The Power of Commitment: How Making Small Changes Can Transform Your Life
Consider Micro and Macro Commitments.
“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results.” —Kenneth Blanchard
What is the deal with commitment? Many people think they have an issue with it, but is that accurate? The thing about commitment is that we don’t understand how we commit and make those choices.
Why do some people have no problem committing to a relationship, a job, or a course of study, while others find it extremely difficult?
It’s not just a “following your heart” or “going with your gut.” There’s a psychology involved in our choices — and whether we can commit to them.
How We Commit
We commit to things in three ways: rationally, emotionally, or through habit.
Rational Commitments: We make these based on logic and well-thought-out plans. We research, consider the pros and cons and decide if it’s worth our time and energy. For example, you might commit to the gym to improve your health. The problem with rational commitments is that they can be challenging to stick to because they require a lot of self-discipline.
Emotional Commitments: These are based on how we feel in the moment. We get swept up in the excitement or passion of something and decide to go for it without really thinking it through. The problem with emotional commitments is that they can be based on fleeting emotions — and when those emotions change, we may no longer feel committed to what we’ve committed to. For example, you might fall in love and decide to get married. But if the passion fades, you might feel less committed to the marriage. Or you might land your dream job, but if the novelty wears off, you might not feel as committed to it as you once did.
Habit-Based Commitments: Finally, we can commit to something based on habit. We do something because it’s what we’ve always done or what’s expected of us. This type of commitment is often more lasting because it’s not based on our emotions — but it can also be harder to break. For example, you might stay in a relationship because it’s what you’ve always done — even if you’re no longer happy. Or you might stay in a job because it’s what’s expected of you, even if that job no longer fulfills you. And if we’ve always done what’s expected of us, breaking out of that mold can be challenging.
How Physiology Affects Commitment
The thing about commitment is that it’s not about saying “yes” to something once. It’s about saying “yes” to it, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.
It’s easier to commit to something when you first start. The challenge is maintaining that commitment over time.
When we commit, we are in a different physiological state than when we act on it.
We release a chemical called dopamine when we commit. This is the chemical that’s responsible for pleasure and motivation. It’s what makes us feel good when we do something we enjoy. But dopamine is a short-term chemical. It’s not meant to last forever.
This is why it’s so easy to start something new but challenging to maintain over time.
The dopamine wears off, and we’re left feeling unmotivated and uninterested.
The key to making long-lasting changes in your life is to find ways to keep the commitment flowing. This can be done through both micro and macro commitments.
Micro-Commitments vs. Macro-Commitments
There are two types of commitments: micro and macro-commitments.
Micro-commitments are the commitments we make every day without realizing it. They’re the small actions we take that move us closer to our goals. For example, getting out of bed in the morning, brushing our teeth, or taking a shower are all micro-commitments.
Macro-commitments are the more extensive commitments that usually need more time and effort. They’re the commitments we’re more likely to consider before making them because they impact our lives. Some examples of macro-commitments are going to school, getting a job, or getting married.
The reason it’s crucial to understand the difference between micro and macro commitments because they need different approaches.
Micro-commitments are easy to keep because they’re small and insignificant. We don’t even think about them most of the time because they’ve become habits. Macro-commitments need us to be more deliberate in our thinking because they significantly impact our lives.
When most people talk about commitment issues, they’re usually referring to macro-commitments because those are the ones that need us to change our behavior in a significant way.
For example, suppose you have a goal to lose weight. In that case, you might struggle with lifestyle changes such as eating healthy and exercising because those things need more effort than saying, “I’m going to eat healthily” or “I’m going to exercise.”
Understanding why you are struggling with making macro-commitments can help you find solutions that will work for you.
The Psychology of Commitment
So why do some people find it easy to commit to something while others find it difficult? The answer lies in our psychology. Some of these things influence our ability to commit to something:
Attitude toward commitment: Some people see commitment as good, while others see it as bad. People who see commitment as a good thing tend to be more likely to make commitments and stick to them. They view commitment as a sign of strength and are proud of their ability to see things through. People who see commitment as a bad thing tend to be more likely to shy away from responsibilities. They view commitment as a sign of weakness, and they are afraid of not being able to stick to their obligations.
Beliefs about commitment: Our thoughts about commitment also play a role in whether we make commitments and stick to them. Some people believe that committing ensures they follow through on their goals. They see it as a way of holding themselves accountable, and they are more likely to make commitments. Other people believe committing is a way of setting themselves up for failure. They see it as a way of putting pressure on themselves.
