In twenty years of teaching LearnToLead seminars in seventeen countries, across multiple industries—both for profit and non-profit—I’ve concluded that one of the least understood, most overused declarations from a performer at any level in an organization is, “I’m committed.” Sadly, most people are not; they are interested, but not committed. Being “interested” means to be curious about something; being “committed” means to pledge oneself to something. The difference between the two is staggering, and it rarely takes long when observing one’s behavior or listening to one’s conversations to discern that only a handful of those espousing to be “pledging themselves to something” are actually paying the price on a daily basis to validate their assertion. The rest are talking right then walking left.
Real commitment is about paying a price, consistently over time, to achieve a goal. I’ve recorded two podcast episodes on this subject that you may wish to listen to for further depth on the topic (The Game Changer Life podcast episodes are: “The Price is an Installment Plan” and “What Real Commitment Looks Like.” If you have Apple products, you can find The Game Changer Life podcast on your iPhone or in iTunes; and, if you’re an Android user, you can listen through the Stitcher app, or Google Play Music).
Following are seven traits and behaviors that demonstrate true commitment. There are certainly more than seven, but this is a good start. Evaluate your own commitment level towards your most important goals, and measure others against these criteria as well.
1. Commitment manifests in sacrifice. Sacrifice is defined as “the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone.” You may need to give up certain habits you enjoy but are unproductive, pastimes that are trivial and nonessential, excuses, attitude, and more. Sacrifice may involve spending less time with unproductive or negative people who distract you from your goals—even though they’re longtime friends. When you’re willing to give up what you enjoy now for what you want most, you demonstrate commitment.
2. Commitment manifests in change and risk. When you pledge yourself to something you deeply crave, you’ll need to change what you’re doing to achieve it. In fact, if doing what you’re doing currently was enough to attain the goal you’re committed to, you would probably already have it. Thus, you will need to give up what’s comfortable and familiar in some areas for what’s uncomfortable and unfamiliar, in order to grow to the point that you can reach your goal. The old adage is true, “If nothing changes, then nothing changes;” so, committed people are willing to sacrifice temporary ease for temporary discomfort, to attain significant achievement.
3. Commitment is about having a cause bigger than yourself which you put ahead of your own selfish agenda. If you’re on a team it means putting the welfare and goals of the team before what’s best for your comfort zone or pride. In a family, it’s about sacrificing for your spouse, kids, and your future together. As John Maxwell said well, “If you’re just in it for yourself you’re in a mighty small business.” Commitment to a meaningful cause can often draw out in you what you never knew existed in the first place. It gives purpose and passion not just to work but to life.
4. Commitment manifests in persistence. Persistence means “to steadfastly advance in pursuit of a goal despite obstacles or setbacks.” Thus, persistent people don’t quit when it gets tough, when they lose, or when it hurts. When you pledge yourself to something you work through those things because what you aspire to be, or to have, is worth the fight. This is why it’s important to carefully choose what, or whom, you commit to: it needs to be worth the sacrifice, pain of change, risk, and persistence required to attain it.
5. Commitment manifests in resilience. Resilience is different than persistence. Resilience means “an ability to recover quickly from disappointments, setbacks or defeat.” One may have persistence to keep fighting through a tough month, but lack the resilience to get back on track and motivated after the month turns out poorly. There will be setbacks and disappointments on the journey to what you’ve committed to. That’s not the question. The question will be: How quickly can you recover, get back in your zone—mentally and physically—and begin executing again what matters most daily?
6. Commitment manifests in personal responsibility—owning it. Truly committed people don’t have time for excuses, blame games or other various “loser’s limps” to explain away their lack of progress or results. They are so focused on what they can control and impact on a daily basis that they don’t have time to whine about conditions they can’t control. They remain humble and teachable, believing that ultimately, it’s up to them to make it happen—and genuinely committed people wouldn’t have it any other way.
7. Commitment manifests in consistency. Consistency can actually work against you when you consistently execute what’s ineffective or unproductive. However, consistently making sacrifices, changing and risking to break from comfort zones, subordinating your agenda to a greater cause, and demonstrating persistence and resilience can make you unstoppable as you pursue your personal and business goals.
So, if your team were grading you on these seven items as being a leader who was truly committed, or simply interested, how would you fare? And how is your personal example impacting the team’s own level of commitment on a daily basis? As a leader, if you’re not committed, you can hardly expect your people to be. You have no credibility asking your people to run through a wall unless you’re willing to go first, and do it every day.