Are you ready to make a change? Want to move forward in a new direction? Are you pumped up? Are you on fire? Are you ready? These are the types of questions I often hear from coaches, encouragers, trainers, and motivational speakers. While it is wonderful if you can answer “yes” to these questions, this isn’t always the case. When considering how to approach a new initiative, I often ask, “Are you motivated, committed, or both?” Let me explain.
Motivation and commitment are not the same thing. While both can be very helpful when we are moving toward a goal, they work in different ways. Take a look at the chart below.
|Fluctuates with Circumstances
|Linked with results
|Linked with action
|What I believe I can do
|What I choose to do
Motivation appeals to our emotions. I love motivational messages, mantras, and images. Motivational aides can help us rally our energy to follow through with our plans. In fact, I am such a fan of motivation that I did an entire daily series on getting and staying motivated. You can see the first of the posts here (click through to see all 30!).
The challenge with motivation-based efforts is that motivation tends to wax and wane. Our enthusiasm tends to be strongest in the beginning of a new effort. Have you ever noticed that gym memberships go up in the month of January, when many are feeling “post-holiday puffy?” Early days are when we tend to set lofty goals, invest in gear or supplies, and dream about our wonderful results.
As time goes on, if we achieve these results, our motivation will build:
- Wow, I lost three pounds! I wonder how much I can lose next week.
- I can tell that I have more energy since I began exercising. This is worth it!
- It feels so good to be able to find things since I organized my desk. I’m going to stick with the new routine of clearing it off every night.
On the flip side, if our results are intangible, unmeasurable, or potentially absent, our motivation can suffer:
- I’ve been at this new eating plan for a month, and I haven’t lost a pound.
- All that has happened since I started exercising is that I’ve gotten sore.
- I’m frustrated that the surface I cleared last week is once again covered with junk.
Lack of results can destroy motivation. Similarly, the emergence of obstacles, hurdles, and challenges can derail our enthusiasm. Getting up ½ hour early each morning may have sounded good in theory, but after a week of trying, you may feel only exhausted.
Motivation can flag when we lose faith in ourselves. We may shift from empowering mantras to excuses and negative self-talk. Try as we may, we just don’t “feel like it” anymore. We allow our feelings to drive our behavior. Motivation is great when we are feeling energized, but when we get discouraged, its absence can sabotage our efforts.
Now take a look at commitment.
Commitment is based on mindset. When we commit to something, we are making a mindful decision to act in a designated manner. In fact, a true commitment is a binding promise – barring unforeseen emergencies – to follow through.
Unlike motivation, commitments are not based on emotions. For example, notice that the wedding vow doesn’t say, “I promise to love and cherish you when you are being sweet, but shut you out and give you the silent treatment when you hurt my feelings.” When we honestly commit, we behave in a predictable manner, regardless of our moods, circumstances, and emotional state.
Someone who is committed:
- Arrives on time, ready to go.
- Completes tasks that he/she has promised to perform.
- Tends not to complain or make excuses.
- Does what he/she committed to do before doing things he/she feels like doing.
A successful commitment is not necessarily one that yields a specific result. A positive result may be desired, but the mark of a successful commitment is more about input, conduct, and action than it is about how things turn out.
The power of commitment lies in the fact that it is relatively invulnerable to external attacks and circumstances. Barring events beyond our control that prevent us from sticking with our plan, committed people plod on resolutely. Our mind has been made up. I think of the old Dunkin’ Donuts advertisement, where the employee repeats “time to make the doughnuts.”
Lest it sound like I am oversimplifying, let me assure you that I fully understand that committing is easier said than done. Fulfilling commitments can be very difficult. So difficult, in fact, that it is wise to think twice before making one. A strong commitment should consist of realistic choices rather than “pie in the sky” thinking. Furthermore, commitments are more likely to succeed when they are:
- Small in scope
- Supported by other people, tools, and resources
Being committed doesn’t mean you have to carry on all by yourself. In fact, people who keep their commitments are often the most likely to seek and enlist help. What commitment does represent is a choice to do what you said you would do. It is the starting place from which we launch an effort, collecting instruction, direction, and accountability as needed.
Achieving goals, whether they be organizing-related or otherwise, is likely to feature both motivation and commitment. Some days a surge in motivation will energize your spirits, making you feel invincible and spurring you on. On other days, when your brain starts making excuses for why you don’t feel like acting, commitment will help you persevere.
Are you motivated? The answer may waver from one day to the next.
Are you committed? The answer is either yes or no.
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What motivates you? How do you stay committed?