The Power of Commitment
A risk free life is a boring life.
Yesterday, a college senior and I discussed life and career choices. He feels stressed. He realizes a decision today may establish the direction of his life.
Uncertainty fuels risk, risk fuels stress.
Our conversation reminded me that risk does more than fuel stress, it can fuel passion.
Moving from stress to passion
Commitment turns paralyzing stress into energizing passion. For example, suppose my senior friend commits himself to live near family rather than letting career choose his geography. His commitment transforms stress into passion. He’s no longer paralyzed. He’s energized to find the best job available within his geographic restrictions.
Leaders face stress.
I believe commitment converts stress into passion. Are you stressed out? Perhaps your stress is fueled by a lack of commitment to clear objectives. Perhaps you aren’t committed to a clear direction or destination.
One factor in making a commitment
Values clarify and drive decisions and enable commitments. Rather than focusing on confusing complexities and current decisions, first clarify your values. Ask the question, “What’s most important to me?” Ask, “What drives me?”
What goes into making a commitment to a clear destination? (organizationally/individually)
Have you experienced a conversion from paralyzing stress to energizing passion? What fueled the conversion?
Disclaimer: This short post isn’t intended to address all the complexities of stress management.
I spend a lot of time with Job Seekers identifying that very question. I have developed specific conversation formats to help Job Seekers tell themselves what they are passionate about, and why.
The story (not sure if it’s true) of Scott McNealy CEO of Sun Microsystems hearing out a tirade from one of his engineers about what was wrong with the company and why he was leaving. At the end of it Scott said “Wow, you’re right, it seems like you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you to get all those things fixed – you’ve just described your new job, you’d better get to it.”
The point: Frustration is the other side of passion. I ask my clients what frustrated them most at work and why. Once they know that, that becomes the source of their passion.
Great insight on the connection between frustration and passion. I agree completely. Our anger shows us our priorities and values if we will just step back and take a look. Perhaps it should be noted that sometimes when we look at values through anger/frustration it becomes obvious we have the wrong values. They may show us we are selfish, arrogant, lazy or something else.
Thanks for adding value to the discussion!
Love this post.
I observe so many people who seem to frantically bounce around, without a clear sense of why they’re spending their time the way they are.
A couple of questions I might add (that we should all ask ourselves):
– What am I trying to accomplish?
– Whose needs am I meeting?
I would also suggest that we challenge our own leaders to make these things clear to us – people should not have to wonder about what the priorities are for their work group/function/division/etc.
Thank you for the encouragement.
You are spot on! It’s a sad state of affairs when employees don’t know organizational priorities. I think its far to common that people simply flounder around doing the next urgent task.
Thanks for adding value.
Best to you,
I find I get stressed when I don’t have enough information to feel comfortable with a decision on a commitment. So certainly communication and clarity is key for me. Sometimes that commitment means saying yes and sometimes it means being committed to saying no. Either way, direction is determined and stress is reduced.
However, I’m not sure if it’s passion that energizes me, once that commitment is made, as much as it’s confidence.
Thanks for your post Dan.
In particular, I enjoy the introduction of confidence to the conversation. I think there’s a connection between passion and confidence. Low confidence = low passion. (NOT to discount your comment .. just adding on)
I appreciate your insights and perspective.
Your raise excellent questions for the recent grad and those in transition. Another way of asking “what is important to me?” is “what fuels my passion?” I only know a couple people who are really doing what they loved as a 5 year old, and neither is an athlete. While they still have frustrations, they love their work like no one else I know. Look for your passion in life. The other point I would add is that the recent grad’s first choice does not bind them.
Thanks for your insights. Love seeing you in the comment stream.
It usually takes us a while to learn it but few decisions are final. There’s always another option somewhere. Having said that, it’s also true that any decision worth making has consequences. Hence the rub. 🙂
I respect that you take the time to read and then share you insights.
