Commitment and Change

“The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred… Unforeseen incidents, meetings, and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

What is commitment? My son refers to it as the “freedom from having to make choices.’ But I find that to be an ambiguous answer.

I used to wonder how I managed to get myself into some of the pickles I found myself in. Sometimes it seemed like the entire universe, or maybe just people who I knew were dedicated to putting me into difficult situations. I lived like that for years, frustrated that life had dealt me a bad hand.

I didn’t have any idea that I had been responsible for the spot I found myself in. I couldn’t link the cause as my own doing, even in the direst of circumstances.

It’s only now that I dare admit there was a certain undefinable pleasure in telling someone my story; in getting their sympathy for my misfortune.

It seems sick as I look back on it, that for the momentary relief of acknowledgment from another person, I would allow myself to wallow in the mire of victimhood, blaming anything or anyone – as long as it wasn’t me. Even more sad was that if I did get someone to help me carry the weight of my story, that I would have been feeding an unconscious commitment in another person. The best I could hope for would be to draw someone into my own mire!

Now I know that I engineered the succession of incidents that were really nothing more than a subconscious desire to remain the victim. That’s dangerous, a state of such non-awareness that justifies making a victim of other people, all the while blaming someone else. It’s an addiction that hurts everyone, encouraging them to fall into the same traps. Misery loves company. That’s why they say the victim hurts, and hurts, and hurts…

A victim lives in perpetual lament, a ‘shouda woulda coulda’ existence that suffocates opportunity, gratitude and grace.

Understanding that everything that happens in our life is the result of a series of choices changes everything. Because commitment isn’t something we have to brace ourselves for. It’s not necessarily about strong backbones, discipline, or stiff upper lips. Commitment is making a choice, and we are doing it much more often than we realize – every moment we are committing to something, and that something usually occurs. It is of utmost importance that we make these choices consciously.

We are wonderfully creative beings. Why give that power away by being at the effect of circumstance? As soon as we accept responsibility for our state of being, we empower ourselves to make fresh choices for change.

What if we rewrite the story that exists in our minds about commitment, and see it as an opportunity instead of an ominous burden?

Here’s an example: A pilot is flying a plane from New York to San Francisco, and once he has taken off he sets the auto-pilot. The auto-pilot will make several thousand adjustments to the course, whenever there is a wind change or atmospheric change. Each of these adjustments is a correction, an automatic ‘choice’ that will get that plane exactly where it needs to go, some 3000 miles away.

If we consider that making a fresh commitment is adjusting our course, maybe we can be less desperate. Each time we find we are not directed towards what we want, or what is best, we have the opportunity to make a choice.

Above I spoke of victimhood, and there are times that we really are victims. It’s not helpful to tell myself that I made a perfect series of choices to get hit by a bus! But legitimate victimhood aside, we can always make corrections to our course. With choice and practice we can see life happening for us and not to us, and we will be much closer to happiness if we do.

Next time you find yourself telling a story that is not about facts, but about how you are suffering, perhaps you can ask yourself a question.

“What choice did I make to get in this position? And what choice can I make now that changes it?”

Wishing you an empowered week ahead,

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