Commitment is, of course, at the heart of leadership. It is through commitment that we can carry out challenging tasks to term; it is through commitment that we can overcome all sorts of adversities; it is through commitment that we make it to the finish line. However, as much as we ask of ourselves, our teams and colleagues to increase levels of commitment, we must be aware that “unhealthy” commitment can often be an unexpected pitfall.
What is “unhealthy” commitment? To me “unhealthy” commitment is a behavior or a state of being where we hold on so hard and tight to achieving the goals we set, that we lose our ability to be flexible. We lose our perspectives and our ability to adapt to the changes around us. It could be changes that open us to new opportunities or new threats. Yet, regardless of whether they are opportunities or threats when our commitment is unhealthy, we are unable to respond because we remain blinded by what we are committed to.
Unhealthy commitment can also lead to personalizing the goal to “me” as a person. It becomes an axis of identification. This leads us once more to lose perspective and see everything as a measure of our person. If we succeed, it is more likely to go to our head; if we fail, it is more likely to equally go to our head.
Letting Go of Commitment
The most powerful commitment is when we can be deeply committed and also able to let it go if need be. We are so committed to what we are hoping to achieve that should someone else come along that would do a better job than us, we would be willing to hand over the reins, without any kind emotional issues.
The best way I can illustrate it and also keep it in mind for myself through my work, is as follows. Assuming our goals are a package. The more committed we are to it, the heavier the package would be. If we have “unhealthy” commitment to it those goals, it is equivalent to carrying the package on our “own” back without support from anyone else and carry it up a hill somewhere. Whereas if we are committed without being attached, it would be like carrying the package in water. So no matter how heavy it is, we can carry it. We can pass it to another easily, and we are not drained, tired and out of breath from moving this package. Next time you feel that your package is heavy, check whether you are going uphill with it on your back or if you are instead in a pool with your team and colleagues.