John Sanei: The real truth about commitment
Once upon a time there were people that worked in offices, with water coolers and boardrooms and an IT Department down the corridor. Once upon a time there were designated parking bays beneath high rise buildings; there were lunch breaks at 1 pm and knock offs at 5. There was traffic and coffee runs and tickets to the game on Saturday. This was life. This was Certainty. Until one day, it was gone.
We were taught in school: work hard, be logical, be safe and look for certainty. We did. For the most part it worked. But is it working now – no.
As a species, we’re addicted to ‘knowing’, to ‘safety’, to ‘routine’ and to ‘what was’. We’ve built our goals and achievements on the A-Z principle. Do this, in this order, and achieve that. When we live our lives from A-Z, the journey of achievement appears long and laborious. We tire ourselves. We tend to distract ourselves with the search for motivation. All this time, we’ve been conditioned to believe that motivation is the precursor to commitment, and commitment is a job: a hard, tough, back-breaking thing you must do to move the needle. No wonder no one wants to do it.
We spend our days with decision-fatigue, talking our way out of the ‘hard work’, looking forward to the 5-minute snooze – until (hopefully) motivation comes along to drive us. We believe we need motivation to start a business, to nail that promotion, to become an iron man, even just to wake up in the morning. We believe we need motivation to get committed. And we couldn’t be more wrong.
Motivation and Commitment can’t live on the same block. They’re not even friends. We’re wasting time thinking that we need motivation to achieve the next step. What we need is to recover from motivation intoxication, replace it with discipline and reimagine what is possible.
So, how do we commit in the uncertain life: we start at the end.
We let go of motivation and allow our imagination to take the wheel. We skip all the ‘normal’ steps and we work backwards from Z-A. Suddenly, we can hear the applause before we practice for it; we can see ourselves crossing the finish line before we sweat for it; we can feel ourselves in a loving, connected relationship before we start searching for it. Before the work, we must begin with the want. And the ‘want’ gives rise to the discipline we need to commit.
By working from the Z-line, we start to see ourselves at our thinnest, our strongest, our most successful. We begin to shape the end result, and it already feels good. It feels clear. When we can reimagine ourselves already at the end, only then can we truly invest in the beginning.
And that’s when something marvelous happens: we commit naturally. And when we commit naturally, our discipline settings switch to autopilot. No snooze button, no reminders, no eye-rolls and no skipping class. Because it’s what we want. Because it’s who we are in the forever now. Because for the first time in the blur of our wake, we’ve empowered ourselves before we’ve exhausted ourselves. And this is everything. This is how Commitment works. It’s not a step. It’s not a job. It’s just a way of being.