Have You Really Committed?

A diving experience I had in Iceland recently made me consider the importance of fully committing.

The Silfra Tectonic Fissure is a unique phenomenon with some of the clearest water in the world, which has taken 300 years to filter through into this gap between the American and Eurasian continental plates (you can touch two continents at the same time!).

But the water is chilly. In fact, the water temperature is 2-4°Celsius/35-39°Fahrenheit all year around. Of course, I wore a drysuit but my hands and face were still exposed.

One person had travelled thousands of miles to have this diving experience but didn't know if they wanted to be that cold. As she floated on the surface, the indecision was clear. "I will try it for a moment and see if I can handle it," she said to the expedition leader. Of course, slowly lowering your face into near freezing water isn't pleasant and she immediately returned to dry land and missed out on the spectacular views. (For diving enthusiasts, visibility is more than 100 metres!)

The initial shock soon wears off. Body temperature adjusts. Experience teaches you not to move hands too fast so that water trapped in the neoprene gloves can warm up. The amazing underwater vista more than compensates the initial pain. But you have to commit.

When I lived in Ohio in the 1990s, I reflected about the impact of commitment on performance. Sometimes I'd observe people who thought they wanted to follow a path of action but couldn't fully commit. In pondering this, I was deeply affected by the following thoughts from an oft-quoted German writer and statesman.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: "Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now."

In other words, press forward. Have faith. If you have an idea, see if it will live by giving it some intense attention. Take away the safety net that seems sensible but may soothe you into not quite committing. If you're going to fail, fail faster and then commit to the next iteration.

As we often teach people to present using the Rule of Three, I have tried to capture my thoughts in the following phrase:

Do it. Do it now. Do it until it is done.

This is what separates people who have ideas (we all do) from entrepreneurs. When a good idea comes along, they know the only way to see if it is a great idea is to commit time, energy and other resources to it. If it turns out not to be a great idea, they move on and pour their commitment into the next big thing.

What can you learn from this?


Co-founder of training firm, Mission International Ltd, Justin is a sought after coach, teacher and trainer. Justin delivers interactive workshops globally for corporate and not-for-profit organizations. This includes team development, leadership and communications training for Europe's best business school, HEC Paris, Invesco and VMware.

He has collaborated on significant published research in the field of human systems. Justin counsels with senior executives at organizations including the ...

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