All the best,
What goes into making a commitment to a clear destination? (organizationally/individually)
Well, I knew one of these posts would lead to a running analogy eventually! A local running leader, who would at best be described as “unconventional,” designed a race recently that was supposed to be either 5K or 5 miles. Through a variety of logistical challenges, he did not get the 5K “turnaround” markings placed on the course (wooded trail) in time. About ten of us, some who intended to run 5 miles and some who had hoped to only run 3.1 miles (5K) ended up out in a state forest, no directional markings in site, trying to figure out what to do. The heat was blazing, and the 77 year olds running among us were starting to struggle with the heat and lack of hydration (they weren’t the only ones!). After much group debate, we all heeded the very wise person who said, “Let’s turn around and go back the way we came.” It turns out the “turn” for the 5 mile (we had given up on 5K at this point) was through a fence big enough for a human to squeeze through but otherwise visually forbidding – NONE of us thought to look for arrows near this fence.
We did not have a clear destination at this point — but we had to group together to try to figure out a) what was standing in our way and b) what strategy would get us back on course. It turns out the runner who suggested we turn around and go back the way we came was spot on. We found the “right” directionals shortly after turning around.
In our personal and professional lives, it is easy to get “lost” like this and be tempted to just “run on” (that was my brilliant idea that day!) but sometimes it is important to stop and retrace our steps to get realigned with our passions in order to commit more fully.
Love the story Paula, very excellent! Sounds like a metaphysical course based on harmonic convergence or something… and what a rich metaphor for leadership too!
The Yogi Berra quote again comes to mind.
What… dejavu all over again?
I love the story too Paula. When destinations aren’t clear be sure to touch base with your values… Like water!
I laughed a bit when I read “run on” … like when I’m lost and keep driving without stopping to ask for directions. Note: we just bought a garmon… constant source of directional help. Perhaps we just “run on” too frequently without taking time to stop for directions or counsel.
All the best,
If you click through LF posts you’ll most likely find comments by featured blogger Paula Kiger. She a great with a story that illustrates an important point. Check out her bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/paula-kiger. There is contact info there.
Dan, sounds like the senior perceived that this ‘concrete’ decision would etch his path for life when perhaps it is just one road map he will choose to follow for a while. Definitely it is ‘a’ direction for his life, but maybe not ‘the’ only direction. What I value at age 2 differs from age 20 or 60 or 90.
Not sure we ever have a clear destination, perhaps a clear path that aligns for now.
When stuck, stressed or paralyzed, after brief introspection, I tend to seek out others for their perspectives. Those I serve, directly and indirectly, provide wise counsel. They can either affirm or help to realign my commitment which definitely converts to energized passion.
As Alan noted frustration (and stress) is one facet of energy, as is passion and probably many emotions. How effectively we convert it and share it is key.
Nondisclaimer for stress management:
Breathe deeply, then do it again. (It is free and good for you) Smile…think of the dumbest ‘knock knock’ joke (or…why don’t aliens eat clowns…because they taste funny) and
Shake that stress out like a wet dog shakes, looks funny, feels good….repeat as needed.
Thanks for your comment. Seeing you reminds me that I want to get over and add my comment to your guest post http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/2010/09/03/the-good-the-bad-and-the-funny/
During my chat with said young man, I mentioned that we seldom end up where we plan. He agreed. Although I think it’s more comfortable to say that while we are looking back with a few successes and direction shifts under our belt.
I’ll add here that part of my standard counsel is go with your highest point of confidence.
As always, it’s a pleasure.
