I just listened to a part of a sermon by Bishop TD Jakes via the podcast Motivate on Spotify and the topic of the day was commitment. Bishop TD Jakes challenged his congregation to think about where they would be if they fully committed to their goals or if they fully committed to something. This is a good question.
10,000 Hours Rule
There is a “rule” popularized in the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert at something. The findings, which were originally performed by K. Anders Ericsson, indicate that this equates to about four hours of deliberate practice a day for 10 years. I think without knowing this, most of us know that to truly grow in whatever field we’re interested in it takes time and dedication, but we don’t have a good sense of what that truly looks like.
In addition, to be dedicated is not just about devoting time and effort to said practice, but it’s also weathering any setbacks, any troubles, the struggles and the like. You can be dedicated to something when everything is going well, but what about when you have obstacles? To be committed to something is to persist, despite the struggles. To be successful one must also have grit.
Think about your past. How committed were you really to doing well in school? How committed were you to that sport you played? That instrument you picked up? That side business? That relationship? How committed were you to it, really?
The Four Burners Theory
When you focus on one thing though that means you’re sacrificing something else. James Clear eloquently discusses this dilemma with the Four Burners Theory. The theory states that there are four major areas of your life: family, friends, health, and work. To be successful, you have to cut off one of your burners and to be really successful you to turn off two. It becomes important to know what to devote your time to. How do you choose what to commit to though?
How to Make a Decision
Begin with the end in mind. I think that’s the most important guide to making important decisions. Identify, what you’ll want to have accomplished 50, 30, 10, 5, 1 years from now and choose paths that align with those goals. You make decisions based on the available information at the time and adjust once new information is learned. You research what actions are most likely to get you to reach your goal and follow those steps. Then, you have a little bit more confidence that what you’re thinking about doing is something that you should be fully committed to doing.
Then, on a more granular level, say, on a day-to-day basis, we should make choices based on the available data that we have. Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke provides a good framework for this. This simply being to think about your decisions in terms of probability. Decide on the option that has a higher likelihood of occurring. If things don’t turn out the way you expect, still feel content that you made the best decision, but understand that few things are 100% guaranteed. Roll two dice enough times, you’ll get snake eyes.
As time passes, you should reflect on your progress and assess if what you’re doing is working. What are reasonable time-frames to expect certain progress points? What are the measurable outcomes? So maybe one month in six months in a year in two years, five years.
If you don’t have the knowledge of the markers of progress or the necessary markers of progress, that’s when you should be reaching out to others who have experienced this. Read articles or books on the subject. Talk to mentors and your peers.
Commitment Requires Sacrifice
So, when we’re coming up with these goals and ideas for ourselves we have to understand that maybe at this point in time I can really only focus on two of these things fully. And these other things will probably be neglected. I think we have to understand that, accept it and communicate that to the people in our lives.
Reflecting on our lives, we can recognize some of these natural shifts. Nowadays, a lot of people spend their 20s building their careers, delaying marriage and delaying having kids. Then, in their late 20s, early 30s people are concerned about settling down and building a family.
Ultimately, to reach high levels of success require commitment and sacrifice. If you fully committed to something, what would you have achieved? What would you have sacrificed? What is success worth to you?