Why is it so hard for us to commit in today’s world? I’m not talking about life-changing commitments like marriage or career paths. Instead, I’m talking about the seemingly trivial ones, such as dedicating ten minutes to read an article from start to finish.

You begin reading, and before you reach the end, either something else catches your eye or a random thought distracts you. You switch from one article to another. Soon you find yourself engaged in a completely different activity, leaving the first article unfinished.

This scenario is all too familiar to many of us. It appears our ability to focus and maintain attention, even on minor commitments, is dwindling. Or perhaps, this ability was never fully developed to begin with. 

Platforms like YouTube shorts and TikTok cater perfectly to our shrinking attention spans. Before we even consider committing, we find ourselves evaluating the duration of videos or the length of articles and books, because the thought of committing for too long feels daunting. But do we lose something by this constant shuffle? 

Cover of the book 'Dedicated: The Case for Commitment in an Age of Infinite Browsing' by Pete Davis.Inspired by Pete Davis’s insightful book, “Dedicated: The Case of Commitment in an Age of Infinite Browsing,” this post will explore the costs of our reluctance to commit, the unexpected benefits of dedication, and practical strategies for fostering and sustaining commitment in our lives. 

Let’s explore the power of dedication together and how it can transform not just fleeting moments of our lives, but our entire approach to living.

Why Can’t We Commit?

In his book, “Dedicated,” Pete Davis identifies three main barriers to commitment that many of us face in today’s world.

⏺ Fear of Regret

How often have you hesitated to choose, worried that another option might later prove to be better? Fear of making the wrong choice and facing regret later paralyzes us. With the abundance of options at our fingertips, the task of choosing the “best” one seems impossible. So we end up not choosing at all. 

Have you ever found yourself endlessly comparing options, only to make no decision?

⏺ Fear of Association 

Commitment often means publicly aligning yourself with a cause, a belief, or even a simple preference. But what if this leads to judgment by others? The fear that our choices might define us in ways we’re uncomfortable with can deter us from making any definitive commitments. 

Do you recall a time when you avoided expressing a preference to stay “under the radar”?

⏺ Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) 

In a world where something new is always happening, the dread of missing out on the next big thing can make us reluctant to commit our time and energy to anything. This fear keeps us in a state of perpetual browsing, always looking for the next opportunity without fully engaging with the present one. 

How often do you find yourself scrolling through social media just because you’re afraid of missing out on something exciting?

Understanding these fears is the first step towards overcoming them. By recognizing what holds us back, we can start to address these fears directly, paving the way for more meaningful commitments in our lives.

Drawbacks of Not Committing

⏺ Depletion of Finite Resources

Every decision we make, no matter how small, drains our finite resources, such as energy, willpower, and working memory. This explains why some CEOs opt for a uniform, like a black turtleneck or white T-shirt. They do that to avoid wasting these resources on inconsequential decisions. They guard their mental capacity for the decisions that truly matter.

Similarly, people who establish a routine, like working out first thing in the morning, do so to avoid the drain on willpower that decision-making can cause. 

When you spend your day in a constant state of indecision about what to commit to, you’re not only failing to act but also depleting these essential resources. 

⏺ Sense of Restlessness and Frustration

Consider the feeling at the end of a day spent hopping from one article to another, or from one video to another, without seeing anything through to completion. This pattern of behavior typically results in feelings of restlessness and frustration. You regret how you spent your day. 

But more importantly, this habit can lead to a deeper sense of regret over how you’ve spent your life. The irony is that in trying to avoid regret by keeping all options open, you end up facing the very regret you wished to avoid.

Benefits of Committing

Novelty

Contrary to the surface-level novelty sought through FOMO, committing opens up new dimensions of novelty. As you deepen your knowledge and skills in a specific area, you start to uncover things you hadn’t noticed before. This deeper understanding lets you appreciate nuances and subtleties, turning familiar territories into rich grounds for exploration and growth. Commitment doesn’t limit novelty; instead, it provides a solid base for curiosity to grow and thrive.

⏺ Affection

By dedicating yourself to a particular area, you not only gain expertise but also develop a deeper connection and affection for it. This commitment transforms a mere interest into a passion, enriching your life with a sense of fulfillment that only comes from profound engagement. The depth achieved through commitment offers a unique vantage point, allowing you to experience joy and satisfaction in ways that fleeting interests cannot match.

