Don’t just care – take care

Commitment is sustained action to take care of something, so do just it

Like many of us, I care about a lot of things. But I don’t always take care of them. Only the latter counts. The crucial difference between the two? Action.

If I say I care about financial security but don’t take care of my finances, then what’s the point? Apathy can weigh on your mind like an anchor. Like a broken promise. So commitment is sustained action to take care of something.

The worst kind of unkept promise is one made to yourself. You learn to not trust yourself and this self-doubt can sabotage future intentions, creating a negative spiral. The good news? Making and keeping small promises to yourself can have an increasingly positive impact. Confidence and trust in yourself grows as you accomplish the smallest of goals and you begin to believe bigger ones are possible.

I abandoned “making” New Year resolutions years ago, and it wasn’t just because I rarely keep them. There seems an artificialness about the entire process. Why should the Earth’s revolution of the Sun determine the right time for us to commit? I understand why we might view each new year as a blank canvas. But why not every day or every week?


At any time, and all the time, we should evaluate options and make decisions about what to do, and by implication what we’re not going to do. Many of us decide by default or by reacting. Yet we seem surprised when we realise we’ve neglected things that are important to us.

If we don’t decide, we make the decision to let someone else decide for us

Goals are not the end point. They are only the beginning of the process of making and keeping a commitment.

To accomplish anything, the only thing that matters is sustained action. Everything else we talk about in relation to goals – motivation, confidence, planning and measurement are just means to get to action.

The difference between intention and outcome is action.

Any goal is just a signpost on the road, to give us direction and motivation. But we should not feel defined by our achievement of goals, but by our commitment in pursuit of it.

Two sides of the same coin

So what is commitment? Commitment is not just making the initial promise. It’s sustained action through difficult challenges. It’s a demonstration of character enabled by the emotional connection to a higher purpose. It’s not the wedding day, it’s the marriage.

Like Northsiders need Southsiders and vice versa, commitment is defined by challenge and vice versa. You can’t have one without the other. So when we commit to achieving a goal, we should embrace the very thing, challenge, we are guaranteed to encounter as a sign we are making progress.

Think of someone you know who is committed. What is it they have, what do they demonstrate?

They’re on a mission – they are emotionally connected to the outcome. They’ve prioritised and made the trade-off, typically sacrificing short-term for long-term gain. Yet they get satisfaction right now from that sense of purpose. Scientific studies are beginning to show how happiness can be viewed as a combination of pleasure and purpose. Committed people have a plan. Finally, most crucially they’ve started!

Baby steps to big dreams

When struggle inevitably comes, they shuffle on. Challenge and commitment, struggle and shuffle. Decide the next action. Do it. Repeat. Baby steps to big dreams.

While nobody is watching, they keep moving, perhaps slowly but always forward. “Suddenly” they’re an overnight success. That’s commitment.

Here are the steps to move towards a calmer mind by committing to your goals.


Our mind hates loose ends. Anything we’re considering doing is a loose end. So we should either do it or park it. So just the act of writing it down and making a conscious decision to start (or not to) will give us peace of mind.

Capture everything you want to accomplish. Consider all areas of your life, eg career, adventure, learning, relationships, social contribution, health and so on. Nothing is off the table. Go nuts! Your goals should be big, bold and scary. Don’t be intimidated. You’re going to translate them into small promises next time.


If you’ve done this right, there will be far too much for you to do. Be glad that you have so much to choose from. Imagine the opposite.

The next step is to order them. You can do this by putting a unique score on each one. Which are the most important? You are consciously saying, at this point in your life, that one thing is more or less important than another, and you are fine with that. If you’re not then change it.

I didn’t make my bed this morning. I could say I didn’t have the time. But if you’d offered me 10 grand I’d have made the time and the bed. Everything has a value.

Prioritise (pick or park)

Now, time to get real, and consider everything that’s on your plate.

You often hear people talk about having multiple priorities. This is the myth of multi-tasking. Did you know the word priority was originally only singular?

At any single moment, you can only do one thing. In a broader sense, prioritisation is a discipline. It involves evaluating the relative importance all the things you could do and making a very clear trade-off to pick what you will do and park what you might do.

Prioritisation involves saying “No” to some things to enable a big “Yes!” to others.

So finally, take that ordered list and pick your top goals. Park the others so you can steer the essential ones to success.

Start less finish more.

Remember, you cannot steer a parked car. Next week, we’ll turn goals into real action.

James Parnell is the founder of The WellBeing Gym which provides offline and online workplace wellness, performance and innovation programmes and personal life design coaching;