Commitment is the First Step

Sometimes when we set goals, we get backwards a crucial pattern that will guide our success: commitment.

Man repelling from a tower

Marion Doss, licensed CC BY-SA 2.0

The True Order of Commitment

I recently attended a presentation by Paul Blanchard of the Og Mandino Leadership Institute. He outlined what he calls “The True Order of Commitment”:

  1. Make a commitment
  2. Take action
  3. Eventually, enjoy the feelings of accomplishment

Let’s unpack that.

Make a commitment

You first decide what it is you want to do. You can think of the word “decide” as cutting yourself off from all the other options, putting an end to the vacillation, concluding your previously available choices.

Once you’ve decided, you will focus your energy on the choice you’ve made. You don’t turn back or second-guess it or give yourself ways to get out of it.

This sounds uncomfortable, doesn’t it? Our human nature wants us to have options, to be able to change our minds, to escape, to not be stuck. Making a commitment doesn’t feel natural, it feels constraining.

That constraint is precisely the purpose of making a commitment. It allows us to harness our natural instincts and put them to work in the service of the goals we want to achieve and the things we want to create. Unbridled and unfocused, our natural talents go to waste as they have nowhere to concentrate their efforts.

Be aware that as you live out this commitment, your human nature will continue to rear its head and want you to abandon the constraints and throw off the reins of decision. Knowing this before you start allows you to be prepared for it and expect it so you can funnel that energy to the right endeavors.

Take action

Once you get down to the gritty details of working on your goal, you’ll find it was not as easy as you imagined it. Your humanity will get in the way and try to sabotage you. Your feelings and frustrations will make it seem like continuing is not worthwhile. Your course of action will challenge you and force you to grow to meet the increased responsibility you’ve taken on.

Learn to embrace your humanity and shortcomings as you go through this process. It is all part of the game, so as you accept this reality as it is and strive to build on it, you’ll be able to overcome the difficulties.

Eventually, enjoy the feelings of accomplishment

Enjoying the fruits of your labor will not be consistent at first. It may take a while to see that your efforts are paying off. You can’t expect the results in a predefined amount of time.

Instead, continue to work diligently toward the commitment and embrace the challenges that come along with it. And sometime, eventually, you will feel the exhilaration of success.

Why this order?

This order of “commit, then take action, then get the feelings” often gets reversed, and when it does, it doesn’t work.

For example, I may say I want to go to the gym to work out more. I’ll set my alarm for early tomorrow morning and get everything ready. But when the alarm goes off, I allow myself to decide at that moment whether I feel like getting out of bed to work out. If I am “feeling it”, I’ll take that action and decide whether it was worthwhile. Or maybe I don’t feel up to it that day, so I put it off. In either case, I’m basing the action on my feelings and examining those feelings and the results I get before I make any kind of commitment to go to the gym every week for a year.

This is backward, and it doesn’t get me what I want. My real goal is to get in shape, and I know that going to the gym to do a certain regimen will help me accomplish that. Allowing my feelings to dictate whether I follow that course will almost always sabotage my true intention.

Instead, knowing that my course of action will get me closer to my goal, I can instead commit first. This cuts off my other options and helps me make my unreliable flights of fancy subservient to my higher aspirations.

The feelings won’t go away

It’s important to note that making a commitment doesn’t magically dissolve the feelings of fear or apathy or grumpiness about how early it is. Those feelings are still there every morning when the alarm goes off.

The power of the commitment is that I, my higher self, have decided that even though those feelings are there, I choose not to give them power over my actions, because I understand that they will subvert my intentions and keep me in mediocrity.

So whether you want to get fit, complete a college degree, take on more responsibility at work, or improve a relationship, use this pattern of committing first. It will serve you well.


What commitments have you made in life? Which ones are going well? Which ones aren’t?

Do you need to renew your commitment in any areas? Be honest about reality and own your actions. Decide whether that is what you want and commit anew to make it happen.

Commit first, then take action.