How committed do you need to be

How committed do you have to be?

Commitment often plays center-stage in our lives. Whether we are trying to lose weight, get in shape, get a promotion, make more money or achieve objectives, we often think in terms of being committed to the cause.

If we want to achieve an objective we know “we have to be committed.” When our friends and colleagues give us advice they often accuse us of not being committed enough, and they tell us to be “more committed.” And, when we fall short in our desired outcomes, we often beat ourselves up and feel guilty about the fact that we are simply “not committed enough”

On the other hand, some of us take commitment to the extreme opposite. We are so obsessed with carrying out our commitment that we often act with extreme intensity and drive ourselves to serious stress. We plan our every action, measure our every milestone or intake, announce our every achievement and fall apart with every setback. Our friends and colleagues often look at us with worry. They regard us as obsessive and fanatics and their advice is often to lighten up, chill or simply “stop taking your commitment so seriously!”

So, the question is: “How committed do we need to be to succeed?”

There are those who believe that in order to succeed you have to be completely and absolutely committed and dedicated to your cause, with extreme discipline and no hesitation or excuses.

I was once listening to a webinar about commitment, by a known performance expert, during the lecture they said something to the effect of “It’s not enough to WANT something or even be COMMITTED to it. In order to succeed, you have to feel like you MUST have it, or MUST achieve it. To succeed you must be prepared to live in the mindset: “Failure is not an option,” and “No alternative”.

Well, that makes complete sense to me. However, it’s probably extremely challenging and stressful for most of us to live this way.

On the other hand, if you become too attached to your commitment or outcome you are likely to fall into the trap of over-identifying with it and as a result determining your self-worth or validity by the degree to which you have achieved your commitments.

That is not a healthy dependency either. If you don’t achieve your goal or milestone you are likely to feel invalidated. It’s the classic “I am a failure” versus “I failed”. How many of us have experienced that tailspin in our life?x

I have seen so many people who feel that only if and when they get the promotion they’ve been seeking… or make the income and buy house…they’ve been hoping for… then they would have made it. I have heard rich and successful people say “only one more big deal…”, but then when they made another million they didn’t even stop to enjoy it. They immediately started chasing the next one and the next one.

So, what do you do – stop caring about your goals, or start treating them casually?


Commitment is one of those magical areas that requires a balancing act of contradicting forces. You have to remain relentlessly committed, but at the same time don’t get too attached.

Think about it like sport. You play to win – like your life depends on it. However, at the end of the game, no matter who won or lost, you thank your opponent, go have a beer together and remember: it is only a game.

If you focus too much on the “it’s a matter of life and death” part you could easily let things get out of hand. You could easily become one of these athletes or fans who crosses the line of violence, inappropriate conduct and/or unethical behavior, not to mention simply not enjoying the game.

On the other hand, if you focus too much on the “it doesn’t matter because it’s just a game” part, your pursuit would probably become boring, you would become uninspired, and your performance and results would be compromised.

So, if you want to remain focused, energized and sane regarding your ambitions and aspirations, remember to always balance your commitment with equal portions of relentless passion and humble insignificance.

Founder and President of Quantum Performance Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in generating total alignment and engagement in organizations.

His work has encompassed a broad range of industries including banking, telecommunications, manufacturing, entertainment, real estate, retail, startups and non-profits.

1 reply
  1. Ken Wells
    Ken Wells says:

    Hey, Gershon-
    I enjoyed reading your blog on “commitment”. It made me pause and ponder the word…
    It takes me back twenty years to when you were assisting Lucent Real Estate. A key notion you taught us was the difference between “doing” and “being”. Haven’t forgotten the lesson.
    I include in my book, the 7 Pillars of Workplace Mastery, the discipline, “I am someone who does what I say”. Thus, if I say, “I will complete a project in a certain way by a specific date”, I will do it simply because my “being” is someone who does what he says. Looking at it from that perspective I am freed from the need to balance between being “relentlessly committed” and “not being too attached”. If I fail to be my word, I remind myself of who I am…and move forward.


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