The Three Levels of Commitment

What the world needs more of is not new ideas and daring dreams but commitment. A willingness to do the hard work that matters.

Photo Credit: kaniths via Compfight cc

Sadly, there aren't many who have the perseverance to do it. And I think the problem is a misunderstanding of the word. There is, in fact, more than one type of commitment. And knowing that can make a world of difference.

Commitment means something different at different stages of life:

  • As a child, you’re committed to doing what your parents tell you, because they’re your parents and that’s what you’re supposed to do.
  • As an adolescent, it’s hard to commit to something that lasts longer than a few months. So much can change so quickly, it seems foolish to unnecessarily tether yourself to something so uncertain.
  • As you enter adulthood, commitment takes on a different shape yet again.

Through each season of life, we must relearn what it means to commit.

An adventure

The first level of commitment is an adventure.

In this season, you commit to something for the sheer thrill of it. This type marks those who travel the world and are able to walk away from a perfectly good job. Adventurers can move across the country or break up with a boyfriend without thinking twice.

This type of commitment is important, because it helps you experience a broad array of opportunities life has to offer. It will lead you to see the world, explore different types of jobs, and do things you’ve never done before, as long as those things feel good.

However, this is healthy only for a season. When you build your entire life around this type of commitment, it can become problematic. You may find this way of living unfulfilling and immature as you grow up. I know I did.

After spending a year of traveling from city to city while living in a van, I was fed up with wandering. Having seen so many homes and been a part of so many families, I was ready for something steady, if only for a season.

A season

The second level of commitment is a season.

You commit to something for an extended period of time, even after the initial thrill wanes. You plant seeds and stick around long enough to see them grow. You camp out at a job or under a revival tent, because there is something special about the place. You go through life with a certain group of people and get to know them well.

But this is all temporary. After the time of the commitment is complete, you move on to other endeavors. The season is over; the commitment is finished.

This is an important level of commitment that many neglect. They jump from complete recklessness to starting a family, sometimes not on purpose. They go right from college to a full-time career, feeling like they never had the chance to see what life had to offer.

If you pursue seasonal commitments, you bridge the gap between adolescence and adulthood without getting bitter.

A season is what you make it. Some last five months, while others last five years. My year on the road was a season, as was my friend Dustin’s two years teaching in Guatemala. The point of this type of commitment is it serves a purpose and has an end.

A marriage (not literally)

The third level of commitment is a marriage.

This is the highest mark of maturity and what marks true dedication. Of course, it applies to more than actual matrimony, but you get the idea. Marriage is forever, and so are some commitments.

Hopefully, your calling fits under this category. Although jobs come and go, your vocation, your life’s work, should be something that sticks. Something you can commit to.

But how do you know it when you find it? You could do what my wife, Ashley, does. When she takes a job, she has a “marriage” mentality about it. She doesn’t devise an exit strategy or consider her next steps. There are no stepping-stones in her book. She has no backup plans.

Ashley’s not like many people her age, looking over her shoulder for something better to come along. She just knows how always looking for the next best thing can sabotage your work and rob you of where you are now.

Time to commit

Depending on where you are in life, it may be time to go on an adventure or make a seasonal commitment. It may even be time to take more of a marriage mentality towards certain things.

But it's definitely not time to keep drifting through life without any thought as to who or what is counting on you. To keep shirking responsibility and causing those closest to you to call into question your integrity.

No, friend. It's time to commit. To a job, a relationship, a path. Something. Anything.

We don't need your restlessness or your excitement. We have enough Peter Pans, thank you very much. What we need is a little more conviction in our difference-makers. We need your focus, your pluck, your courage.

We need you to commit.

Note: This was adapted from my book, Wrecked, which is available on AmazonBarnes & Noble, and wherever books are sold (also available as an audiobook).

Which type of commitment sounds scariest to you? Share in the comments.