment and its history to get there made me grin. (Commit to toilet paper – it’s a useful daily requirement!)

  5. James,
    This is so true! I really love the way you make me think about things. Great writing! thank you!
    You ROCK!!

    • Making people stop and think… and re-evaluate to go on and do better… well, that’s all I can ask for – good to hear this struck a note, Tess!

  6. Great post James. One word comes to mind – perseverance, perseverance, perseverance. It’s the grit and determination to keep on going that we should be rewarding. And the courage to get up, dust yourself off and get right back on the horse every time we fall off!

  7. “Sure, you might deflate someone’s wind-filled sails by asking them to prove their commitment. Plenty of people thrive on back-pats and warm fuzzies. They get discouraged when their Big Commitment doesn’t get them their desired response, and then they don’t follow through.

    That’s just an excuse. That’s blaming your inaction on other people’s lack of back pats.”

    Totally agree. Seems to me that people don’t necessarily appreciate the challenge you’ve given them if you ask them to prove it. What they perceive is that you’ve killed their buzz. You made the thing they’ve committed to real. Doing the thing is the hard part and now it’s in their face.

    • Absolutely, Jodi. This is exactly why I’m in the habit these days of surrounding myself with people who appreciate being challenged (at the right time, with the right language, of course) and are capable of challenging me too. People who get that we’re not trying to kill their buzz.. We just want to see them get there!

    • You hit the nail, Jodi. Commitment is easy – party on!… Doing the work ain’t always so much fun 😉

  8. I was definitely not one of the people who read the title and thought “Hell yeah, I’m committed.” Thinking of 3 particular things I answered: Nope. I’m not putting in the time, not doing the work.

    And they’re all ‘personal’, self-care things that I let fall off the priority list time and time again, just so I can meet someone else’s expectations. Enough of that.

    I’m all about bringing more ass kickers into my life these days, so thank you for kicking ass my James! Time to walk the talk.

  9. I have nothing else to add to this as it’s so spot on. I struggle with my commitments all the time. Not because I’m not invested in them (in theory I always am), but because I’m freaking lazy.

    For example, I wake up at 7am every day to go to work. I have to wake up at that time because I have to go to work. I like my job, I need money to live, I made a promise to a group of people.

    However, whenever I go to talk to my family (who live in the States while I live in NZ) I set my alarm for 6am. 50% of the time I don’t get out of bed because I don’t HAVE to.

    And every time I fuck up a commitment I remind myself of that. That just because I don’t have to doesn’t mean I shouldn’t.

  10. Great topic and so timely for me. I made those end-of-yeart commitments to myself year after year. Even wrote them down. Still, I wasn’t following through. I find promises made to myself to easy to break. So, last year. I decoded to make a public promise, over at For Bloggers By Bloggers, my other blogging home. I was going to find my time wasters, and eliminate them, freeing up the time I need to write my book.

    It was a weird thing but because I put it out there for the world to see (in a post last December), for some reason, I followed through. I found two extra hours a day and made them my writing time. I just reported on my progress in a blog post last week and I am on target to finish my memoir by December 31, 2011 and I am going to a writer’s conference in NYC in January to pitch my book idea to agents! And all because my readers kept me honest (because I didn’t want to admit to them that I screwed up!).

    You are right. Life is never going to quiet down and we are always going to be “busy,” which is now a four-letter word. I finally figured that one out. Thanks for the thought-provoking post (and to everyone who shared their thoughts in the comments.) : )


  1. […] used to get occasional doses of ass kicking from time to time, like this post by James Chartrand or honest feedback from a friend or colleague, but I haven’t had a single, dedicated source […]

  2. […] course I felt guilty. It didn’t help that James had just asked, “Do you stick to your commitments?” (No.) But I still didn’t do the […]

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