The 5 Stages of Commitment

When you ask someone what commitment means, you’ll usually get some answer about relationships. Like, “you commit to a person and you stay with that person until things get so bad you can’t stay with them any longer.

And you don’t cheat on them.”

But commitment, it turns out, is a power that affects nearly every aspect of your life.

Want to go on a trip somewhere? Commit by buying the plane ticket.
How do you commit to buying the ticket? Well, usually, you buy it.
If you don’t have the money, then you decide you’re going to buy the ticket, and commit to that decision by saving away money with each paycheck.

Want to play a song on the piano? Commit to practicing.

You get where I’m going with this.

Some commitments are easy—either because they’re temporary, or because you’d do them anyway. My commitment to daily showering is this way.

Others are more difficult. As Maria Popova examines through the words of Wendell Berry, commitments such as marriage or poetry require a dedication to see it through before you really know what you’re getting yourself into. And therein lies the potential for magic.

I still struggle with commitment, so it helps me to dissect it a little. So here are what I might consider the 5 stages of commitment:

Stage 1: This is awesome!
Best example: having a baby.
It’s a lot of fun to make a baby. It’s not as much fun to actually follow through and give birth, and it’s a lot of work to raise one.
Luckily, most cultures place the role of parenthood so high that the perceived benefits of sticking to this commitment justify the effort: most people with kids say it’s worth it. And many of them mean it.

Other examples? A new job: At the beginning, it’s exciting and new. There’s more money, new people. The world is your oyster. And then…

Stage 2: The trough of regret. 
Once the fanfare is over, you will question your decision. It’s only natural: the world always looks different on the other side of the fence. The rush of the momentum and energy and excitement of a decision will have left you, and you’ll wonder what you’ve done.
This is a time to recognize your concerns, thank them for their service, and let them go. The only thoughts that serve you at this point are those that help you stay the course. Jon Westenburg gave an excellent example when he stated, “I never start anything that I’m not prepared to commit 5 years of my life to.” If it hasn’t been 5 years, the regret and questioning and comparing doesn’t belong in your mind. Let it go.

Stage 3: Birds of a feather and Seasonal weather.

If you find friends that have committed similarly, sticking to your decision will no longer seem like a big deal. Married people eventually get married friends. Business owners associate with other owners. And crossfit brosephs hang out with other crossfit brosephs. Not only does this camaraderie make the commitment easier to live, but it also make it seem normal, and not like a stretch from what you’d otherwise do. It starts to become who you are.

Stage 4: Stoke that fire.

Every commitment has an emotional foundation. It is helpful to blow on those embers from time to time. MLMs know this—which is why they have a convention every 6 months or so to get their members all jazzed and excited about vitamins, face creams, energy drinks and obscure fruit with the power to heal every imaginable ailment. There may be many logical reasons behind your commitment, but chances are what tipped you over the edge was a strong emotion: love, fear, desire, panic. Emotion can be a gift to help get you what you need – learn to direct your emotions to your benefit, and you can accomplish great things. Hence the celebration of anniversaries. Company retreats. Testimony meetings. You get the idea.

5) Nothing stays the same.

Living the commitment will change you. If you committed to going to the gym 5 times a week, you will eventually have a good body. And that’s great, except you’re probably surrounded now with other good-bodied people. Which means that it’s time to appreciate the progress you’ve made, and proceed to a new commitment. Working out is no longer enough, now you need to increase the intensity of your workouts. Or improve your diet.
Does it ever end? Nah. It just changes: at some point in your life there will be new priorities, new interests.

And when those new interests come, when there are new mountains to climb, you’ll have the confidence of knowing that you’re the type of person that uses commitment to get what you want.

It’s like grandpappy always said: Make commitment your bitch, and the world will open up to you.



As I was writing this little piece, I finally decided to face my frustration with the spelling of commitment. It turns out that commitment and committed both have two t’s – but when it’s only an external type of thing the t’s are separated. But when you’re truly committed, they come together.

The m’s are always together.

But those t’s, they only come together while you’re committing, or committed.

I know: mind. blown.