We start commitments in order to prove something to others, or to yourself. People take on commitments for a few reasons, mainly to build trust in the eyes of others, or to change something. You commit to the gym in order to become a healthier person. You commit to a relationship to build trust with that person. You commit to a challenge to build a reputation for yourself, to prove to others that you’re strong enough to sacrifice and complete it.
In the creative world you may commit to a style or a challenge, or to one particular pursuit ie. lettering, photography, icon design etc.
It’s nice to be known as a person of their word. If you promise something or say you’re going to do something, then with no doubt of mind you’re going to follow through and do it. This is a nice reputation and trait to be associated with by your friends, family, and your audience. It allows you to build trust in people and sets expectations as they know they can put money on what you are going to do because they know it will happen.
We have to remember that commitments are not forever. They’re not set in stone until you die. It’s good practice to stick to something and commit to it. By sticking with something, you are able to learn the various innards of a practice. You’re able to master it. Say you learn 80% of a skill in 6 months by actively taking part in it. You can learn the other 20%, the mastering part, by committing to learning it over the next number of years by only taking part and actively learning that pursuit. That’s how long it takes to master it. But it’s mastering the last part that makes the difference. That’s what sets you apart from 80% of people who haven’t committed.
Commitments are a great way to learn new things, push boundaries, and make change for the better.
The problem with commitments is when you aren’t making progress anymore. Progress in terms of your goals, in terms of wanting to push your boundaries, be the best you can be at this pursuit. This is when commitments should be re-evaluated and changed to suit the new direction you wan tot go in.
Don’t get stuck with old commitments when they were made with different goals in mind, in a situation, in a different context. You’re life can change gradually, or it can change suddenly, so sudden that you have to rethink what you want from this pursuit. Maybe it’s a career situation or maybe personal or family life. Either way, if you are committed to something that you don’t like and aren’t learning or growing towards success, you need to change something. Don’t pursue something that isn’t making you happy.
Another problem you can make is by committing to too much at a time. For example; 2 years ago I committed to building this platform, writing a weekly blog and learning lettering. That was 2 years ago, since then (and at the time of writing this) I have changed my day job, worked freelance for a number of months, stopped blogging weekly to focus on my lettering work (then started again), starting writing tutorials and creating videos of my lettering, and recently got a new day job to help me fund my passion for lettering and building this platform. The context of my goals were much different then than are now. And the same will be true in 2 years time.
Situations change, contexts change, priorities change, you’re taste changes. Something that was important to you 2 years ago isn’t going to be as important as it is now.
Make sure you don’t get stuck with commitments that are taking you in a different direction that you don’t want to go. I embarked on a 30 day Lettering Challenge to both push and test my creative skills to use different tools and mediums. Halfway through the challenge, I was offered a role and found myself in a new day job with an entirely new set of challenges and commitments. I had to take a step back and realise what was most important to me at that very time. I tried to manage both but realistically it wasn’t working. I found the quality of my work slipping as I wasn’t creating enough margin to dedicate focused time on either job.
This is when I broke the commitment to my 30 day challenge. It clashed with a higher commitment I made to producing quality work with everything I created. I didn’t want my name to be associated with anything that wasn’t at the highest quality that I wanted it to be, this is why I broke that commitment.
It’s ok to not follow through with a commitment. You’re not going back on your word, you’re not lying. Be honest with people and explain why you are making the decisions that you are. You’re only human, you can’t do everything. Set an expectation of change. Then people won’t be disappointed when you change a commitment that is unsatisfactory to your goals. It all starts with your goals.
Take a step back and reevaluate your commitments. Are they taking you in the direction you want to go?
If not, then they are taking you to a place where you don’t want to be.