I remember back when I was a young boy in fifth grade and how I yearned for a new 10-speed bicycle. Boy, was it a beauty; metal-flake green paint with racing tires and a black leather saddle. The problem was it was a hundred bucks, which was a lot of money for a ten-year old kid back then. But that didn’t stop me. I had to have that bike. So I did anything and everything I could to earn money. There was no way I was not going to own that bike. There were times when I thought about quitting, and sometimes those thoughts almost won-out. Work, or go the movies with my friends, play baseball, or just watch Saturday morning cartoons? What kept me going was a mental picture of that bike beneath me as I was riding around the neighborhood – the ultimate definition of freedom for a ten year old! I’ll never forget how excited I was buying the bike and bringing it home, and how proud I was as I rode it down my street.

I’m sure you can recall a similar time when you were determined to accomplish something meaningful to you, and were willing to do whatever it took to make it happen. That’s an example of commitment. A commitment is a personal promise that you make with yourself. Keeping your promises with others builds strong relationships. Keeping self promises builds character and esteem. The dictionary defines commitment as “The state of being bound emotionally or intellectually to some course of action.” That’s the important part; the personal connection to what you will get when you fulfill your commitment.

We all know intuitively that commitment is fundamental to effective execution and high performance. And yet many of us fall short of our commitments on a regular basis. It seems that when things get difficult we find “reasons” to focus on other activities. Often our interest wanes when things get tough. There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you only do it when circumstances permit. But, when you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results. When we commit to something, we do things that we would not ordinarily do. The question of “if” goes away and the only question is how. Commitment is powerful, and yet there are times when all of us struggle to commit. Here a four keys to successful commitment:

Four Keys to Successful Commitment

1.  STRONG DESIRE – In order to fully commit to something you will need a clear and personally compelling reason. Without a strong desire you will struggle when the implementation gets difficult. With that compelling desire however, “insurmountable” obstacles are seen as challenges to be met. The end result that you are striving for needs to be meaningful enough to you to get you through the hard times and keep you on track.

2. KEYSTONE ACTION – Once you have an intense desire to accomplish something you then need to identify the core actions that will produce the result you’re after. In today’s world, many of us have become spectators, rather than participants. We must remember that it’s what we do that counts.  

In any endeavor there are numerous activities to accomplishing an effort. In most cases there are a few core activities that account for the majority of the results, and in some cases there is one, perhaps two, keystone actions that ultimately produce the result. It is critical that you identify the one or two keystone and focus on them.

3. COUNT THE COSTS – Commitments require sacrifice. In any effort there are benefits and costs. Too often we claim we desire something without considering the costs. Costs are the hardships that you will have to endure to accomplish your desire. Costs can include time, money, risk, uncertainty, loss of comfort, etc. Identifying the costs allows you to consciously choose whether or not you are willing to pay that price. It is extremely helpful when you are in the middle of one of the costs to recognize that you anticipated this and decided it was all worth it.

4. ACT ON COMMITMENTS NOT FEELINGS – There will be times when you won’t feel like doing the critical activities. We’ve all been there, getting out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to jog in the winter cold can be daunting, especially when you’re in a toasty warm bed. It is during these times that you will need to learn to act on your commitments not your feelings. If not, you will never build any momentum and will be continually starting over, or as is so often the case, giving up. Learning to do the things you know you need to do regardless of how you feel is a core discipline for success.

Many times commitments are made more arduous by the time frame in which the commitment is made. It is difficult to commit to anything for a lifetime. Even keeping a promise for an entire year can be challenging. With the 12 Week Year you are not asked to make lifetime or even annual commitments, but rather 12 week commitments. It is much more feasible to establish and keep a commitment for 12 weeks than to keep it for twelve months. At the end of the twelve weeks you reassess your commitments and begin again.

Our commitments ultimately shape our lives. They support sound marriages, create lasting relationships, drive our results, and they help build our character. Making and keeping commitments start a constructive process that is self-reinforcing and empowering.

New York Times best-selling author of “The 12 Week Year,” Brian P. Moran speaks to groups around the globe on leadership. For more information, visit www.BrianPMoran.com.