I was recently talking with a friend, laughing hysterically at her description of a post-surgery re-introduction to using the bathroom (I’m sure it was funnier in the telling than the experience). Besides voicing a heightened appreciation for things we typically take for granted, my friend ended the story with “I wonder if my husband knew when he was saying ‘in sickness and in health, for better or for worse’ that this is what it would someday come to.”
Some commitments – like pledging to join our lives to a partner’s in marriage – we make with a lot of forethought (ideally), and an air of ceremony that lends weight to the fact that a commitment has been made.
Others – like pledging never to drink again after waking up with a head that makes us long for the release that death would bring – have a shorter shelf life. That’s because it isn’t forethought and a careful weighing of the pros and cons that inspires these latter commitments, they are instead driven by whatever motivation is available in the present moment.
The key difference between motivation and commitment is that one is dynamic and subject to change when conditions change, while the other is a statement of – well, commitment, regardless of conditions. Motivation says: “I want to, I need to, I’ll try, I really should…” Commitment says: “I will.”
This is a discussion that comes up a lot as I work with people who are struggling to let go of addictive attachments in their lives. Before getting to the place where there’s no desire to use food or sex or alcohol (or whatever else) to buffer feelings, there are inevitably times when we feel like acting out (or merely numbing out), and are faced with making the choice to stick to our commitment not to.
So what and whom are you committed to? In good times and in bad, when it’s easy and when it’s hard, when you’re motivated and when you’re not.