Conscious commitment means that I am calmly raising an intention high enough on my list of priorities that I will simply get it done. It’s an assertion that I will change a pattern or habit that I realize no longer serves me. No particular drama – no big deal. I can commit to getting up when the alarm goes off, to flossing my teeth every day, or to being faithful to Jeanie – little or big – and keep my word with the same lack of drama.

If I use such a pompous word as commitment for some decision I make, it’s probably because keeping my promise will take me outside my comfort zone. I’ll be changing a habit that gives me some pleasure or benefit that I am choosing to forego.

Commitments are based on my values, not someone else’s, even when someone else strongly wants me to commit. After all, who’s doing the committing? Me. I am the one who considers their desires to be important. I am not their victim. My choice to commit reflects my values, what I prefer, not how I must behave in order to become a better or worse human being. Not what I should or should not do in order to be being right or wrong. When I keep my word, I get the benefits of what I have committed to. When I don’t keep my word, I don’t do what I said I would, and I and the people around me get to live with that. Whether or not I keep my word affects others, and often these effects ripple in ways that no one will ever know. They may give me praise or blame. This does not make me a better or worse human being. I am always fully human. If I don’t like how I live, I can learn from my experience and do it differently next time.

Having integrity means that I habitually keep my word, to myself and to others. A strong habit of doing what I commit to is a powerful tool for living a rich, productive life. When I keep my word, beyond the immediate consequences of doing what I say, I strengthen the power of my word. I know myself to be someone who can make a promise to himself or others and know that he will do what he said. I can trust my habitual integrity to see me through even challenging times. Sometimes, in challenging and important situations, when I have totally forgotten the values that led to my commitment, all I have to guide me in the direction of my highest values is the fact that I gave my word – to others, and to myself. Every time I break my word, I weaken this habit and set myself to float on the currents and breezes of circumstances and the transient voices of “I don’t wanna,” or “I wanna.”

Conscious commitment means looking at my life from time to time to see what I’m being committed to. What have I been committed to the past hour? Today? This week? This year? In college? With my family? My friends? The world? My life reflects my commitments, consciously made or not. I can notice the balance among my many values, see how I am expressing these different values in my life’s journey. If I’m lacking in one area, I can commit to putting more energy into that area. If I see myself developing a habit that I don’t want to deepen, I can commit to changing it.

When I don’t keep my word, I absolutely will not beat myself up. I will clean up whatever mess I have made to the best of my ability, learn what lessons I can, and see if it’s appropriate to recommit. I refuse to turn commitment into one more baseball bat to beat myself with. If I did that, I would shun committing, especially about “big” or “really challenging” issues. That would deprive me of this wonderful tool for a richer, more productive life. I am comfortable with commitments.

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