Have you ever wondered what makes us emotionally committed? Some people are committed because they have strong feelings for a person, place or purpose. Others are striving to reach a goal. Some make commitments out of a sense of obligation because their job or relationship requires it from them. Commitment is the emotional backbone that gives us strength, determination and focus and that deeply connects to our feelings of happiness and well-being.
It is nearly impossible to talk about commitment without talking about engagement. Engagement is the act that demonstrates commitment. For example, you cannot just buy a plant and announce your commitment to take care of it. While it may be interesting for you to shout out in the store, “I am buying this plant, and I will nurture it and make it grow!” the true proof is in the actions you take after you have brought it home. You will need to provide it with sunshine and water, prune its leaves and regularly tend to it.
Show, don't tell
Life works very much the same way. I have worked with countless couples who say they do not want to divorce, people who claim they do not want to lose their jobs or say they want to be better parents, but they are not actively engaged in demonstrating their commitments. For example, you can show up to work and sit at your desk and call yourself “committed to your job,” and yet if you do not show engagement by being responsible, meeting deadlines, thinking creatively to solve problems and meeting customer needs, then you will not be as successful because you are not, in fact, truly committed.
To assess how engaged you or someone else is in a commitment, first look at actions. The difference lies in whether one is locked into what I call “passive commitment” or “active engagement.” Passive commitment is when you say you are invested or committed but you wait for things to happen instead of taking action on your own.
Here are 5 ways to build up your active engagement skills:
1. Make conscious commitments and have a plan to back them up
Announce your action, such as, “I am committed to spending more quality time with my family,” or “I am committed to helping others more than I have in the past.”
2. Team up
Surround yourself with others who are actively engaged in what’s important to them. Team up with a friend, colleague, life partner or business partner. It is easier to be committed when you are working toward something together that you all care about.
3. Let your actions do the talking
Your actions, language and body language all reflect your engagement. Follow through on your conscious commitments.
4. Balance expectations
Make a schedule to invest the necessary time and energy to be engaged in what’s important in your life. Balance your abilities to meet others’ expectations as well as your own.
5. Regularly evaluate your commitments
Do you have too many or not the right ones? It can be difficult to maintain momentum if you are unhappy or if you feel that what you are investing in is not accomplishing the desired results.
Take time out to examine the situation and adjust as needed. The good news about building skills in the area of engaged commitment is that they apply to any endeavor you care about: relationships, work, family, health and community.
So now is the time to take the first step. Determine what’s important to you, commit to those people or actions and engage to become a better, happier you.
Stacy Kaiser is an editor at large for Live Happy.