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Should You Commit?

Estimated Lesson Time: 4 minutes

What if you were offered the position of chief ashtray licker of the XYZ Corporation? Your job, if you chose to accept it, would consist of licking dirty ashtrays clean all day long. For this job, you would be paid one million dollars for just one day’s work. Would you accept it? What if you would be paid ten million dollars? Now, what if there were an 80% chance that you would only be paid one dollar? What if you actually enjoyed licking ashtrays, would that change anything? Should you commit yourself to this job?

Commitment and persistence go hand in hand. If you are committed to something whether it be a goal, relationship, or a cause, you use persistence to support that commitment. Persistence does not guarantee anyone success. In fact, misguided persistence has led to ruined lives and insanity. Generally speaking, the difference between genius and insanity is success. Think about the “crazy” inventor who works around the clock on some “crazy” idea. Perception of both the inventor and idea change completely if the idea succeeds. When you commit yourself to something, especially a life purpose, you must realize that there are sacrifices you must make. We all have 24 hours in a day and each minute we spend on our goals, is one less minute we have to spend on other areas of our lives.

In our hypothetical ashtray-licking situation, there are a few variables that can affect your decision to commit to the job. These are a) the possible rewards, b) the work itself, and c) the risk involved. Here is my formula for deciding whether to make a commitment or not:

If Possible Rewards > Work + Risk then COMMIT

Unlike a mathematical formula, these variables do not have absolute or numerical values. Each variable is unique to the specific commitment. If the possible reward is greater than the work plus the risk, then it makes sense to commit. If not, then it does not make sense. Simple. What is not so simple, is giving value to each variable. This is done by using a combination of your head, heart, and gut.

Possible rewards. This is what you hope to achieve by following through with your commitment. It is called “possible” reward because no reward is really guaranteed. One’s possible reward to a 9-to-5 job consists of a salary that is close to 100% certain to be paid, and a future of raises and promotions that are less than certain. Possible rewards should also include the positive aspects of the work such as learning, training, and enjoyment of the work itself.

Work. This is the labor, mental or physical that is used in the commitment. To determine this value, one should consider the time needed, sacrifices to be made, and the intensity of labor. These are all the negative aspects of the labor. Any positive aspects of work should be figured into the possible rewards variable.

Risk. What are the physical, mental, or emotional risks involved in the work?

What if the only rewards that ever materialized were the positive benefits from the work itself? Would you view this as completely devastating, a bit unfortunate, or could you care less? Keep in mind all that you sacrifice for this commitment. There is a myth that one must sacrifice short-term gratification for long-term success. This does not have to be true. By enjoying and profiting from the work of your commitments, any possible reward is not as important. With this, success is in the journey and not the destination.

Choose carefully which commitments you make in life. If your existing commitments consist mostly of pain, boredom, and/or resentment, it may be time to rethink where you are committed and replace your existing commitments with new commitments in which the work itself energizes and motivates you. Keep in mind any negative consequences that may be associated with breaking a commitment. Try using the commitment formula before making your next commitment and make the best use of your limited and valuable time.


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 Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):

  • Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
  • Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
  • What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)
    From the Course:
    Personal Development
    Year To Success
    Bo Bennett, PhD

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