Stay Motivated Through Healthy and Sustainable Commitments


image"You can do anything, but not everything.”Anonymous

How do you stay motivated?  How do you keep a sustainable pace?

Do you passionately take on challenges or do you try to do just enough to get by? 

To produce great results, you need a healthy commitment.  A healthy commitment is performance-enhancing, while an unhealthy commitment drains you. 

In Overachievement: The New Science of Working Less to Accomplish More, John Eliot, Ph.D. writes about the distinction between a healthy and unhealthy commitment.

The Right Kind of Dedication

Healthy commitment is not about going all out all of the time in all areas of your life.  You have to figure out where you want to separate yourself from the pack.

Eliot writes the following:

"Dedication is necessary to success, yes.  But it must be the right kind of dedication.  If you’ve got lofty, creative, vivid dreams that you want to turn into reality, you must also be abnormal in the way that you view commitment. 

It doesn’t mean going top speed in every aspect of your life, day and night.  Making great stuff happen is not about multitasking or sheer effort.  You must make choices about the areas where you most want to separate yourself from the pack. 

When people buy into the demonstration of work ethic, throwing themselves into everything, the result is halfhearted commitment in too many areas.  To be committed to everything is to be committed to nothing."

Single-minded Passion for What You Do

When you have a genuine commitment, it helps wake you out of bed in the morning.

Eliot writes the following:

"The kind of commitment I find among the best performers across virtually every field is a single-minded passion for what they do, an unwavering desire for excellence in the way they think and the way they work. 

Genuine commitment is what launches you out of bed in the morning, and through your day with a spring in your step."

Healthy Commitment is Sustainable and Performance Enhancing

Eliot considers "healthy" commitment to be sustainable and performance enhancing.

Here are some examples of the attributes of healthy commitments:

  • Being passionate
  • Striving for excellence
  • Earning it
  • Finding a way to win
  • Loving the extra mile
  • Chasing a dream
  • Doing it for yourself
  • Focusing on successes
  • Feeling dedication
  • Being intense
  • Being optimistic
  • Playing
  • Going for it
  • Expressing freedom
  • The stuff of dreams; doesn’t feel like work

Unhealthy Commitment

Eliot considers what traditionally passes for commitment to be "unhealthy".

Here are some examples:

  • Having a Spartan ideal
  • Striving for perfection
  • Sacrificing
  • Paying the price
  • Forcing an extra mile
  • Always focusing on mistakes
  • Delaying gratification
  • Always working
  • Neurotic, OCD
  • Logging in the hours
  • Being pessimistic
  • Covering your bases
  • Preventing failure
  • Taking responsibility
  • Can work, but isn’t fulfilling

Lack of Commitment

Eliot provides examples to show what a lack of commitment looks like:

  • Being an occasional player
  • Being victim to obstacle
  • Making things easy
  • Giving in to frustration
  • Lacking inner desire
  • Going through the motions
  • Doing just the big things
  • Being lazy
  • Not really wanting it
  • Not sustaining it daily
  • Thinking negatively
  • Making excuses
  • Cheating
  • Blaming others
  • You’ll be at the whim of circumstances

Key Take Aways

Here are my key take aways:

  • Play to your passions.  Commitment without passion is a problem and it’s not sustainable.  Either find the passion in what you do, or go find your passions.  Sometimes you simply need to change your mindset.  See Choose-Tos Over Have-Tos.
  • Enjoy the process.  Don’t just focus on the outcomes.  You can’t play your best game if you are only focused on the scoreboard.  See Process Orientation Over Product Orientation.
  • Focus on excellence.  Anything worth doing is worth doing well.   By focusing on excellence, you bring out the art in what you do.  You also bring out your best and it’s an opportunity for innovation.  Continuous improvement and little distinctions over time are a powerful recipe for results.
  • Be fully engaged.  If you are committed to doing it, then give it your all.  If you can’t give it your all, you need to ask what’s holding you back.
  • Take on big challenges.  Taking on big challenges is how you grow and improve your performance.  It’s the big challenges that keep you fully engaged.  If you aren’t excited by what you do, maybe you haven’t challenged yourself.
  • Focus on successes over failures.  Failures are your lessons.  Focus on your successes and build momentum.

Pick your focus.

Give your best where you have your best to give.


    1. You freak me out with your timely posts!
      Yesterday I was totally de-motivated and felt like I have no more power to lift myself up. Then I searched the web and found great quote

      “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
      – Winston Churchill

      Then I searched more through the Internet and found the role model for how to go on when going through hell

      Notice how calm the guy is? That is the way to do it!

      Now with your post I have prescriptive guidance how to do it

      I am motivated again!


    2. Great to hear!

      I find it ironic too — it’s not that it happens to be relevant, it’s that it happens to be the most relevant post I would have sent you for your scenario.

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