[Revisiting] Five levels of commitment

I first shared this note two years ago. I’d like to revisit it today.

My coach and friend Jennifer Manning taught me about the five levels of commitment. Everything you could possibly care about falls into one of these levels:

  1. I’m committed. . .
  2. I’m committed unless. . .
  3. I’m trying. . .
  4. I’m wishing, wanting, and hoping. . .
  5. I don’t care. . .

At the top of the list are the things you are unequivocally committed to. For me, this list includes my family and my friends.

Then there’s committed unless. These are things I care about, but not at the expense of the things I am fully committed to. My job falls into this category. I am committed to it, but if an emergency comes up with my family or friends, work is going to have to wait. Writing Do Better Work fell into this category too. I was committed to it, but not at the expense of my relationship with my wife.

Then there’s trying. For me, this area is a wasteland of things I say I care about but dedicate little time and energy to. I’m trying to be a better singer, but I practice infrequently. I’m trying to cut down on single-use plastics, but I still use a lot of them.

Next is wishing, wanting, and hoping. I’m wishing and wanting and hoping for more people to have access to affordable healthcare, but I don’t have a real plan for how I can make an impact there, and I’m not taking any week-to-week or month-to-month action to make it happen.

Lastly, there are the things I don’t care about, like following the lives of celebrities or the trends of fashion. These things do not even remotely stir my soul, and I don’t pretend they do.

I highly encourage you to sketch out your own version of this. If you are like me, there will be a lot of things you don’t care about at the bottom, and there will be far fewer things you are committed to at the top.

Going through this exercise forced me to contemplate and order my life—to ask questions like, What am I committed to? Where am I trying in vain, and why? What aspects of my life deserve to be upgraded from “I’m trying” to some level of commitment? Where am I spending time on things that I don’t care about, and why am I doing that?

As I get a clearer view of what I care about, it becomes easier to schedule and order my life—to say no to the things that don’t mean anything to me and yes to the things that do.


This is Max’s note—an every-so-often message from Lessonly’s CEO about learning, leadership, and Better Work. Sign up below to subscribe via email. No spam, we promise!

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