In the beginning everyone is enthusiastic about this idea. People love to join the initial meet-ups, the fiery discussions about how we can change the world and formulate grand ideas. Be it about bringing mindfulness into politics or forming an empowering women’s network, initially people are so inspired and and enriched and hopeful. Does that sound familiar?
What happens next: a lot of these initiatives turn out to be a waste of time and a source of deep frustration. No matter whether I was kicking-off and hosting the meetings or just needed to show-up and contribute a little tiny thing from time to time, I observed the same thing: a waning level of meeting participation, people not delivering what they themselves offered and an increasing level of frustration on all sides. Especially from people who are hosting/organizing the context for everyone else being left with excuses and smaller number of participants or from the ones, who are always there, because they said so. So many people want to change the world but when it comes down to the specific “doing” part they can’t pursue and fulfill their commitment? I have a hard time, more and more, taking people seriously who can’t do that.
But new forms of organizations – necessary to bring about system change – that work as platforms, communities, networks, eco-systems do not function in the paradigm of carrot and stick and hierarchy but depend purely on commitment. Actually, this is all there is. All you have is people’s word. All you are is your word. And most people who want to change the world don’t want or even can do this in a corporate hierarchy and power asymmetry – but then they can’t deal with this level of freedom based on mutual commitment. Are you reliable? Do you deliver because you said so and not because someone else forces you? Do you understand that just because the commitment is voluntary and not tied to immediate stick or carrot is of utmost important. It is the social glue and the source of energy a network/initiative/idea functions with.
I thought about, why commitment is so hard to keep and endure and why it wanes over time. Here are some ideas:
Shift of priorities
I feel people tend to be interested in the first place, but then, when the practical unsexy part of getting things done and showing up kicks-in, the interest fades. Priorities are reshifting to something with immediate gratification
We are so distracted. Everyday another great idea and invitation comes in and we love the idea of the idea more than the actual reality of manifesting an idea. Something new and seemingly more sexy comes in and off we go.
Lack of grit
Unfortunately many people lack grit, the willingness and ability to stick with something they committed to in the first place as soon as it gets a little uncomfortable. Maybe obstacles showed up, first conflicts in the group, difficult decision making processes, loss of vision. It is so easy to turn away to something new. The problem is, that ultimately nothing ever gets done and everything is just a waste of time and energy.
Lack of respect and appreciation for others (and oneself)
Other people are organizing the event that you don’t show up to? So what. It is their problem.. This is an increasing illness of simply not respecting the effort, energy and time other people invest to get something going. Even if others do 99% and you have only to contribute 1% this doesn’t mean you will.
Mistake “Voluntary” with “Arbitrary”
People think just because they are voluntary (means not paid and not forced) part of something it actually doesn’t matter how they behave. They feel they are allowed to not think of commitments, e.g. Time Commitments, as something that actually matters. When they say: “Yes” to something what they really mean is “yes, if nothing more important/interesting/fun gets in the way”.
The problem with this is the following:
- Less and less gets done
- People lose interest in doing and contributing
- The integrity of the project and the people involved is at stake.
Personal Integrity is the only way out and it stands on (at least) 3 pillars:
1. Radical Commitment.
Radical Commitment means unconditional commitment: yes, without crossed fingers behind the back. Doesn’t mean I will always ever be able to keep my word, but if I don’t, I take the full responsibility: by letting people know, delivering later, giving my best to make it happen, ask others to step in for me.
2. Radical (Self) Responsibility
Means, that I am fully responsible for my own commitments and to keep them. Full Stop.
3. Radical (Self)Respect
Radical Respect this means that I fully respect and appreciate what other people do. It means that I don’t think like other people and what they do actually doesn’t really matter for me. It means that I stick to my deadlines and keep my promises so other people can fulfill their promises too. As we are interbeings my own malbehaviour has immediate impact on the world around me and far beyond.
I will hold people in my surroundings accountable, otherwise I will ask them to please get out of my way and stop stealing my time, my attention, my benevolence and unconditional support.