“All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education.”
– Sir Walter Scott
Commitment. Now there’s a seemingly dirty word! Valentine’s Day around the corner or not, all one needs to do is to dip her toe in the dating world to see that many people find all sorts of creative avenues for shying away from this “C” word…not that I would know anything about that personally … lol.
But seriously, what is it about the essence of committing ourselves that can seem so daunting? As I reflect on this for myself, I recognize that historically, it’s a concept that has felt forceful, full of obligation and “musts” for me. And how could it not? The phrase we’ve all heard at some point or another describes the weight of a commitment – “You can’t be a little bit pregnant or a little bit married: you either are or you aren’t” And it didn’t fall on deaf ears with me.
Indeed, I heard the message loud and clear: one cannot only dip their toes in commitment, they need to put their whole selves into it. This full-on nature of the “C” word would scare anyone – especially if there is an element of duty attached to it….but does there have to be?
In all my years of working in transformation, no one – including myself – has authentically stepped even one foot toward evolution by being coerced or pushed. Instead, most of us find ourselves on the transformation journey by simple choice. Yet, by the very nature of the discomfort and arduousness which transformation can ask of us at times, one does indeed need to be committed to the process to be able to keep on it and reap the rewards it promises.
“Motivation is what gets you started. Commitment is what keeps you going.”
– Jim Rohn
Commitment: The Vehicle to Getting What We Really Want
So how can the two – staying the course and without the heaviness that often accompanies the notion of Commitment – converge? By being committed to our own growth. That’s it. Not to another person, not to some external rules others are trying to impose on us, not on drinking the metaphorical Kool-Aid. But committed to ourselves, to our own development as humans and as leaders.
How can that not be freeing?
I don’t know about you, but when I look at commitment in the light of overcoming my own challenges, working through my triggers, reframing my limiting beliefs and just generally creating a more of a joyful life I don’t feel the need to escape from, being committed feels pretty darn empowering. And it should.
Leadership in Three Steps
While leadership itself is a vast topic with many different points of view of what constitutes it, in the transformational facilitator and strategic consulting networks I am part of, we boil down leadership into three steps:
- Awareness: We become aware of something which might need shifting. You may remember that I wrote about resetting to become more aware in my December 2022 blog.
- Choice: We have the power to choose – or not – to do something about that shifting. In my January 2023 article, you can read more about the Power of Choice.
- Commitment to Practice (new behavior): Now, as the third in a series of leadership traits, I give you Commitment to our Development as Leaders. Once we choose to move forward with the transformation, we commit to tiny actions to carve out new neural pathways in our brains as a means of reinforcing that new behavior and anchoring it in our comfort zones.
Commitment, therefore, is an integral part of becoming better versions of ourselves – and of creating the optimal conditions for our teams and organizations to step up to their highest levels, too.
Seen this way, such a “dirty” word becomes one of hope – for ourselves, those we get to influence and, ultimately, the world.
Bolder Leaders Commit to Themselves
“Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself.
It is precisely that simple and it is also that difficult.”
– Warren Bennis
Every expert was once a beginner. In fact, in my experience, most experts remain so because they maintain a Beginner’s Mindset. When I graduated from the Newfield Network as a brand-new Executive Coach, guess what their parting gift to my classmates and me was? An aikido white belt. What in the world would motivate them to gift such a (seemingly bizarre) gift? Because apparently, in aikido (I haven’t yet practiced it), once a student achieves black-belt status they go straight back to the white belt: they are lifelong learners. Talk about commitment! …Lol.
Truly, as we look around, most of us will probably notice that those humans who are fairly serene and joyful despite the many obstacles our VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world frequently throws at us tend to see life as all about learning. That is, instead of getting too far into the “poor mes” or “Why bothers?,” they learn to master challenging situations by looking at what they can learn from them. It’s not always easy to swallow their pride, but their eyes are on the larger prize of peace-of-mind and fulfillment.
And if we want to feel more empowered, as though we are mastering our lives and our leadership, we will learn to see it this way, too – even if it means we first need to commit to learning to seeing it this way.
