Unconscious Commitments and Following Through in Life
Do you have trouble following through on promises you make to yourself? Maybe you're committed to getting in shape but just can't seem to make it to the gym consistently. Or maybe you're trying to eat healthier but you keep reaching for that junk food. Being able to stick to your goals is not always about having more discipline and willpower.
We start each day having a finite amount of energy and other resources, such as time - to spend on all the different things we want to do that day. And when we make a commitment to something, we're essentially promising to spend energy towards it. The more energy we spend - the more committed to that thing we are.
Because of this, it's important to recognize that we're always committed to something. If we think we're committed to something but aren't following through - it just means we're actually committed to something else.
For example, maybe you decided to commit to eating healthier because you want to have more energy and vitality to spend time with your kids - but you end up going out to fast food a lot or reaching for that junk food at home.
Or maybe you committed to working on that side hustle of yours every day so that you can hopefully one day leave that 9-5 office job you hate, but you end up prioritizing hanging out with friends or binging on Netflix over making any meaningful progress towards building that dream business.
These are examples of conscious commitments that we weren't able to honor and follow through on. But why was that? Were we lacking in willpower or self-discipline? Maybe we just weren't committed enough?
In reality, it has nothing to do willpower or discipline. Instead it has to do with our unconscious commitments.
Remember, it's impossible to not be committed to anything. We are always committed to spending our energy on something. But whether we're aware of what we're committing our energy to - is a totally different story.
Unconscious commitments are things we never explicitly promised ourselves to spend our energy on - but at some point unconsciously committed to them. They reside in our subconscious mind.
They can include core values and beliefs that we hold in our lives. And our actions are always a reflection of them. That's why we sometimes can confuse even ourselves when we behave in certain ways!
The "problem" with this is that our unconscious commitments aren't always benign or good for us. In fact, they can sometimes be downright toxic.
For example, you might be unconsciously committed to believing that you're fundamentally flawed and unlovable - or that you'll never be able to create a happy and fulfilling life on your own terms.
It's important to become aware of your unconscious commitments because they're the reason you're unable to follow through on your conscious commitments. And when we're unable to keep the promises we make to ourselves, we can start to lose trust in ourselves and experience feelings of self-betrayal.
A common scenario I've come across in my coaching practice is when clients work in highly structured corporate jobs - but their unconscious commitment is to a sense of freedom - so their jobs don't offer the sense of freedom they crave. Because of this, without exception, they feel restricted and their energy drained. Or they may even experience a vague lack of fulfillment.
In any case, many of them actually end up sabotaging their jobs - both in direct and indirect ways. From always being late to having conflict with managers to delivering uninspired, mediocre work. What typically happened with my clients was that they would get fired from their jobs - or they would quit before it got to that point and ultimately run the same pattern again at another company.
This was because they weren't aware of their subconscious commitment to freedom. Because they weren't aware - they didn't make the right choices when choosing their jobs or sometimes even their careers in the first place. They were doomed for failure at those jobs from the very beginning.
When we are not aware of our unconscious commitments, our actions often don't align with our words. And as a result, we feel out of integrity.
And the same goes for our earlier example of wanting to eat healthier but not being able to follow through. It can feel like we're just not committed enough, or don't have the discipline or willpower. But what we have to recognize is that we are committed - we're just unconsciously committed to something else that's not in alignment with eating healthier.
So while we can consciously commit to eating healthier, if we're unconsciously committed to - for example - never feeling uncomfortable, and we use junk food as a way to avoid having to sit with uncomfortable emotions - we will never be able to follow through on that conscious commitment.
And so, we see yet another example of how we must become aware of our subconscious commitments. Because if we don't - life will be full of the same challenges and lessons repeating themselves over and over again. That's because our actions will always reflect our commitments - whether they're conscious or not. And our unconscious commitments are the ones that take priority in our lives - just because we've had them longer. They are what feel comfortable and familiar.
And our unconscious commitments can spill out into all different areas of our lives. For example, if someone is using junk food as a way to bypass avoiding feeling uncomfortable emotions - that same commitment to avoiding discomfort probably shows up in other aspects of their lives - besides just their eating habits.
You don’t have to be a slave to these unconscious commitments.
- The first step is to just become aware of them. If you have trouble tapping into what they may be - it can be helpful to identify a time when you've broken a promise to yourself. Those are usually great "entry points" of discovery because they typically signal an unconscious commitment working against a conscious commitment.
- Once you've identified an unconscious commitment - decide whether it's one you want to keep or not. Not all unconscious commitments are bad. But if they're unconscious, we want to make them conscious so that you can come from a place of choice - of empowerment. And if we consciously choose a commitment - we want to see if there are any changes we need to make in our lives to more fully align with that commitment.
- And if you decide you do NOT want to commit to a previously held unconscious commitment, understand WHY you no longer want to commit to it. And then decide what is your new commitment going to be instead? What changes do you need to make in your life to align your actions with this new commitment? By doing so - we invite a greater level of flow and ease into our lives because we're no longer fighting against ourselves. Because, as you've likely experienced yourself - it can be quite painful to have our unconscious commitments have us going one way and our conscious commitments going another way.
Bringing awareness to our unconscious commitments helps to empower us by allowing us to live life from a place of conscious choice. It helps us to be able to follow through on goals and promises we set for ourselves - so that we can continue to grow and go after the life we want.
In a future blog post, we will talk about self-sabotage. When we are not steadily moving in the direction we know we want, we can be certain that we're sabotaging ourselves somewhere. It'll help you to begin bringing awareness and understanding to the patterns and behaviors that may be enabling this in your life.