4 Ways to Avoid Commitment Traps in 2015


We are inundated with success stories. We feel the pressure to  overachieve.  As we begin 2015,  we transfer that pressure into laundry lists of  goals and end up making unconscious commitments. By the time March rolls around, getting  out of  bed becomes a daily struggle, certain phone calls  are left unanswered…you know what I am talking about . Just because you are not excited about those projects anymore. Next  thing you know, its   December and  now you have a laundry  list of  goals  has morphed into  long rant of shoulda-coulda-wouldas.

I know. I think  my friends  would say  that at some point in my life I was  the poster-child for  flaking out on so  many  commitments.  Over the last year,  I have  committed  myself to  minimalistic lifestyle. No more McStuff! Ok. I am not saying that I want to be some of a hermit.  But I am want to get more out of  life  by  focusing on the essentials. I want more experiences and  memories that  bring me inner  joy , peace and love   and  not  just accumulating stuff.   The only way that I have been able to start on this path   is by using the magic word ” NO”. 

So reading Greg McKeown’s  book,  Essentialism: The  Disciplined Pursuit of Less  could not have been more timely.  If  you are an INFP like me, you  are probably having a hard  time  making use of that magic word especially after you  have already committed to something. Mr. McKeown  says that  we should beware of the endowment effect:   If you  feel that  you own something you will have a sense of obligation  towards it.

So  here are Greg’s remedies:

Pretend you don’t own it yet

Ask yourself:

  • What if I was not part of this venture or project, would I still want to get involved?
  • If I did not own this item, how much would I pay to obtain it?
  • How will I feel if I miss out on this opportunity?
  • How much would I be willing to sacrifice in order to obtain it?
  • If I wasn’t already involved in this project how would hard I work to get on it?

Get a  neutral opinion from someone whose is not  emotionally involved in the situation and unaffected by the choice you make. This will give you the permission to stop forcing something that is clearly not working out

Get over the fear of waste (and FOMO):   Since we were children, we were taught to never waste anything especially food. We have carried that into adulthood and cannot bear the thought of abandoning anything especially after investing time and energy (read: blood, sweat and tears).   We feel that the  psychological sunk costs are too high for us to let go of the  investments.  However, the more  we stick to those commitments, the more resources we are wasting. It  is better to severe ties  sooner rather than later.

Stop the casual commitments: You know those  what I  am talking about. Someone tells you  about a million shilling idea and you quickly jump  on the bandwagon thinking  you  need a piece of the action.  A few weeks down the  line, you lose interest  in the project or you become overwhelmed  with  other more urgent items on your to-do list.  This  year, simply pause  before giving a  response to any sort of request. Ask for a 24 hour allowance to enable to think about it before responding. In the event that you get entangled, simply apologise for making commitments you didn’t really realise what they would entail.

Bonus: STOP flaking out! (Alexandra Franzen)

Run a reverse pilot: A few years ago, when the mobile phone industry in Kenya was  still in its formative years, one of my mentors noted that he was reaching a lot to people in his personal network. So he decided to stop calling everyone. Well, except the most important people like his immediate family to  see who really care about. For him, it was a litmus test to see who  really cared about it. In a similar fashion, Claire Ortiz-Diaz  declared  twitter  bankruptcy by  unfollowing E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E.  One of the reasons that she cites here, is  that    probably  interests  change over time, which  to be totally honest,  is  pretty part of  human  nature.

Greg McKeown says, ” By quietly eliminating or at least scaling back on an activity for a few days or weeks you might be able to assess whether it is really making a difference or whether no one really cares”.



Related links:

99 ways to say NO  (Claire Ortiz-Diaz)

How to let purpose find you (Umair Haque -HBR)

Photo Credits: Unsplash|Liane Metzler| Chris Sardgena

This entry was posted in Books, Career, Personal, Reflections and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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