Commitment, now there’s a word filled with trouble.
For so many the idea of commitment, while generally seen as a good thing, also contains elements of sacrifice, hard work, repetition, and even pain. I happen to believe that commitment, most especially the kind that I’ve come to call radical commitment, is all about joy and happiness.
But, that’s because I don’t think commitment comes from the place most people seem to think it does.
I used to be told I had a commitment problem. You see, I didn’t do very well in school. In fact in both high school and college I finished in the parts of my class that made the upper 90% or so possible. (I stole that from Dan Pink!)
Like so many students that don’t excel in the fine art of measured academic achievement I was told I was a failure because I suffered from of a lack of commitment.
Fortunately, I hadn’t listened to my teachers to that point and I certainly didn’t intend to on this subject, but what I discovered only later in life was that what I truly suffered from wasn’t a lack of commitment it was a lack of clarity. I didn’t understand why.
Children have total clarity and it’s only when they are told they can’t or shouldn’t do something that they begin to lose it piece by piece.
There’s a wonderful joke that’s been told by everyone from teachers to comedians to pastors that I think illustrates this idea so beautifully.
A kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they drew. She would occasionally walk around to see each child’s artwork. As she got to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was.
The girl replied, “I’m drawing God.”
The teacher paused and said, “but no one knows what God looks like.”
Without missing a beat, or looking up from her drawing the girl replied, “They will in a minute.”
We’ve always possessed clarity, we’ve simply lost it because we’ve stopped listening to our hearts.
1) Commitment comes from clarity
It’s really a lack of clarity that robs us from embracing the things that look and feel like art to us, not a lack of commitment. People commit to doing things every day that don’t lead to happiness. It’s a lack of clarity about what deserve out total commitment that pushes us to commit to “sort of jobs and businesses”, “sort of marriages” and “sort of addictions.”
There is a single moment in my past when I gained total clarity about what I was meant to do and it was a moment that should have terrified me because of the potential pain or loss that might have accompanied it. But instead of fear, all I felt was excitement and joy and it was as if someone had finally led me to a window and thrown open my view of the world. From that instance, I not only found clarity, I found purpose.
2) Total clarity comes from seeking purpose and listening to what fear and doubt and resistance is here to tell us.
When you begin to open up to exploring the things that cause you doubt, you start to understand that fear and resistance are good things. They are often markers on the path to the things that you’re meant to overcome and pursue if you’re to have any chance of unlocking your true potential and true purpose.
3) Purpose grows from discovering and using your Superpower
Purpose is another one of those funny concepts. I don’t think you go out and find it, I think it finds you because you’re paying attention and looking for it. I think it finds you because you’re spending time each day practicing and understanding your most potent ability – your superpower.
My superpower is curiosity. When I take my natural tendency for curiosity and apply it the highest payoff elements of my work, I produce what for me is art and I certainly gain the potential to live my higher purpose.
4) Radical Commitment then comes from putting on your superpower cape, jumping off the garage and accounting not for the fact that you fell but for distance you flew.
When your world view becomes the measurement of how far your sense of clarity and purpose and wonder have brought you from where you’ve been, and not the measure of how much you lack in getting to where you think you should be or where you see others going, you’ll finally enjoy the peace, joy and happiness of radical commitment.
In this view, there is no ideal place, there is no single achievement, their is no made it – there’s only commitment to moving in the direction of those things that allow you to practice your art.
There’s a Guy Clark song called The Cape that tells the story of a young boy that believes he can fly so, even though people think he is crazy, he climbs up on the garage and jumps off in a leap of faith. The story continues to be the central theme of his life and the last verse goes like this. (Pretend I have my guitar now)
Old and grey with a flour sack cape
Tied all around his head
He’s still jumpin’ off the garage
And will be till he’s dead
All these years the people said
He’s actin’ like a kid
He did not know he could not fly
So he did
He’s one of those who knows that life
Is just a leap of faith
Spread your arms and hold you breath
Always trust your cape
Some great advice that – always trust your cape.