If you read LF much you’ll definitely come across Doc. He’s a featured contributor. Feel free to check out his bio page: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/doc
I believe value is the most important element that decides your direction and your direction decides your passion. If your value is making materialistc gains then your direction may not be very stong and solid and you may land up making a lot of trade off with your value. You also tend to compromise and even lose your value over a period of time. However, when your value is based on intangible gains then even after losing material gains, your value will keep on strengthening and your direction starst becoming clearer and nearer day by day. You become more passionate. So, it all depends upon your values. What is important to you may not be important for others. And this thought makes all the difference in your life. The thought drives your passion. Higher, honest and selfless thoughts fuels passion and lower thoughts weaken your passion. We usually take value in positive connotation, but it may be negative as well. Borrowed or copied values have often less committment whereas ingrained values have strong committment. Borrwed or copied values have strong committment when we really believe in those values. Simply taking values from others carry no meaning. Values without direction also do not carry meaning. Value creates direction, direction creates passion and passion creates committment. So, passionate people are committed and committed people have directions. In this sense, committment is the outcome of passion and not otherwise.
Focus changes committment to clear destination. One should make comparison between present postion and dream. The gap determines your direction and committment. When gap is more and keeps on increasing, you can safely assume that your passion and committment is decreasing. But when the gap is reducing, you are more passionate and committed and readhing towards your destination.
Stress turns into passion by direction. Without direction, stress turns into hyperstress. values always plays deciding role in converting stress into passion. Higher order values are more directed and lower order values are less directed.
Actually values for each person is different, It is infact debatable topic. But I believe that value is something which focuses on creating positive difference to you, your environment and your society.
Commitment does convert stress into passion especially when based on values. My reply is simply: Action activates achievement!
Your compact way of writing the essence of any truth continues on Dan.
“What goes into making a commitment to a clear destination? ”
-Clear Knowledge of WHAT we want to achieve organizationally/individually and courage to pursue the road until our Organizationally/individually objectives (followed by plans, and other successful details)
all the best :)!
Love it Dan.
What really turns me round is what I call the “a-haa” moment. It’s the point in the conversation when I can feel my eyes light up, my smile grow across my face and my whole body language screams “I get it”!
This happens with my staff too! But it’s a process of not only explaining the goal, but also the benefits of achieving the goal. Once we get a taste for how awesome it’s going to be, no amount of stress, roadblocking or negativity will stop us.
Very interesting and thought-provoking views on the power of commitment.
Yes, working on unscheduled yet critical tasks calls for extra beyond the working hours. And that may disturb family life or other social commitments.
It may bring some level of stress till the time one decides on the priority and then gets focused on its accomplishment.
It’s a question of one’s own position of responsibility and honoring commitment becomes a habit. On completion of the task, one gets tremendous satisfaction and joy. It’s worth to experience!
Great post and follow ups from everyone else. I’m starting to read Jim Collins “built to last” and he talks about how the values of great companies and people never changes.
I hope others can share how they find out what values where really important to them and what resources (books, mentors, programs) were most helpful.
Marlon, if I may reply- I love Jim Collins and i think values driven leadership is way overdue in many organisations. My tip – be true to your heart – this simple rule means i don’t smoke, don’t overeat, exercise, love others, love my family and they love me, and live my life with joy. So in the new models i would take the process as:
Heart/Values/vision/mission/Major goals/Minor goals/ what I’m going to do now.
Have a great day.
Hard to do I know Dan – but for me this is your best yet. I have a simple trick – If stress is not positive you’re mis-interpretting it – it’s trying to be positive but there is something you are not doing that is stopping it being that way. It may be commitment, action, not being true to yourself or others etc.
Live life letting stress get out and have the good time it should be having. Don’t be a killjoy.
cheers Dan live well and keep up the great work and inspiration.
To make the connection between commitment and passion is clear. The only thing stoping us from making the right decision is us.
I enjoy your posts.
Thanks for sharing.
The two questions you raised in this piece describe my exact thoughts since I left University.
I’m told the position I’m training for thrives on two-way commitment from staff and management that creates a working harmony that will simplify solving problems the team will face.
To summarise these thoughts: I realise that to me the drive from treating people right does indeed overcome the stress of solving their problems.
Thanks for wording the issue so effectively.
I really enjoyed this post, Dan. Many people fear that committing means locking oneself out of opportunities. I like the fact that your post presents commitment as freeing the person up to pursue their passion. Quite a shift in thinking!