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I read a self-help guru today say that “your results reflect your commitment, period.”

How nice it must be to live a world that simple.

This is one of the big problems I have with the self-help movement today. For as much as I love the field— indeed, I would never have gotten into psychology without the self-help movement— it tends toward simplistic formulae and answers to problems that don’t acknowledge or deal with the complexity and unpredictability of life.

And why would self-help WANT to deal with the complexity and unpredictability of life, anyway? Simple, broad solutions sell more books and tapes and seminars.

Unfortunately, however, the truth is that life IS complex.

Life IS unpredictable.

Life CANNOT be adequately dealt with broad strokes that don’t acknowledge its complexity and unpredictability.

In my view, the role of therapists, sponsors, and teachers is NOT to give you simple answers that are applicable in every situation. Rather, our role is to help people accept, deal with, and cope with the fact that life is complex. It’s difficult. There are no clear cut solutions.

Life is hacking our way through wilderness.

Are our results partially a reflection of our commitment? I suppose, sure. Really committing to goals does impact the probability we’ll achieve them.
Does total commitment GUARANTEE a result? Sorry, I’m afraid not.

There’s more to it than just committing to a goal.

There’s luck.

There’s the weather.

There’s the level of energy and focus you might have on any given day. Even the healthiest, best conditioned people with the best nutrition and fitness regimens available are going to have days when they feel more vibrant and energized than others; and days when they feel sluggish and sleepy. It happens.

Then there are all the variables other people insert into the mix.

Sometimes there will be people who will appear in your path, seemingly for the explicit purpose of blocking you from achieving your goal.

Likewise, there will be people who will unexpectedly appear in your path who will help you along your journey, whose presence you couldn’t have possibly predicted or prepared for.

There are factors that impact our results like mental illness. Like trauma. Like the balance or imbalance of neurotransmitters in our brains on any given day. You cannot overcome the massive influence these factors exert on your journey simply by “committing” to your goals.

Be smart. Be realistic. Know that “commitment” may be a very important factor in your success…but it is only one factor.

How do we deal with the fact that life is complex and unpredictable, that we’re not totally in control of our own destiny?

Not by giving up or becoming discouraged. We deal with these facts by cultivating the trait of flexibility, and by realistically acknowledging that we’re going to have some days that are better than others, that we’re going to achieve some of our results and not others.

The idea that our “commitment” is the only thing that impacts our results is a childish fantasy.

There are gurus who will ask you to pay them a great deal of money so they can enable and nurture this childish fantasy.

These gurus are not your friends.

Understand: focus, commitment, and persistence are invaluable tools. It is absolutely the case that to cultivate these tools is to dramatically improve your odds of achieving your goals. I’ve written over and over and over again about how we cannot control many factors in our success, and this is the very reason we have to take control over those factors we CAN control— factors like “commitment.”

It’s a good thing to be “committed” to our goals.

But if we get it in our heads that our results are a reflection of our level of “commitment,” and nothing else, then we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment and discouragement when things don’t go our way.

Live in the real world with me.

Embrace a more useful, more realistic view of what makes for success.

Don’t be tempted to buy into the simplistic fantasies peddled by people who have little to no training or credentials in behavioral science.

You’ve got this.

 

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2 thoughts on “Your results reflect your commitment…and a lot of other stuff.

  1. Just what I needed to read today — now to quit reading and get doing! I may not succeed, but I will get a lot closer to my goal if I work hard and smart toward it.

    Like

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