The Heartbreaking Effects of Being Only Partly Committed to Most Things

Finding true commitment takes practice, determination, and the honesty to see how you affect those around you
December 10, 2020 Updated: December 10, 2020

If we’re absolutely honest with ourselves, most of us are only half-committed to most things—in many cases, much less than half-committed.

We say that we’re going to change our diet, but are we fully committed? Do we make a meal plan and buy the groceries and clear out the junk food and set time in our calendar to prep meals for the week and change our habit of eating out much of the time?

Do we feel so committed in our hearts that we’d bet our lives on it?

We make a commitment at work (to our team, client, partner) but we don’t fully show up. We get distracted, we procrastinate, we are only half in it much of the time. We do the same thing to the people we love—we’re only half there for them.

How often do we show up fully, with deep commitment?

This isn’t about blaming or shaming, not about being judgmental or criticizing ourselves. This is about getting clear on whether we’re fully committed to anything, and getting very clear on the effects of that in our lives.

How often do we let others down, not showing up as we promised we would, not delivering as we promised we would? How often do we let ourselves down? How often do we stay on our phones when our loved ones are craving our attention?

And how does it affect those around us, and ourselves, and our work in the world?

It’s heartbreaking.

We lose trust in ourselves. We beat ourselves up for failing again and create a negative self-image that affects everything.

We form the habit of shrinking away from scary and difficult things. We stay in our comfort zones and play a smaller game.

We lose the trust of others, and break their hearts. They still hope we’ll be fully there for them.

We come across as flaky, wishy-washy, late for things, untrustworthy. This leaves others to depend on us, with a feeling of not being safe or able to relax. We, in turn, feel hurt by their not being able to trust us.

We never feel the joy of showing up powerfully in the world, of being incredibly committed, of deepening into that commitment.

Again, this is nothing to feel shameful or guilty about, or beat ourselves up about. It’s about letting our hearts be broken by how we let others down and let ourselves down. It’s about creating a commitment to show up fully in the world, powerfully, with full dedication.

How do we do that? It’s a practice:

  1. Start by pausing and realizing that you need to check your commitment level.
  2. Look into your heart and ask whether you really want to commit to this. Do you feel a strong desire to commit to this? Does it feel right? Do you have space and energy in your life to uphold this commitment?
  3. Ask yourself, “Would I bet $10,000 on being able to fulfill this commitment? If not, why not?” Of course, there can be things completely out of your control (a natural disaster, illness, death in the family), but barring those things, would you be willing to bet your home or your life on this commitment?
  4. If you are fully committed, then take action now. Commitment comes from action: Tell somebody about it and ask them to hold your commitment. Put a stake in the ground and skin in the game. Tell the world. Make a plan. Take the next step. Create an environment where you won’t fail. Set up reminders. Do whatever it takes, so that you won’t let yourself or others down.
  5. And by the way, start this only with small commitments at first, if you’re practicing. Nothing too big. An easily achievable commitment that you’re fully committed to, where you would bet your life on it. For example, “I promise myself that I’m going to walk to the end of this block, no matter what.” Then, do it. After a while, build trust by doing harder and harder commitments.
  6. Then, do whatever it takes to never break a promise to yourself again, and to always show up as fully as you can.

Can you deepen into this practice, dropping shame and self-judgment but shifting how you show up?

Leo Babauta is the author of six books, the writer of Zen Habits, a blog with over 2 million subscribers, and the creator of several online programs to help you master your habits. Visit