The Role of Commitments in Balance


OVER-Commitment & OVER-whelm

When I look around at my too-busy friends, I think to myself, “Never again. I don’t want to go back there.” That “there,” is an OVER-loaded, OVER-whelmed and OVER-committed life. It’s feeling constantly tired, behind schedule and often simply inadequate. I was “there” once to the point of crash and burn, and I swore I’d never even get close to be that OVER again.

Yet, I do. Get close, that is. Far too close. I somehow let myself get OVER-committed all too easily, leading to OVER-whelm. My focus then gravitates to a to-do list and away from relationships. Projects become more important than people.

Yes, all to often, I find myself “there,” and asking, “How did I get here… again? How did I once again get so out of balance by becoming again OVER-committed and OVER-whelmed yet again?”

The Heart of Commitments

The heart of making commitments involves doing what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it, right? Making a commitment involves pledging or promising, obligating yourself, to someone or something. When you commit, you bind yourself; you promise you’re going to do something, usually under a reasonable time frame.

But OVER-commitment leads to broken promises and missed deadlines. It leads to disappointment and letting others down and perhaps even to low self-esteem with the realization of failure to keep promises.

Commitment Trends

Approaches to commitments seem to be following one of three trends these days. Many people just don’t fully make commitments anymore; instead, they contribute but can’t be fully counted on regularly. Others OVER-commit and see no problem with not meeting commitments or just partially meeting most commitments. Do you fall into either of these trends?

Another trend involves feeling trapped in OVER-commitment. This involves basically keeping commitments but often missing deadlines and never having the time for anything anywhere near excellence but instead settling too often for “good enough.”

Feeling trapped in OVER-commitment, often accompanied by its cousin OVER-whelm, involves a high level of stress from the never-ending to do list and the complete lack of any time to truly rest. Letting go of commitments seems impossible because doing so involves letting others down, saying the word “no.” At the same time, the pace of OVER-commitment is simply too much to sustain.

How do commitments impact balance?

Commitments provide one gauge of the existence or absence of balance in our lives. Too few commitments results in boredom and idleness, maybe even feelings of insignificance and unimportance, while too many commitments result in lack of consistency and settling for less than your best. Both extremes lack balance, both fail in effectiveness.

Instead, perhaps an approach to commitments with the goal of effectiveness may be what we need to reach and maintain balance. When I find myself “there” – in an out-of-balance state – that stressful place of OVER-whelm again, my focus is more on efficiency instead of effectiveness. In other words, I’m looking to accomplish as much as I can as quickly as I can and not looking much at whether I’m doing what’s most important. I’m not considering what activity makes my life the most effective.

Moving from Efficient to Effective

Somehow, focusing on effectiveness, on how my time is best spent rather than on how much can I get done, keeps OVER-commitment and OVER-whelm at bay. But how do we know the best way to spend our time?

The answer to that question, my friends, is truly at the heart of living a life of effective commitments that lead to balance. How do you think a person can move from a focus on mere efficiency to one of effectiveness?

Let’s figure this out together and help each other keep from going “there” again… to that place of OVER-commitment and OVER-whelm. I don’t much like it there.

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6 Replies to “The Role of Commitments in Balance”

  1. Efficiency is the ideal of "getting by", whereas effectiveness is the ideal of "making a difference". At least that is how I would address the difference. Efficiency indicates the need to sacrifice something to accommodate everything you have accepted to do. Effective indicates you have sacrificed and pruned away those things that are marginal at best commitments and focus upon what is most important. I understand what "OVER-load" can feel like, but like the pack mule, when "OVER-loaded", stop until the load is lightened so the mule can be more effective delivering what he or she is committed to handle. Prioritize: ask, if I had to choose, would I choose to do this as most important – which "thing" will lead to making the greater difference without sacrificing valued relationships, including first and foremost time with God and family? The moment you tread upon your time and commitment to God and family, you are in "OVER-load!" Saying "NO, thanks!" is an appropriate response that frees you from feeling obligated. Efficiency is work done out of obligation, effectiveness is work done out of genuine desire for making a difference. (Oh yeah, taking a retreat helps see your commitments from a distance to identify your effectiveness.)

    1. A pack mule is a great visual example, Coach. I see efficiency as a focus on the numbers and effectiveness as a focus on depth and quality. Commitment to God and family are the crucibles for sure; they provide the universal approach for avoiding overload. I'm thinking of taking a writing retreat… not sure how to make it happen though. Praying about it.

  2. This makes me think about Christ's comment about not wanting us lukewarm. I think when we over commit we end up being lukewarm in doing the things we have stretched ourselves across. We cover them but not very good. It does no one any good when we are not able to throw ourselves totally into our commitments. Disappointment reigns in our souls and also in the people who are depending on our contribution we committed too.
    Do a few things really well is so much better than trying to contribute across the board a little here and a little there because it ends up meaning very little.

    1. Great connection with Scripture. This is definitely way we get lukewarm, but it's one we can't and won't see if we don't slow down and take the time to consider our commitments. Not only is doing a few things with excellence better with regard to quality and effectiveness, it feels great too. When I'm in that zone, I know that God is directing my steps, and I don't want to be in any other place.

  3. It may seem strange, since my life is one where I get to ride along and yet I find myself feeling over committed because our weekends are so short and there is so much to do and so many people vying for our attention. When the week does not go well because of things beyond our control it is easy to then become over stressed and that can carry over to the weekend. I find that I HAVE to draw close to God when I begin to feel that way and I can get back in balance, even though things may not have changed.

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