Freedom vs. Commitment

Why sometimes it’s needed to be committed to an external constraint in order to achieve greatness

I’ve just ended a long month of basically not doing anything, and not being committed to anything, but myself. It’s no wonder that I didn’t achieve much in this period of time and didn’t feel I was making any progress, although I wanted to. To be precise, I was mostly focused on immediate goals like having fun, meet friends, rest, but not on long-term goals like learning new things or writing about things I wanted to write about (there’s well-written coding crash-course for designers, just waiting to be written by me). Magically, as soon as I finished my long vacation and started working, my mind switched to FOCUS mode, and I started learning new things, as I was getting payed for this time. Oh wait, I am! So, is that why I was so focused? Because I had a boss and needed to prove myself?

Well, yeah.

As any other procrastinator, I too have less accountability for myself than for someone else. “Sure, tomorrow I’ll learn all there is to know about Axure in order to build better wireframes” said past-me, every day, for a month (until my 30 days trial ended). But, when I was told at work that I need to be an expert in Axure, I attacked this goal immediately and got the hang of it pretty quick.

Why, oh why do I need an external factor in order to get shit done? I think it has something to do with being in a comfort zone. When you’re your own boss, you can’t really disappoint yourself or be mad at yourself for not doing something (well, basically you can, but not like an employer). I’m continuously searching for ways to be more committed to my own schedule and being more strict, and It’ll take time and effort to make it happen.

It is shown, in many examples, that being committed to an external factor, makes you more devoted to the task. In Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational”, Dan Ariely Shows how the grades of a class were reverse correlated to the freedom they had with their deadlines — The more their deadlines were strict, the better the grades were.

I’ve seen this in action, several times during the last couple of years — I’ve built my portfolio, from scratch, as part of Hacking UI’s portfolio contest, I (as I said before) learned a lot and much faster in work than by myself, and probably the best example — I started my blog because I was committed to The Side Project Accelerator (Also by the awesome Hacking UI).

How to commit?

It’s pretty easy. Find your goal, and then make the best excuse for doing it. It can be a contest (like a portfolio contest, a photography contest, a hackathon, etc.), a job (commit to a deadline for something you know you’ll learn along the way how to do it), a course (you don’t want to waste your money achieving nothing!), or a pinky promise with a friend! (seriously, don’t underestimate a pinky promise).

Here’s an idea!

I’m always planning on attending the 30-days writing challenge, where you write every day, no matter what. If you want to commit to one of your goals, sign up for the newsletter in this form and we’ll be commitment-buddies. I’ll report my challenge results to you, and you to me. How’s that?

Let's make a pinky promise!

Sign up for the newsletter and I'll send you a mail within a day, max. We'll then talk about our own personal challenges and get devoted to each challenge. When you sign up you'll get a weekly mail with a new post, and some cool stuff from around the web. Of course, no spam will ever be sent.

(If you’re already signed up for the newsletter just reply to one of my mails and tell me you want to participate)

To sum it up

It kinda sucks that most of the times we can’t prevent ourselves from being committed to ourselves. But, maybe if we know that we’re not the best at it, we can find a way to make ourselves committed in other available ways. The bottom line will be that we managed to achieve this long awaited goal. It’s worth a shot, isn’t it?

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