Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Hidden Truth: Intention or Commitment?

You know what they say about Good Intentions, and the road they pave. It is interesting to me how many people seem to be just fine “intending” their way through things. In fact, I catch myself now and again saying “Oh, I intended to get to that – but…”. Excuses really. What I lacked on those instances was commitment. Years ago, I worked with a coach whose calling it was to support people in defining their life’s purpose. After about 20 minutes with me, he said: “You’re a writer. You need to write.” It was rather matter-of-fact to him, but I wasn’t yet seeing it. Though our conversation, I came around to what he was telling me, or more accurately, what I was telling him. I am a writer. “So, write” he said. “Tell me what you are committing to.”

I started, “It is my intention to write an article and have it published.”

“No good” he said. “I don’t want your intention, I want your commitment.” The difference is, he told me, is that intention has wiggle room. Commitment doesn’t. Not to say that there is no use for intentions, they can be very helpful, especially for intangible things. For instance, it is my intention to be a better listener for my children. You can’t really measure that. The intention brings it into consciousness, making it more likely that I will follow-through. But if I want to take action, I use a commitment.

“I commit to writing an article and having it published.” I said.

“Good” he said. “By when?” I picked a date and once again reaffirmed my commitment to write an article, and have it published – by the selected date. I did, and I did.

I have also heard that “99% is a bitch, and 100% is a breeze”. I can assure you, in case you have not discovered this out for yourself, that this statement is accurate. Once I put my full being into something, I accomplish it. When I waver, I often stumble. If I merely “intend”, then I often miss my opportunity. Commitment is for sure. Real commitment anyway.

Some businesses “commit” to paying in 30 days. (These days it is more likely to be 60 or 90.) They commit to it. It is for sure. Except when it isn’t. When we don’t fulfill our commitments, then people lose faith in us. That goes both ways – to customers and staff/vendors. I used to work for what has since been known as a “mini-major” film studio. In New York, in the 80’s, they barely had any cash to pay their bills. I worked for $12,000/year shipping movie prints. And when I went to the bank to cash my $300 paycheck, they regularly couldn’t cover it. I lost faith. I worked for them for less than a year.

If we don’t fulfill our commitments, then we begin to lose faith in ourselves. Many address this very issue by simply not making the commitments in the first place. Just like me when I intended to write that article. The problem with that is, I never would have written it – without the commitment.

It is my understanding that we have exactly what we are committed to. Look around. What does that look like for you? Do you like what you see?

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