Commitment: Prison or Liberator?

Commitment: Prison or Liberator?

“There is no abiding success without commitment”

Tony Robbins

As we begin February, and New Year’s Resolutions become merely something we’ll do again next year, maybe it’s time to ask, what’s so hard about commitment?  Decide to do something and then deliver. Why do we all find that so difficult?

The word commitment commonly has two definitions. Firstly, it’s dedication to a cause or activity, devotion, & loyalty. This paints a positive picture of commitment with qualities we all value. However the second definition, which is the one we most commonly associate with commitment, is far more negative:  an obligation that restricts freedom of action, duty, burden and pressure. Look at it this way and commitment becomes a prison, something taking the very thing we prize most – our freedom.

I spent a large part of my life committed to be being non-committal. I was the classic free spirit, never committing to a relationship, job or place. I’d do something until I got bored or until something better came along. And if the going got tough, I’d pack up and move on. And I used to justify this as being the right way to live because I was free. Life was fun, exciting, and easy. But was it really?

When I look back on that time now it actually doesn’t seem like it was all that easy, in fact I was the queen of “it’s complicated”. I would lurch from one time-consuming drama to the next, repeating the same patterns over and over. I never mastered anything, and so was always starting from scratch.  And how many of my choices were free? Very few I suspect. Most were driven by deep seated insecurities and a desire to be seen as cool or by the need to run-away when the going got tough.

In my late 30s I finally committed to a relationship. There was a lot of resistance initially but as time passed the idea seemed to grow on me. At the same time I also began fully committing to my yoga practice, rather than just using it when things started to fall apart. And I found that commitment has a habit of growing. From small beginnings I began to live a more committed life, adopting a daily yoga practice, committing to eating healthily, and of course committing to my students by being the best yoga teacher I can be.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am by no means living the conventional life. I still have a spirit that likes to do its own thing and that has an insatiable wanderlust. But I have learned that commitment is a paradox; whilst commitment and discipline appear to be a prison they are in fact one of the keys to real freedom.

For example, by being committed to eating healthily I enjoy good health that allows me to live life generally free from illness. I’m no longer a slave to the sugar rush or that compulsion to overeat. I have shed my addictions & realised there wasn’t much freedom in being addicted to cigarettes or that daily bottle of wine. Being in a committed relationship, I have worked through a lot of deep-seated issues and now, rather being a prisoner to repeated subconscious patterns of behaviour, I am in a supportive situation with someone who’s there for me and who has given me the stability to really spread my wings and live. And my yoga practice has allowed me to discover who I really am so that the choices I make are less controlled by external sources like the media or marketing. I am less at the whim of my emotions or neuroses, and more in touch with my authentic self. Moreover I enjoy experience now as a way to let my spirit soar, rather than an addiction to excitement as a means of feeling alive.

Commitment then for me has become the first definition; a dedication to me and to living an amazing life. Choose your commitments wisely. And realise that when we make a commitment, life will challenge us – without a test commitment cannot become strong. Watch when your commitment is challenged; it will tell you a lot about yourself and the ways you self-sabotage.  And remember commitment starts with you; don’t blame other people when it goes wrong. Recognise your issues and deal with them and you will find that far from being a dirty word, commitment is the key to real change for the better.

Commitment: Prison or Liberator?