NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Power of Making a Commitment

How wonderful it is to have an inspirational idea or a flash of insight that gives us that heady feeling of elation! That moment when the light bulb burns bright in your brain. Suddenly, you know intuitively what you need to do and you can't wait to get started. But when you think back on the many inspirational ideas and flashes of insight that you've had, how many of them have you brought to fruition? As wonderful as inspirational ideas might be, without the power of commitment, they will remain just fleeting ideas that don't go anywhere.

The Power of Making a Commitment

Whether it's an idea, a relationship, a career path, or a desire for self improvement, in order to succeed at whatever you've chosen to do, you'll need a strong commitment and the will and determination to see it through even when the going gets rough.

Successful People Usually Have the Power of Commitment:
One of the important differences between people who are successful and people who are not, whether it's success in relationships or success in careers (or however you're defining success) is that successful people usually have unshakable will and the power of commitment to do whatever it is that they set out to do. That doesn't mean that they always succeed in everything that they do, but they tend to succeed more often than the people who get easily discouraged and abandon their ideas, relationships or dreams.

Having said that, there are times when you have to reconsider what you might have wanted initially. For instance, if you've decided to that you want to overcome your fear of skiing and you're driving with all due determination to Vermont, but you realize that you're going the wrong way, you'll need to back track or get new directions in order for you to get to where you want to go.

In the same vein, if you've met someone that you think is wonderful and you feel determined to make that relationship work, but you find out that this person isn't trustworthy, sheer determination and commitment won't change what is bound to be an unhealthy relationship. So, determination doesn't mean that you plow ahead stubbornly no matter what.

Have You Noticed Certain Detrimental Patterns in Yourself When It Comes to Making Commitments?
At the same time, if you find that you have a pattern of starting out with enthusiasm and then getting easily discouraged, that's a different matter. The emphasis here is on the word "pattern." It's one thing to change course when it's necessary in certain instances and it's another thing if your tendency is to give up because of fear, frustration or lack of self confidence. A pattern of giving up often exacerbates a fragile sense of confidence, making it more difficult to try the next time.

Fear Can Be a Powerful Obstacle in Following Through with Your Commitments:
Everyone has had to face fear in his or her life. Whether you encounter fear of failure or fear of success or fear of fear, you're bound to encounter some degree of fear when you step outside of your comfort zone, especially with a new relationship, idea or venture. Following through and sticking with it often involves risk which can be frightening. Hopefully, these risks are calculated risks and not rash actions that are not well thought out. But even calculated risks can be frightening.

Having the fear is one thing, but allowing the fear to paralyze you until you're too frozen to move forward is something else.

Successful People Often Feel Confident in Themselves:
Aside from being committed, determined and having a strong will to succeed, successful people usually feel confident in themselves. Even when faced with a crowd of naysayers, they usually feel confident that, despite obstacles, they're going to succeed. (Now, when I say "confident," I don't mean arrogant.) Often, their confidence stems from having a track record of having overcoming many obstacles and succeeding in the past due to the power of their commitment to whatever it is their attempting to do.

The following fictionalized scenario, which does not represent any one person or persons, demonstrates how the power of commitment can make all the difference:

Dan and Jane:
Dan and Jane were both hired on the same day to work as managers in different departments for a medium size consulting firm. Both of them reported to the same director. Both of them were told at the outset that the organization had gone through many changes, morale was low, and that part of their mission in their respective departments was to help employees transition through these organizational changes and to boost morale and productivity.

Both Dan and Jane started out with a lot of enthusiasm and had many ideas on how to improve things in their departments. Each of them met weekly with the director to discuss their plans and how to implement them.

Several months later, they both encountered problems with organizational politics as well as resistance from their employees to new ideas. Both of them were under a lot of stress to turn things around despite the obstacles that they encountered. Both of them worked long hours to revise and modify their plans, in the face of certain obstacles, and they presented these revisions to the director.

