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Commitment: Secret of Success

Aug 17, 2007
"I love the smell of work!"
-William James Orr, age 4

My wife and one of my grandsons were driving past the construction site of a new interstate highway overpass, redolent of excavated earth, diesel fumes, cement, and tar.

Four-year-old William took a deep breath, exhaled, sighed, then made that passionate remark about loving "the smell of work." Then he added, "It's really the smell of dirt. That's why I love to dig!"

I know just what he means for I, too, love the smell of work. For me, though, it is not dirt and diesel fumes, concrete and hot tar. It's the ozone from lots of computer power-supplies at a trade show, or the smells of new and old books-ornamented with a whiff of Starbucks espresso.

I love the smell of work because I love to immerse myself in it, to work with abandon, to throw myself into it.

But as I travel about for my consulting and speaking, I am continually amazed as I meet people who hate their work, who long for Friday, who wish their twenty years were up so that they could "really start to live."

To these embattled souls I bring good news: If you want to, you can enjoy life right now. You need not wait for Friday or the gold watch!

Carpe diem (Latin for "seize the day") has remained a fervent exhortation for millennia because of its wretched alternative: A life of disappointed expectation and regret because of missed opportunities.

Life's paths continually diverge. We must "choose, this day," not only whom we will serve, but how we will serve.

Years ago, a young man wanted to join our consulting firm. After getting to know each other, N'omi told him:

N'omi: "We don't think it will work out."

Man: "Why not? Can you tell me what you have observed about me that makes you think so? I would appreciate any insights."

N'omi: "It's just that you're indecisive; double-minded."

Man: "Well ... yes and no."

He was deeply offended when N'omi laughed out loud.

But what's wrong with being double-minded? As one who spent far too large a portion of his early life in precisely that state, I can tell you with some authority: Lots of things.

For one, it is the opposite of having integrity. You can't be of two minds and also be internally consistent or congruent. If you lack integrity, you are unreliable; you can't trust yourself, and neither can others depend on you.

Another drawback of double-mindedness: It is the opposite of commitment. And lack of commitment is the single greatest cause of failure in every sphere of life. In marriage, to be sure; but also in child-raising, work, starting a business: You will fail at all these if you lack commitment.

Another drawback: If your bets are always hedged, if you are always sitting on the fence, you are missing the joys and the dangers of participation. Living life fully requires engagement; it is not a spectator sport.

"The need for devotion to something outside ourselves is even more profound than the need for companionship. If we are not to go to pieces or wither away, we all must have some purpose in life; for no man can live for himself alone."
- Ross Parmenter, The Doctor and the Cleaning Woman.

But how does someone like me-who seems to have been born always seeing all sides of a matter, and feeling no need to resolve them-avoid double-mindedness? Simply by realizing that fear is usually at the bottom of putting off a decision. And fear is not a good foundation for my life.

So I determine to choose single-mindedness-by taking a stand, forming an opinion, making a choice. It can be done humbly. Indeed, it must be done humbly; arrogance is almost always a screen for a poorly-formed opinion.

Having worked on this since 1973, what keeps me single-minded is understanding the bad consequences of being double-minded, and the rewards of commitment.

Further, every stand taken, every opinion formed, must be held up to the standard of one's own integrity. Every new position taken must be consistent with all the old ones, or it will weaken us terribly.

If we learn something new that calls into question our presuppositions and beliefs, we must process our thoughts until they are all of one piece again-although with perhaps a quite different view of things.

At all costs, we must avoid having different standards in different situations. And when you choose to be single-minded, wonderful things happen:

Concerning all acts of initiative, there is one elementary truth...that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too...A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. - W. H. Murray

Remember: Commitment isn't something you can "try." As Yoda said, "Do or do not. There is no try."

Whatever there is to do, you must do it or not. To do it, you must be it. Are you committed to your spouse? To your marriage? To your life? To your work? Can you keep all these commitments and maintain your integrity?

If not, take action. The fence on which you perch will one day become a razor. Those two horses on which your feet are standing are about to part company, and you cannot prevent them from doing so.

If you don't love the "smell" of your work, quickly find work that you do love-or change your attitude, before the rot of continual compromise destroys your soul.

And guys: If you think something is wrong in your marriage, perhaps it's time for you to reconsider your commitment to being your wife's Hero and taking her for your Coach.

Start now by asking your wife to help you become more coachable. Yay, team!
About the Author
http://AwesomeMarriage.com - Dr. Joel Orr, "The Marriage Fixer," is a world-renowned consultant, speaker, and author. He and his wife, N'omi, have coached married couples for 25 years. His "Every Man a Hero, Every Woman a Coach" (www.everymanahero.com) - is fast becoming a bestseller.
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