Bring to mind a time when you made a commitment to someone, or to do something. (I’ll ask you about this later) Some common examples of commitments made everyday…
- “I am committed to my own health. I will exercise more.”
- “I’m committed to providing the best customer service possible for my company.”
But when we look a little closer, some of the commitments we make don’t translate into the kind of action required to get us where we want to go. We take the road that requires the least effort, time or resources, and typically get out of it just about what we put in. On the flip side, we can find examples all around of people and organizations that have made brave, bold commitments to a new way of being and really did the work and made the investments required – and stuck with it.
What differentiates a true commitment from lip service? When I reflect on this question, I keep coming back to my belief that we make commitments that we truly invest in and stick to when we realize, deep in our gut, that NOT following through will cause us greater suffering than staying where we are. That there is an absolute NEED to take action, do something different, make a change. We see this most starkly when someone is confronted with a serious medical condition that can only be addressed by behavior change on the part of the patient. (Nothing moves us to change our habits like our fear of death or disability)
But most situations where there is a need to do something different aren’t as obvious as that. For instance, we all know companies where employee turnover rates are sky high because the climate is toxic and people feel unsupported. The commitment on the part of the leaders to shift this requires that 1 – they have an awareness that this is an issue that puts the organization at risk and 2 – the courage and fortitude to assure that things change. Lip service is saying it, commitment is doing it in a way that has a genuine impact.
So let’s return to the situation that came to mind when I asked you to think about a time when you made a commitment. What ultimately happened with that? If your answer is, “Not much”, perhaps it wasn’t really a true commitment after all.