They each felt a certain amount of frustration. However, the way that each of them handled his and her frustration was completely different. Whereas both of them started with a lot of enthusiasm, Dan handled his frustration and stress by allowing himself to feel discouraged. Jane, on the other hand, used her frustration and stress to fuel her passion to get the job done. Whereas Dan's confidence began to plummet with each new obstacle that he encountered, Jane was tenacious. She kept forging ahead feeling confident that she would succeed despite the obstacles.

By year end, Dan felt burnt out and discouraged. His confidence was at an all time low. As a result, he scheduled a meeting with his director to talk about resigning. Jane also had a difficult year and she didn't accomplish everything that she hoped to do, but her commitment to the process was so strong that she continued to feel passionate and excited about her work.

When Dan met with his director, the director refused to accept Dan's resignation. The director knew that Dan was a good manager with excellent ideas, but he lacked the power of commitment and the confidence that he needed to see projects through to completion. He talked to Dan about his own experiences with these obstacles early on in his career and how much he was helped by going to therapy to work them out. He recommended that Dan seek help.

Dan was moved by his director's self disclosure and the director's confidence in him. After his talk with the director, Dan felt inspired and motivated to start therapy. Although he did not tell his director this, he knew that throughout his life he would often start out with enthusiasm and drive, but when problems arose, he would allow himself to get easily discouraged and abandon his efforts before completion. He knew that he was not as confident in himself as he would like to be. He also knew that whenever he abandoned his efforts because he felt discouraged, this made him feel worse about himself so it became a vicious cycle. More than anything, Dan wanted to get out of this vicious cycle so he could feel confident and accomplished in his life.

Dan began psychotherapy feeling motivated to change. But as soon as he and his therapist began talking about difficult early childhood issues which were at the root of Dan's problems, he started to feel uncomfortable and less enthusiastic about his therapy. Gradually, he started finding reasons to cancel his sessions. At times, his reasons were legitimate but, more often than not, his reasons were a cover up for avoiding his fear of dealing with these difficult personal issues.

When his therapist pointed out to Dan that he was starting to do the same thing in therapy that he did in the rest of his life when he felt fearful, frustrated or discouraged, Dan recognized that his therapist was right. He also recognized that fear was a powerful obstacle in deterring him from completing many goals in his life as well as from staying in relationships that had some problems but were otherwise healthy relationships.

As Dan continued in therapy, he and his therapist worked on how Dan could move through his fear without letting it stop him. He realized that successful people often have fears, but they move forward anyway without allowing their fears to paralyze them. More than anything, he wanted to learn how to do this for himself too. With help from his therapist, he learned to manage his fear and stress level through mindfulness meditation, yoga, working out at the gym, continuing to talk about it and learn new tools in his psychotherapy sessions.

Throughout this process, whenever he felt tempted to leave therapy, Dan dealt with his fear directly rather than allowing himself to make excuses around it. In doing this, he renewed his commitment to his therapy and to overcoming his problems. His renewed commitment allowed him to get through the difficult times in therapy. Seeing that he could get through the difficult times gave him more confidence that he could overcome his personal obstacles.

Within a few months, Dan was on an upward spiral. Not only was he more open and motivated in his therapy, but he also felt renewed energy, motivation and commitment at work. When he met with his director, the director commented on noticing the changes in Dan and told him to keep up the good work.

Within the next year, Dan got involved with a woman that he really cared about a lot. When he recognized the first signs of his feeling discouraged and less committed when relatively minor problems developed, he knew that he was encountering his lifelong pattern with relationships, and he was able to work through this in his therapy. Rather than allowing fear to immobilize him or cause him to leave the relationship precipitously, he stuck it out and renewed his commitment to the relationship, which proved to be instrumental in working out their problems.

The reasons why people lose their sense of commitment are as varied as the people themselves. There is no one-size fits all solution or "magic bullet." And, as previously mentioned, the power of commitment doesn't always mean that you succeed in everything that you do. But, when you feel committed and passionate, you're more likely to succeed in the long run.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you recognize in yourself a pattern of abandoning your commitments, you owe it to yourself and to your loved ones to overcome this problem. Working through this type of problem is not always easy, but it often makes for a more rewarding and fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many clients to overcome their fears about making commitments so that they can lead more fulfilling lives.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist 

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.