The Power of 100% Commitment
As mentioned in my article on Setting Your Personal Compass, business coaches tell us the Number 1 reason 50-80% of small businesses fail in the first 5 years of operation is not cash flow, not production issues, not staffing, but commitment.
Of course there are multiple headwinds a business owner must face when starting out, but it is the failure of small business owners to commit 100% to their business that is the main reason their business doesn’t succeed.
Nothing less than 100% commitment will do the job. Not 50% commitment, not 75% commitment, not even 98% commitment. Only 100% commitment to the business will make the difference between being in that 50-80% of businesses that fail, or being in the 20-50% of businesses that will still be around in 5 years’ time and thriving.
The same is true for the dreams you have for the future and the goals you set. Your success depends on how committed you are, and only 100% commitment will do the job.
Not 50% commitment, not 75% commitment, not even 98% commitment.
Only 100% commitment to your dreams and goals will make the difference between failing and disappointment, or successful accomplishment and enjoying the fruits of your work.
The parable of The Chicken and the Pig illustrates the difference between being fully committed to the success of something and having an interest or investment in it.
Two friends, a pig and a chicken, wanted to go into partnership with each other and start a business. They discussed many options and settled on starting a cafe, where they would focus on breakfast meals.
The pig agreed that he would provide the bacon, and the chicken agreed that she would provide the eggs.
Both were important to the production of the breakfast meals, but the business failed because only the pig was 100% committed to its success, whereas the chicken only had a vested interest.
For the pig, there was no other option but for the venture to succeed. For the chicken, however, the success of the venture was neither here nor there.
So, how much of yourself are you putting into the fulfillment of your dreams? How much of yourself are you committing to your success? Are you like the pig, fully committed, or are you more like the chicken, with just a vested interest?
Committing to Your Future Self
It’s interesting to note that it’s actually easier to be fully 100% committed to something than, say, being only 98% committed.
Clayton Christensen, a former Harvard Business School professor, put it this way:
“It’s easier to hold your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold them 98 percent of the time.”
Let’s use two imaginary characters, Jack and Jill, to illustrate this point. In this story, Jack and Jill don’t need to climb a hill to fetch a pail of water, but they do want to eat healthier and lose a few winter kilograms for the upcoming summer.
Each decides on a healthy eating plan that they hope will achieve the results they’re looking for. Jill decides on eating a lot more vegetables and salads, while Jack says he’ll cut down on red meat and limit the amount of beer he’s been drinking.
Both diets will work if they commit to them and are disciplined in their eating habits. There’s one big difference, however: Jill is 100% committed to her diet, whereas Jack is only 98% committed.
Jill has invested her whole self into the outcome, Jack not quite all.
Days 1-5 of their new diet go reasonably to plan. Jill is eating more salads and vegetables, and Jack has substituted chicken for red meat and has even cut down on his beer drinking in the evenings.
However, the weekend approaches and they have been invited out for a Saturday evening barbeque by one of Jack’s friends. The smell of barbequing T-bone steaks and burger patties greets them as they arrive at the house and begin to mingle with the other guests.
Jack’s friend greets him with a slap on his back and thrusts a cold can of beer in his hands, saying, “What’ll it be, Jack, T-bone or burger?”
Jack wavers a moment before replying, thinking to himself that it probably doesn’t matter this one time if he doesn’t follow his diet.
“I’ll have a T-bone, thanks,” Jack says while taking a sip from the beer can, then adds, “medium rare, please.”
Jill raises her eyebrows, and says, “What would your future self want you to do, Jack?”
Jack just shrugs and has another sip of beer. Jill shakes her head as she makes her way to the salad table, leaving Jack to face the consequences of his decisions.
What this story shows is something social psychologists have recognised since before the turn of the Century, that events and situations often have greater influence over our behaviour than our desires.
This is why many addicts return to their addiction after rehab if they go back to the environment in which they were using drugs or smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol. They return to unhealthy habits in unhealthy environments.
The pull of our environment is often stronger than the pull of our willpower.
Are You Jack Or Jill?
In our story of Jack and Jill, Jack is suffering from decision fatigue, which saps his willpower to stick to his diet.
Because he has only committed himself 98% to eating less red meat and drinking less beer, he has opened the door to the odd occasion where he can break his own rules.
Instead of slamming the door shut to those occasions, as Jill has, he is constantly questioning whether he should or shouldn’t allow himself to eat red meat or to have another beer.
Jack has not yet learned to make a decision and then forget about it.
Should Jack encounter another situation where he is put in the spotlight to weigh what he should or shouldn’t do, his willpower will most likely weaken further because the whole ‘should I, shouldn’t I?’ decision-making process is mentally tiring and, if it goes on for long enough, mentally exhausting.
When this happens, it’s much easier to give in to the situation than to keep fighting your mental battles. Then, like Jack, you justify your capitulation by claiming it doesn’t really matter, or that you’ve done so well up until this moment you deserve a break.
This is why, as Professor Christensen said, it’s much easier to be 100% committed to your principles than to be 98% committed to them. You don’t suffer the mental exhaustion.
You don’t suffer the decision-fatigue. You don’t allow the situation to overpower your willpower.
Because he is only partially committed to his new diet, Jack hasn’t prepared himself for future scenarios where his resolve will be tested.
He hasn’t future paced himself, whereby he knows what outcome he wants or the behaviour required to persevere with his new eating plan.
Unlike Jill, who has worked through the outcome she wants in her mind for such occasions, Jack is only considering his present needs and makes decisions based on what his current self wants.
Jill, though, often projects herself to the future she wants and considers how her future self would want to remember her current actions and behaviours and decisions.
She constantly asks herself the same question she posed earlier to Jack: “What would my future self want me to do?”
Jack doesn’t do these things and therefore lacks the confidence and willpower he needs to adhere to his diet.
So it’s no wonder he fails. He is kept from his goals not from external obstacles, but from internal obstacles created through his failure to commit 100% to his diet.
Jill, on the other hand, has cleared her path to her goal through being 100% committed. She doesn’t have the mental obstacles blocking her way because she can predict what she is going to do in future situations and knows the decisions she is going to make.
Because of her total commitment, Jill is able to persevere where Jack eventually gives up.
Being 100% committed to something is the ability to make a decision and then forgetting about it.
That means set and forget. Like cement.
Being only 98% committed, Jack’s decisions aren’t yet set. They’re like wet cement, with no real form or strength. He can’t build on them.
Jill’s decisions, on the other hand, are set. Being 100% committed, they are like hard cement, with defined shape and great strength, something upon which she can build and be confident will stand the test of time.
To help solidify your decision-making process, consider the 7 Life Segments and the goals you might have set for each of them:
The 7 Life Segments
- Family & Relationships: e.g. more time with your family, volunteering in your community, supporting your friends
- Career & Work: e.g. work/life balance, improving your skills, doing more than what’s asked
- Money & Finances: e.g. paying off your mortgage, starting a business, saving for retirement
- Health & Wellbeing: e.g. improving your fitness, working on your gratitude, having more peace of mind
- Learning & Education: e.g. learning a language or musical instrument, attending DIY courses, reading more books
- Fun & Adventure: e.g. reconnecting with nature, taking holidays, smiling more
- Spirituality & Ethics (or Morals & Religion): e.g. being more mindful, focussing on big picture thinking, being more honest
Now consider your commitment to these goals. Are you Jack or Jill? Are you 98% or 100% committed to them?
Because, as you now know, the level of your commitment will determine the level of your achievement.