There will, after all, always be situations which, if we so choose, we can learn (and grow) from. All it takes is making a commitment to ourselves to continue our personal and professional development – however dull or irritating it may be at times.
Here are some ways we can do that…
Eight Steps to Expand Your Leadership Development:
- Develop a Vision for the Leader (Human) you really want to be: As Maya Angelou wrote, how do you want to make others feel? What values do you want to live? What legacy do you want to leave behind? What do you want to be known for? Why?
- Uncover your Purpose: What is it that most moves you? Calls out to you as the cause most worthy in your eyes? What are you best placed to do? Thanks to a deeper understanding of my own purpose, I am beginning to open up my business’s focus more toward Adult Children who underwent trauma in childhood. As a topic affecting 25% of the world (at least), it seems it was never before published about in a business context. This is both an impactful and deeply meaningful subject for me – for those affected and for those they touch.
- Define your Values: not the ones you think you should have, but the ones you want to have. Living our aspirational values are what help us make our Vision a reality.
- Set an Intention to live your Values and Purpose and to manifest your Vision.
- Increase your self-awareness: we all can be doing this, even those of us devoted to this profession ;-). Get feedback. Reach out to sponsors, mentors and other role models.
- Leverage your Network. Connect with everyone who can offer support, inspiration and accountability.
- Appreciate yourself! Once smart people reach their goals, guess what we tend to do next? That’s right: set another goal! We forget to acknowledge themselves for all of their hard work. And in so doing, they inadvertently contribute to their own dissatisfaction in life (the number one reason for it being – statistically speaking – not appreciating their own wins! So bring out those party favors – it’s time for a dance party… in honor of you 🙂
- Share your new experiences through writing blogs or articles, or with an accountability group or mentor, for example.
Staying the Course: The Ultimate Challenge for all Leaders
It’s all fine and well to lay out concrete steps for expanding our development as leaders and even to highlight the need for commitment to our own growth throughout.
But this article wouldn’t be complete unless it also brought in how freaking hard staying the course – any course – can be. Especially in this crazy, heartbreaking world we live in which can seem to throw wrenches in our progress at many turns.
It’s at this point and also when we don’t seem to be making progress – things feel BORING and FRUSTRATING – where most of us probably want to throw in the towel. Yet that is exactly the time we need to hang tight and remind ourselves of our vision for ourselves and our leadership. For this bumpy road is just part of our Yellow Brick one which will lead to greater freedom and joy for us.
“When confronted with a challenge, the committed heart will search for a solution.
The undecided heart searches for an escape.”
– Andy Andrews
This means that even when we can’t see immediate results, even when we want to pull our hair out with boredom or stress, we keep going. Remembering one important fact might help all of us here: through our commitment to growth, we are making an investment…in ourselves.
Many, many times over the course of earning my last degree, overwhelmed with yet another paper (23 in total!), I wanted to call it quits. With two little girls at home, clients to take care of and a business to run, who wouldn’t? But I didn’t. As hard as it was and as much as I ground my teeth and wanted to run out of my house screaming, I stayed put. And now I have a diploma which grows my credibility, and which will stay with me no matter where I go, no matter what I do next.
And that’s the sort of thing I want for you, too. You can do it. We all owe it to ourselves and to those we touch to make the investment in ourselves to be the humans and leaders we have always admired. In this world of increasing darkness, after all, even one additional light is sorely needed and desperately wished for.
Looking for small ways to spark your commitment to yourself? Sign up here to access my FREE, simple Weekly Bolder Moves of the week.
Colleen Slaughter, Proud Executive Coach to the UN World Food Program, the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Winner
As an Executive Coach for Women in Leadership and Transformational Facilitator, my intention is to help leaders in positions of high influence to understand their worth at a profound level.
Supporting women leaders to truly thrive and step into their greatness, while succeeding in male-dominated industries and spaces is my native genius.
My technique and approach show you how to achieve incredible career success without compromising any part of who you are and what makes you magnificent.