The case for keeping your commitments

commitments

What is a commitment? To many, a commitment is nothing more than a sincere effort to “try.” To others, a commitment is nothing more than a way to end a conversation or debate or disagreement. The dictionary definition of commitment speaks of being dedicated to a task, or assuming an obligation that must be fulfilled. Why is it so easy to find examples today of an individual breaking a commitment?

In easier times, a person sealed a commitment with a handshake. The character of an individual was defined by whether “he is a man (or woman) of his word.” Consider today that, perhaps, the greatest, most public, and most solemn “commitment” a person can make is a marriage commitment, yet, even this commitment is broken over 50% of the time.

Today, I would like us to consider 7 key points regarding commitments and the value of keeping them. Our ability (or would it be better to say “our decisions”) to keep our commitments is, quite possibly, even more important in today’s messy, divided world than ever before.

  1. Commitments must be considered serious obligations – We need to return to the belief that a commitment is a solemn promise that must be completed. Commitments are not objectives or goals. A goal is a target to strive for, but it does not carry the same level of promise or vow as does a commitment. A goal may actually be crafted to represent a personal or team stretch. For example, during spring training every year, each of the 32 major league baseball teams states that their goal is to play and win the World Series. However, only one team will win. Having the goal to win represents that the team endeavors to do its best to win, but it is much less than making a commitment to win it. Can you imagine the outcry if a team “commits” to win, but doesn’t? You simply must treat a commitment as something more serious than a goal. When you treat them as synonymous, you cheapen the meaning and standing of the word commitment.
  2. The failure to fulfill a commitment almost always has negative consequences – Whether we realize it or not…. Whether we admit it or not, there are negative consequences when we fail to fulfill a commitment. Certainly, this is true when a marriage fails because one or both parties do not keep their vows. When we make a commitment that is not/or cannot be met, no only is the benefit of the commitment not realized, but there are more subtle consequences. When one repeatedly fails to fulfill a commitment….
  3. Our character is often defined by our ability to fulfill commitments – Can you name one person that you feel is a person of character than routinely fails to fulfill commitments? Neither can I. You can do a lot of things right in life, but when you let others down, you lose credibility. And, when you lose credibility, you cannot be trusted. When you cannot be trusted, you are no longer considered reliable, faithful, truthful, or, to most, a winner.
  4. Fulfilling a commitment has a positive impact to both you and others – On the contrary, a person that consistently meets commitments is viewed automatically as an individual with high standing. In fact, if you consistently meet commitments, other faults are often overlooked. It seems that developing the habit or skill or persistence to consistently fulfill commitments can often accelerate your standing or your career trajectory. So, there are personal benefits, in addition to the positives that come from actually achieving the task or assignment related to the commitment.
  5. The principle of accountability is important to help us keep our commitments – Fulfilling difficult commitments is often very challenging. However, when we have others invested in our success, the load becomes easier. A good example of this is when individuals run a marathon. The task is very challenging all alone, but when you train, run, and participate with others that come along beside you, the brutal becomes bearable.
  6. We must consider the risks/benefits before making a commitment – Individuals often fail to achieve commitments because they do not consider the risks or benefits before making the commitment. When a commitment is made frivolously, the individual does not necessarily become invested sufficiently to overcome the barriers and bumps in the road that invariably arise. Thinking through the benefits that will result when the commitment is fulfilled or the personal and team risks associated with failure can help ensure that commitments, when made, are treated with the seriousness they require.
  7. Good intentions are not enough – Someone once said, “Don’t confuse effort with results.” Too many people these days believe that they should be rewarded for the extraordinary effort they made despite failing to achieve the target. They believe that working longer hours than everyone else trumps their failure to achieve results. They believe that having a “busy life” equates to success (see this link Succeeding at things that don’t really matter). They believe that we should pat them on the back simply because their intentions were good and that they tried hard. Wrong! Effort is nice, but character is defined by fulfilling commitments, not by being the best at the wrong things.

I hope you can see that my effort here today has been to make the case that:

  • We need to keep our commitments
  • We need to restore the meaning of a commitment
  • We need to dedicate ourselves to achieving commitments we make, and
  • We need to hold each other accountable both for commitments achieved and those not kept

I hope that your understanding and belief in the word “commitment” has become new for you today.

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