Commitment: "This may sound too simple…"

One of my favorite quotes1 is from a book by Scottish mountain climber, W.H. Murray:2

‘But when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money–booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.3 Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!’

Commitment is making a decision, then making choices that support that decision.

A personal example:

I made a commitment to my wife to have a healthy marriage for the rest of our lives. That means I will choose to do some things because they bring us together, and that I will forgo some things that I might want but are likely to push us apart. That also means I am very careful to reserve physical and emotional intimacy for her alone.

A professional example:

I made a commitment to make iOS development a major component of my work. That means even though I have many interests, I choose to spend much of my creative time growing as an iOS developer, keeping up with topics that advance that goal, and avoiding too much dabbling with cool things that do not.

Make a commitment you can keep

I believe there is a purpose to my life, and I have life goals built on that purpose. By having some fairly clear life goals, I can make better decisions about which commitments to make. If you don’t have any idea what you want from life, even short-term, then you will be hard pressed to make commitments that you can keep.

When you make a new commitment, it must compete with your existing commitments for time or money. If there is not enough to do it all, you will have to decide between them. The harder you work to convince yourself that you *can* do it all, the more likely that you are only deceiving yourself. Worthwhile endeavors should stretch you, but sometimes that means making the hard decision to drop something else.

Sometimes the conflict is more basic and a new commitment is at cross purposes to your other goals. If you try to do it anyway, you will pile up stress along an underground fault in your psyche. Eventually, something will trigger a quake, and your goals or your commitment will break, leaving you disheartened.

The answer to all of these conflicts is straightforward:

You need to choose–it is that simple.

But “simple” does not imply “easy”. If you are having difficulty choosing, enlist the help of those with experience and wisdom who know you well and care about you.

Once you make a commitment that is consistent with your other goals, you must weave it into the fabric of your life.

  • You will need to be deliberate about creating new habits that reinforce that commitment and breaking habits that deter from it.
  • If you are doing this alone, find others who will hold you accountable or check on your progress fairly regularly (I use Twitter for this).
  • Devote some of your most productive and clear-thinking time towards thinking, designing, and developing your project.
  • Be willing to sacrifice short-term comfort to achieve something that will last.
  • Take concrete steps to renew your vision when your passion wanes.
  • If constant comfort or instant gratification is your life goal, then almost any commitment you might want to make will be in conflict with it.

One last piece of advice. Do not become so focused on your project that you let your personal relationships break down, for people are far more important than things.

As an Indie, one of the best things you can do to find like-minded developers that will provide encouragement and motivation while pursuing a commitment. A great collection of indie iOS developers have helped me stay on track, most of them are either developers associated with iDevBlogADay, or those I have met through the 360iDev conferences. If you can make it to Austin in November, I highly recommend it for it’s content, the friendships you’ll develop, and the passion it will bring to your iOS development.

Also, here is a little more information about me, Doug Sjoquist, and how I came to my current place in life. You should follow me on twitter and subscribe to my blog. Have a great day!

1. Over the years, this quote has incorrectly been attributed to Goethe.
2. When you consider Murray’s life and the circumstances under which he wrote his book, this passage reveals much about the man’s character.
3. Emphasis mine.