⏺ Peace of Mind 

One of the most significant benefits of committing is the peace of mind and focus it brings. Knowing what you’re committed to helps to clear the clutter of constant decision-making and the relentless pursuit of the next best thing. 

This clarity reduces stress and allows you to relax, offering a respite from the agony of perpetual chasing. With commitment, you gain the ability to concentrate on what truly matters, enhancing both your productivity and your mental well-being.

How to Pick Your Commitment

Choosing what to commit to can be a daunting task, especially when faced with the fear of narrowing down your options. Davis offers valuable advice that can ease this process. 

⏺ Lowering the Stakes

It’s essential to remember that not every commitment needs to be viewed as an existential or lifelong decision. Lowering the stakes of commitment can alleviate the pressure and make the decision-making process more approachable. Recognizing that you can pivot or evolve your commitments over time makes the initial choice less daunting.

⏺ Finding Your Commitment Through Gut, Heart, and Brain

Davis suggests three distinct pathways to discovering what you should commit to: Gut, Heart, and Brain.

⋆ Gut: Listen to your visceral feelings. Consider your emotional response when contemplating a potential commitment. Imagine being deeply involved. What emotions arise? This instinctive reaction can be a powerful guide.

⋆ Heart: Consider your heroes. Which options would your heroes choose? Thinking about the choices your role models might make can inspire you and clarify your values and aspirations.

⋆ Brain: Take a more analytical approach by listing the pros and cons of each option. Writing down these factors can help clear the overwhelming clutter in your mind. It allows you to see each commitment’s potential benefits and drawbacks more clearly.

⏺ Acceptance of Life’s Limitations as a Path to Depth

Embracing the fact that saying “yes” to one option inherently means saying “no” to others is a critical step in the commitment process. This realization can be challenging but also liberating. Accepting that the world’s vastness means we can’t experience everything frees us from the tyranny of choice. This acceptance is not resignation but a conscious decision to pursue depth over breadth, finding meaning in our chosen commitments.

⏺ The “Good Enough” Philosophy:

Sometimes, the best approach is to choose what’s “good enough” and dedicate yourself to making the most of it. This mindset acknowledges that while perfection is unattainable, commitment and dedication can transform the “good enough” into the best possible experience.

How to Sustain Your Commitment

Maintaining focus and dedication to your commitments over time can be challenging, especially when progress isn’t immediately visible. Here are some strategies to help you sustain your commitment through the ups and downs.

⏺ Understanding the ‘Why’ 

Simon Sinek emphasizes the power of understanding your motives in his TED talk “Start with ‘Why’.” Reminding yourself of the reasons behind your commitment can be a powerful motivator, especially during periods when progress seems stagnant.

⏺ Adopting the Kaizen Approach 

Growth and progress are often exponential, not linear. Long stretches may occur where no significant improvements are visible. Adopting the Kaizen approach of continuous, incremental improvement provides a sense of progress and momentum.

⏺ Focusing on the Task at Hand

Take one step at a time and concentrate solely on the current task. This approach minimizes overwhelm by breaking down your commitment into manageable actions, making it easier to maintain focus and direction.

⏺ Limiting Complexity

Simplify your life by transforming your commitments into rituals and saying “no” to unnecessary complexity. Reducing clutter and distractions creates more space for your commitments, allowing you to devote more energy and attention to them.

⏺ Trusting Yourself

It’s crucial to trust your instincts and believe in your chosen path, rather than being swayed by the opinions of others. Confidence in your decisions and commitment strengthens your resolve and helps you stay the course, even when faced with doubts or challenges.

 

Conclusion

We live in a world full of endless choices. It’s important to remember that chasing them all won’t bring fulfillment. True fulfillment comes from focusing on what really matters to us. By committing to these areas thoughtfully, we can dive deep and strengthen our connection to them.

It’s not about making perfect choices but about making our choices work well. This means believing in our commitments, pacing ourselves, and being patient through challenges.

Commitment is both an action and a mindset. When you decide to commit, you’re embarking on a journey. Let’s dive in, dedicate ourselves, and allow this commitment to transform not just our projects but our entire outlook on life!