Values: Our values also influence our ability to commit to something. Some people value consistency, and they are more likely to make commitments as a result. They see commitment as a way of remaining consistent with their goals and willing to put in the work required to stick to their obligations. Other people value flexibility, and they are less likely to make commitments as a result. They see commitment as restricting their options and would instead leave their options open rather than commit.
Goals: The types of plans we set also influence our ability to commit to something. Some people set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART goals). These goals tend to be more motivating, so people who put them are likelier to make commitments and stick to them. Other people set goals that are not as specific or measurable. These goals tend to be less motivating, so people who put them are less likely to make commitments and stick to them.
Identity: Our identity also influences our ability to commit to something. Some people see themselves as the type of person who follows through on their commitments. They are more likely to make commitments. Other people do not see themselves as the type of person who follows through on their promises. They are less likely to make commitments as a result.
“The level of success you achieve will be in direct proportion to the depth of your commitment.” —Roy T. Bennett
Common Reasons Why People Struggle With Making Long-Lasting Changes
Lack of accountability: When trying to make a change, it’s essential to have someone to hold us accountable. This could be a friend, family member, coach, or therapist. Having someone to check in with us and help us stay on track can help make sure we stick with our goals.
Lack of clarity: If you’re not clear about what you want, it will be challenging to commit to anything. Without a clear goal, it’s easy to get sidetracked or give up altogether. When setting a goal, make sure it’s something that you’re passionate about and that you have a realistic plan for achieving it.
Lack of understanding: If you don’t understand why you’re making a change, it will be challenging to stick with it. When trying to make a long-lasting change, it’s crucial to know why you’re doing it. What are the benefits of making this change? What will happen if you don’t make the change? Answering these questions can help you stay motivated when things get tough.
Fear of change: Change can be scary, especially if we’re not sure what the outcome will be. But often, the fear of change is worse than the actual change itself. If you’re afraid of what might happen if you make a change, remind yourself that you can always go back to the way things were if it doesn’t work out.
Overwhelm: When faced with a big goal, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and like we can’t make the necessary changes to reach it. This is often when people give up before they even get started. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, focus on taking one small step at a time. Don’t try to do too much all at once, or you’ll likely end up feeling burnt out and giving up.
Perfectionism: Trying to be perfect can prevent you from making any progress. When trying to make a change, it’s essential to give yourself grace and allow yourself to make mistakes. Remember that progress, not perfection, is the goal.
Procrastination: Procrastination is often a symptom of fear or lack of clarity. If you’re unsure where to start or afraid of failing, it can be easy to put off making a change. The best way to overcome procrastination is to take one small step toward your goal. Once you get started, it will be easier to keep going.
Self-sabotage: Self-sabotage is often a way of subconsciously protecting ourselves from change. If we don’t believe we can make a change, we may not even try. Or, if we’re afraid of failing, we might sabotage our efforts so that we have an excuse not to continue. If you find yourself self-sabotaging, taking a step back and examining your motivation for making the change is essential. What are you afraid of? Once you identify the root of your fears, you can start to work on addressing them.
Self-esteem: If you don’t believe in yourself, it will be challenging to make lasting changes. When making a change, it’s essential to focus on building self-esteem. This might mean practicing self-compassion or seeking out supportive people in your life.
Unconscious beliefs: Sometimes, we have unconscious beliefs holding us back from making the changes we want to make. For example, if you grew up being told that you’re not good at math, you might believe it’s true even if you’re pretty good at it. If you struggle to make a change, it might be worth exploring your underlying beliefs about yourself and the world. Counseling can be a helpful way to do this.
None of these reasons are set in stone, which means there is always room for change if you find yourself stuck in any of these patterns. Find which one resonates with you so you can address it.
Understanding the difference between micro and macro commitments can help you find solutions that will work for you. For example, if you want to lose weight, making small changes in your diet and exercise routine can be more effective than trying to make a complete lifestyle overhaul.
Focusing on making small manageable changes is more likely to lead to long-term success than trying to make significant changes all at once.
By becoming more aware of your obstacles, you can develop a plan of action to start moving forward toward your goal.
© Alejandro Betancourt, 2022. All Rights Reserved.
DID YOU KNOW?
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