Our world is trying to close the gap between us and our time. A world in which everything moves towards increased productivity, time-saving, and efficiency (the factory model). We have every device imaginable to make our daily tasks happen quicker. Everything is designed to take less time. Yet it doesn’t feel like we have more time to do the things that we really want to do. Why not?
Commitment and Priorities
The cost of living has increased. We have personally felt the pinch. We look to work more hours, or charge more for the work we already do.
Your Time is an Investment
There is another side to the coin of time. Those who want to buy your time and attention and turn it into money. No I’m not talking about your employer.
As a society we consume a huge amount of information and media (TV, Smart Phones, Computers etc), and when we have un-structured time the choices and pressures we face can be burdensome and stressful. The fear that you are spending your time on the wrong thing is huge. I feel this, and as a result rarely feel relaxed.
People know this, and they compete for your attention, to structure your time away from the office. They use their funds to buy your attention so that in turn you will give them money to use what they offer you. This is called advertising and now marketing (which is no longer simply the same thing).
The Fear of Choosing, and Missing Out
There are a fair number of books on my bookcase that I am yet to open. I love to read, but whenever I sit down with one and I can see the shelves filled with other books I feel this pull. In choosing the one I’ve settled on I am missing out on all the others. That’s a horrible feeling. All of a sudden the other books become much more appealing. And somehow it feels better to not read any of them. But I know that’s not really better.
The Paradox of Commitment
This is the paradox of commitment, and why committing to things is a struggle, it’s a challenge, it wont feel comfortable and at times it will feel like we’ve made the wrong decision. But this is what Stephen Pressfield calls the ‘Resistance’, Seth Godin refers to it as the ‘Lizard Brain’ – that internal pull that doesn’t want you to change. It likes you when you’re stressed and wants you adhering to the status quo. It doesn’t want you doing anything remarkable or out of the ordinary.
Commitment sounds like a boring concept. It conjures images of imprisonment, being stuck with too much work, or lacking in personal freedom and choice. And when we think of it in that way, or consider certain kinds of commitments that are forced upon us then it may well be negatively perceived. But commitment as dedication, devotion, and fully engaging with a cause, activity, or person is where we derive meaning and purpose. It is how we grow, and how we develop an empathic understanding of other people and the world.
When I talked to Jeff Goins a little while back we chatted about 3 levels of committing:
1. Adventure (discovering the world, your passion, your voice, your next step)
2.A Season (a cause, job, organisation, area etc)
3. Marriage (to a person, your art)
I found this concept reassuring. I like things to keep moving and to feel a perpetual sense of progress, and reading about these levels of commitment forced me to stop and consider the things in my life that I do but have not made any real commitment to. There are plenty of things.
In having a mindset of ‘I do this but I’m not committed to it, I can just quit at any time’, you don’t set yourself up for growth, and to discover gritty meaning within it. In committing you are saying ‘OK, for that period of time I am giving myself to this – I’m going to learn, get involved, and throw myself into it’. And even though there are other books on the bookcase, the fact that you have chosen one and are giving yourself to it means that you are going to discover something that you never knew and you will be left changed when it finally comes time to move on. If you don’t commit to soaking the book in and you just read the words while thinking about other things it wont make any difference (I’ve done that with books!)