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Posted on Jan 20, 2017

2 Types Of Commitment. Are You Asking For The Right One?

2 Types Of Commitment. Are You Asking For The Right One?

On February 6, 2017, Elizabeth II will celebrate 65 years as The Queen and Head of the Commonwealth. Looking back over her long reign, few could disagree that she has demonstrated complete commitment to her role and responsibilities as Queen.

Queen-Elizabeth-IINow, some might argue, “She was born into this role. She had no choice.” To this I would say, “She’s always had a choice. Every day she has chosen to fulfill her commitments.”

Regardless of circumstances of birth, wealth, health, education, or talent, when it comes to commitment everyone makes a choice.

Consider Elizabeth’s uncle, Edward VIII, who was destined to become King from birth. He reigned for less than a year and then abdicated his role as King. Instead of choosing to fulfill his duties and commit to the responsibilities associated with the role, he chose to marry Wallis Simpson (an American who had divorced her first husband and was seeking a divorce from her second); something Edward knew conflicted with his status as the head of the Church of England.

Why do some embrace their responsibilities with an all-embracing commitment, while others appear to weigh them on a scale and at a certain point choose to bail out?

I’ve come to realize that there are two different types of commitment:

  1. All-in commitment
  2. Scaled commitment

To hold ourselves properly accountable, we need to understand which one we’re making. The same applies to holding others accountable. We need to understand which type of commitment we’re asking them to make.

All-In Commitment

For some types of commitment, it’s like flipping a switch. We’re All-In. When this type of commitment is turned on, it stays on. Forever.

Young mother having fun with her daughterSome examples of All-In Commitments include:

  • A parent who would do anything to protect their child, including giving up their own life.
  • A soul making a vow to God to serve Him only.
  • A married couple that embraces their wedding vow, “until death do us part”.
  • A king, queen or ruler accepting the full responsibility to reign and govern, according to the laws of the land.
  • An animal lover that would invest whatever it takes to preserve the life of the animal.
  • An entrepreneur that willing gives up everything to see their dream become a reality.
  • An artist that continues to work on a specific piece until it’s done, even if it takes many years (i.e. Michelangelo taking four years to finish painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel).

Out of all these examples, one of the easiest to grasp is the parent who would do anything to protect their child. The reason is simple: it’s based on love.

Love is the strongest motivator to flip the switch for an All-In Commitment.

This is the type of commitment most people think of when they talk about commitments. But there’s a different type of commitment that is actually more common.

Scaled Commitment

For most things in life, we commit to doing something until there’s a reason to stop doing it.

Scale with pointer on a blue backgroundSome common examples include:

  • Work. Many go to work and do their job as long as they get paid. Others may quit when it becomes impossible to tolerate. Some may choose to switch to a different department or get a job at a different company (or start their own). A few might choose to do something to change the environment by seeking a higher position of authority (which means the level of commitment to the company is higher than the commitment to the job or immediate boss).
  • School. Many commit to going to school until they reached a specific milestone. Others quit when it gets too hard (and see a major failure coming). Some may choose to switch schools (which brings into question the level of commitment to the school). A few may choose to stop going because they need to help generate income for the family (which means the level of commitment to family is higher than commitment to school).
  • Hobbies. Many enjoy starting a new project or hobby (e.g. writing, painting, playing sports, etc.) and continue until the project (or season) is done. Others may quit when they can’t see an end or it’s not fun anymore. Some may choose to switch to a different project or hobby when roadblocks appear or is no longer fun. A few might choose to change the environment or parameters to ensure they complete the project/hobby, even engaging others to help (which means the level of commitment to finishing is higher than the commitment to the actual project/hobby).
  • Friends. Many hang out with a circle of friends as long as they’re having fun. But when the fun is gone, some will choose to abandon the old circle and seek a new circle of friends. Others will choose to expand the circle with additional friends. A few will choose to find new things to do to reignite the fun in the circle of friends (which means the level of commitment to the friends is higher than commitment to specific activities).

The best way to think of a Scaled Commitment is to view it as a scale from 1 to 10, where 1=Low and 10=High. For example, using the following 10-point scale, ask yourself, “How would I rate my level of commitment to my job?

1               2               3               4               5               6               7               8               9               10

Now, imagine your response to this question is only a “4”. The next question is “What does your boss believe your level of commitment to be?”

If your boss believes you’re at an “8” but you’re really only a “4”, there is a high risk for serious conflict in the future. For instance, if you were asked to work overtime (for no extra money) or take on additional responsibilities (for nominal extra pay), you would likely feel serious pressure to look for another job. If you then found a new job and left the company, don’t be surprised if your old boss is shocked and refuses to give you a letter of recommendation. This occurs (often) because of a difference in a shared understanding on the level of commitment.

A Scaled Commitment works as long as there is a common understanding on the level of commitment and what might cause it to break.

This concept applies to everything in life; from the organizations we join; to personal projects; to all our relationships.

A Commitment Shift

One area of modern life that reveals the existence of these two different types of commitment – and how they compete – is in marriage. Not only have societal views on marriage changed, it has shifted from one type of commitment to the other.

Wedding-ringsIn the past (and still today), a traditional Christian wedding vow includes the words, “until death do us part.” This was (and still is) a clear indication that an All-In Commitment was being requested and made. It’s this type of commitment that enables couples to reach incredible milestones of 50 and 60+ years of marriage.

Yet, many couples today find this kind of commitment too constricting, so they chose to shift to a Scaled Commitment. In such cases, the couple might change the wedding vow to reflect the theme of the song, Till The Love Runs Out. Here, a couple remains committed to each other as long as BOTH their commitment scores remain fairly high. But when the commitment level drops for whatever reason – on either side – the marriage is at risk.

The biggest problem occurs when one party assumes one type of commitment (All-In), but the other party believes it’s a different type (Scaled). This has serious negative consequences for a marriage, as well as all other types of relationships.

So, to avoid future conflicts, maybe it’s time to assess all of your commitments – both those you’ve made and those you expect from others – and ensure everyone is asking for the right kind of commitment.

Here are a few questions to consider:

If it’s a Scaled Commitment, what level is it, and what do others assume it is?

If it’s an All-In Commitment, are you fully prepared to follow through, no matter what?

Do others understand, appreciate, and support the type of commitment (and score) you’re making?

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