Many of us struggle with commitment issues. I know I certainly have had that struggle.
Commitment is the cornerstone of any successful relationship, be it personal or professional. Whether it’s your career choice or a more personal thing, the fear of commitment can really impact your ability to achieve long-term goals.
So, how do you get out of your own way?
As a previous marathon runner, I learned to tackle commitment one step at a time, one mile at a time, and one race at a time. Training and running marathons taught me a lot about overcoming commitment issues. Stick with me on this analogy… even if the only time you run is when you are being chased. 😉
Let’s take a look at some of the root causes of commitment issues, explore the common signs to look out for, and provide actionable steps (pun intended) to help overcome this challenge. Los Angeles Unified School District found that by helping “at-risk” kids tackle commitment issues by teaching them to run marathons, they could help their students successfully navigate bigger goals like college.
What is the Root of Commitment Issues…
Commitment issues, including exit hesitancy, can stem from various underlying factors. Past experiences of betrayal or heartbreak can create emotional barriers, making us cautious about wholeheartedly investing in a new relationship, a new business partnership, or even just our own goals.
Fear of vulnerability and the potential for rejection can also contribute to commitment issues, as we strive to protect ourselves from emotional or financial pain. Who wants to repeat past pain, right?
Shoot! Fear of both failure and success can hold us back from our commitments, too.
The need for control can greatly contribute to commitment issues, as it allows individuals to maintain a sense of autonomy and avoid the uncertainties that come with commitment. This is where “training schedules” or “following a plan” can greatly help.
When my kids were in junior high school, I got involved in a program in Southern California called Students Run L.A sponsored by Honda, intended to turn out more college graduates in the Los Angeles area. I volunteered as a parent “runner” with kids from 6th grade to senior year of high school. The mission was to help “at-risk” kids – who were prone to drop out of high school – learn how to tackle big goals, like completing their primary education and continuing on to graduate from college.
Marathon training was perfect for teaching how to commit to something (a marathon race), and break it into manageable chunks (training schedules), and directly experience the success of that commitment months later while crossing the finish line. The program was so successful that 98% of all kids who participated went on to finish high school AND college. Basically, it taught these kids that when commitment came first, everything else fell into place. Really, all they had to do was show up, and put one foot in front of the other.
What are the Signs of Commitment Issues?
By recognizing the signs of commitment issues, these kids were able to gain insight into their own behavior and emotional patterns. When we have commitment issues, we often struggle with making future plans or discussing long-term goals with others.
The beauty of the marathon is that it required training and training required schedules which required commitment to the schedule. These kids soon learned that just by showing up and tackling one more mile at a time, they soon had physical proof of how the commitment was paying off by the fact that they were now possibly running 1 mile, 5 miles, 10 miles, etc. at a time.
These kids began to see physical proof of dropping excess pounds due to the exercise program and learning better nutrition, a requirement in order to have enough “good calories” to maintain running for up to nine hours. As they increased their ability to run more miles, their confidence increased, their grades improved, they became part of a new “running” community.
Those of us with commitment issues may struggle with fully investing in long-term projects or initiatives because we can’t see the end result. We may find ourselves constantly second-guessing our decisions, hesitating to commit to a particular course of action, or frequently changing our goals and objectives. This is where a plan comes in handy, even if you don’t follow it 100%.
Commitment issues can also manifest in our professional lives as a reluctance to take on leadership roles or accept additional responsibilities within an organization. You may shy away from stepping into positions that require a long-term commitment or a higher level of accountability. This hesitancy can hinder personal and professional growth, limiting opportunities for advancement and development.
For me personally, I was terrified of public speaking so I would hesitate on taking on greater leadership roles in my career if it involved having to regularly address an audience. However, as I tackled public speaking little by little, five minutes at a time on stage with my business partner Marilyn Harper, I gained confidence and eventually got better at speaking in front of groups.
Our commitment issues can impact decision-making processes within our business. The fear of making the wrong choice or being bound by long-term consequences may result in a lack of commitment to strategic plans or avoidance of making important business decisions. This indecisiveness can lead to missed opportunities and a lack of progress.
What do you do? Think marathon training. Think finish line (the goal), training schedule (the how), and just show up (the commitment). Be brave and as Nike says, “just do it.” Even if little by little.
At-risk kids often don’t have parental support, or even adult support. By helping these kids to see that taking a huge goal like running a marathon, and breaking it up into smaller “digestible” steps over time, it’s very do-able. It didn’t matter how fast they ran the 26.2 miles, only that they crossed the finish line.
By experiencing the success of crossing the 26.2 mile marathon line finish, they were able to achieve something only one in a million or so people achieve. Success bolsters confidence. These kids were able to go on and accomplish things on their own by using the same strategy of commitment first, then break it down into small, doable steps.
The key here is experiencing the small successes along the way that help to bolster your confidence. Then, you’ll be more willing to be a bit uncomfortable again to stretch into your next goal, your next commitment.
How Do I Fix Commitment Issues?
Overcoming commitment issues requires self-reflection, patience, and as mentioned above, a willingness to step out of your comfort zone. When Marilyn and I facilitate programs, we do a lot of really fun activities that are at first very uncomfortable to our audience. Yet, people do them because everyone is doing them. In the end, we get so much feedback on what a great experience they had because they DID get out of their comfort zone and experience something new.
I want to emphasize the willingness. When you’re uncomfortable, your immediate tendency may be to flee. It’s kind of like nervous laughter… It kicks in just before or after that moment of discomfort. But, the worst part of discomfort happens seconds before it disappears entirely – so just breathe through it and know it WILL get easier, better, fun.
In looking back at those times that you were uncomfortable you may realize that self-reflection and patience was a natural outcome of tackling something that may have seemed overwhelming and scary.
Here are a few strategies to help you on your journey from commitment issues to committed:
- Self-Exploration: Think about past experiences that may have caused you to never want to make a commitment again. What can you learn from that experience and how could you break it down into small chunks akin to the marathon training schedule?
- Practice vulnerability: Just like beginning with running only down your driveway and slowly building up to your first mile, start small and build trust over time, allowing yourself to experience the joys and challenges of putting yourself out there and experiencing small successes.
- Set realistic expectations: Embrace the uncertainties and imperfections that come with commitment, and learn to navigate them with patience and understanding. Understand that no relationship or endeavor is perfect. Remember, the marathon runners – the goal was to finish, not to win. Winning a marathon could be a potential commitment later.
- Seek Support: Consider therapy or counseling, or hire a coach to explore and address the deeper emotional barriers contributing to commitment issues. Join a community of like-minded. Sharing your experiences and challenges with others who understand can help alleviate the weight of commitment issues. You’ll find that you are not alone.
- Practice Self-Care: Prioritize your own well-being and self-love. Engage in activities that bring you joy, boost your self-esteem, raise your vibration, and cultivate a sense of fulfillment. When I used to train for a marathon – music was my best friend. Positive songs got me across the finish line every time. Find what works for you.
Our commitment issues can sometimes be so deeply ingrained in us that they are second nature. I believe that with self-awareness and a proactive approach, they can be triumphed.
Hey! Just think about all of those kids in Los Angeles that many believed would never finish High School. Yet by committing to a single goal, it propelled hundreds of thousands of kids on to higher education and better careers, which also helped improve their community.
By addressing the root causes, recognizing the signs, and taking deliberate steps toward personal growth, you can CREATE the ability to pursue long-term goals with confidence.
Break it down into digestible chunks that YOU can commit to doing.
Remember, change takes time, so be patient and kind to yourself throughout the process.
I’ll be at the finish line to cheer you on.
You’ve got this.