Saturday, April 20, 2013


Today is Saturday, April 20, 2013.

What is a commitment?  Some people think it's a type of relationship.  Other people say it is the same as a promise.  Some call the various appointments on their calendar commitments.

Commitment is an agreement or pledge to do something in the future.  As long as it is just words, it's still just a promise.  You can turn your promise into a commitment by setting an intention, making a plan, and following that plan, no matter what obstacles you meet along the way.  A commitment involves action.  It involves integrity (making your actions match your words, thoughts, or beliefs).  It means overcoming obstacles.  It means going forward, even though you may have some doubts.   

One of my friends who helped me learn to drive as an adult often used a phrase that I still hear in my head every so often.  "Commit and go," she would say when I was dithering about making a turn or a lane change.  I had already put my blinker on, and I had already ascertained that it was safe, so what was holding me back?  I had to take action – to make the turn or lane change – when I said I would.  Otherwise I would confuse the other drivers on the road.

As regards intention, I am not talking about the word as used in the saying, "He had good intentions," which is the same as saying, "He means well."  Rather, I'm talking about a clear statement of purpose or goal.  My experience with intentions is that there are various levels of intention.  Some people really do want to get a certain thing done, but they just never get around to it.  They will do it "someday," but as we all know, someday is not today.  Or they say they will do it "in the future."  The problem is that you can never do anything in the future.  You can only take action right now.  I've heard the highest level of intention called "zen intention," probably because the practice of Zen meditation takes a great deal of commitment.

I remember reading the story that was told to illustrate Zen intention.  It was the story of an egg seller who had a farm up in the mountains.  He would come down to a town in the valley to sell his eggs every Tuesday.  One day when he came, he noticed that the town seemed deserted.  He knocked at the door of one of his customers, but the person didn't want to answer the door, and shouted, "Go away!" from behind the closed door. 

When the egg seller asked why, the man told him that there was a war going on.  The egg seller had not been aware of this, his farm being quite isolated. 

The man wouldn't open the door, so the egg seller went away.   None of his other customers bought eggs, that day, either.  But the following Tuesday, he went down to the town and knocked on his customers' doors, even though he could hear shooting going on. 

"Why are you here?" asked the customer?  "Can't you see there is still a war on?"

"But it's Tuesday," said the egg seller, "and I always sell my eggs on Tuesday."  That's Zen intention.

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"Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality," wrote someone whose name we shall never know.  "It is the words that speak boldly of your intentions.  And the actions which speak louder than the words. It is making time when there is none.  Coming through time after time after time, year after year after year.  Commitment is the stuff character is made of; the power to change the face of things.  It is the daily triumph of integrity over skepticism."  The kind of commitment spoken of here demonstrates a high level of intention to meet the goal.

Charles Stanley wrote, "Too many [people] have a commitment of convenience. They'll stay faithful as long as it's safe and doesn't involve risk, rejection, or criticism.  Instead of standing alone in the face of challenge or temptation, they check to see which way their friends are going."   To me, this demonstrates a very low level of intention, because the people Stanley is talking about only seem to be doing something because their friends are doing it.

Marcia Wieder, who styles herself as "America's Dream Coach," says that in order to set an intention, one must have a purpose, or have something to aim at.   She says, that there are four steps to setting an intention.

1. Get clear about what you want and write it down. Not only do you need to know what you want to do, you also need to set a time limit for achieving the goal and write down every step that you need to take in order to get to your goal.  If you're not sure of the later steps, write down the first one, anyway, and add to the list later.
2. Share your intention with someone who will support you.
3. Do something right away to demonstrate your commitment to your intention. This is where intention becomes commitment.  Keep crossing steps off your list.
4. Pat yourself on the back for doing what you said you would and then, take the next step.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen."   But what does that mean?

William H. Murray, author of The Story of Everest, explains: "Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back – always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. 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."  This seems almost too good to be true, but many people, including myself, have found it to be true that when they have a clear goal that they have fully committed to, all kinds of synchronicities occur.  Some may believe that they are just coincidences, but they're not.  The things that happen are the result of the universe responding to their intentions and commitment.  And why not?  If all Creation is energy, then movement of energy in one part of Creation is bound to set off movement in another part.  This  just makes sense.

My goal is to write a blog entry each day for one whole year.  My purpose in doing this is to practice the craft of writing while doing some serious thinking and hopefully achieving some clarity in my life.  My commitment is shown by the daily entries that I have made so far.   I have also started to write a few blog entries in advance, to cope with disruptions in my schedule.  In other words, I am anticipating obstacles and getting around them proactively.

I have other goals that aren't doing so well.  For example, my goal, when I weighted 250 pounds, was to lose 100 pounds, no matter how long that takes.  My purpose in making that goal was to be healthier and to make my body feel better.  To show my commitment, I joined Weight Watchers.  However, I haven't really been as careful with what I eat on a daily basis as I was when I first started.  Sure, I've lost 20 pounds already, but I seem to have hit a plateau.  So now, to show my commitment, I will have to find a way to punch through that plateau.  Today I renew my commitment to healthy eating in general and paying attention to everything that I eat on a daily basis. 

To strengthen and renew my commitment, I need to watch my daily attitudes and moods.  I need to find a way to be proactive about getting past the obstacles of my own making, including mood swings as well as schedule changes.  They've actually been talking about this in the Weight Watchers meetings.  I simply haven't been putting any of their suggestions into practice.  That's the doing aspect of commitment that I lack.  OK, some clarity there. :-)

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