My wife and I are working with a number of people who are trying to change for the better. Their goal is to become more productive, draw closer to God and get to the point where they can help others. Many of them are fighting addictions.
Improvement is only possible through change. As we help them to change, we give them commitments to keep. Those commitments include associating with people who will lift them, reading, evaluating, changing habits and praying. Even with the best of intentions, some continue to stumble, but stumbling is OK if they get up and continue forward.
Most of our societal problems are the result of people following the mantra of the 1970’s, “If it feels good, do it.” Some were never taught or they consistently chose to avoid anything that required effort, sacrifice or self-restraint. Following the path of least resistance led them to a life of mediocrity or to the dark world of addictions
Commitment issues are not exclusive to overcoming addictions. Many people avoid doing difficult things and have suffered the consequences. Common commitment problems include homework, chores, marriage, diets, job assignments, money management, exercise and charitable kindness.
Steps to help others make and keep commitments
- Explain what they are supposed to do, in detail. They need to understand the commitment before they can keep it.
- Challenge them to commit to the task. If they have questions, answer all of the questions and challenge them again.
- Ask them to repeat what they are committing to do. Many times people will say they understand but it will become obvious if they don’t as they try to express the commitment.
- Describe the benefits of keeping the commitment. Most people want to know the benefit of change before they are willing to pay the price.
- Tell them how keeping the commitment has helped you. Personal testimonials make the benefits real.
- Express confidence in their ability to keep their commitments. Everyone does better at a task if they feel supported.
- Instruct them to write the commitment on something that they will see multiple times each day. The act of writing something and then reading it multiple times reinforces the commitment in their mind.
- Help them to admit when their actions have harmed themselves and others. This process helps them understand that there are real consequences if they fail.
- Follow up with them on a regular basis and discuss how well they are keeping the commitment. When someone has to report on their progress, they are more likely to keep a commitment.
- Have them describe the benefits they have seen in keeping the commitment. Verbalizing the benefits will help them see how much better their life is becoming and the future potential of their actions.
- Praise them for their successes. It is always motivating to have a cheering section.
- Give them something to read that will reinforce what they are trying to accomplish. Reading will increase their knowledge and give them more tools and more reasons to keep their commitments.
- Encourage them to surround themselves with supportive people and lose the friends with whom they shared their addictions. Since “birds of a feather flock together,” they need a new flock.
- Counsel them to ask God for strength. God will help anyone who is trying to become a better person.
- Don’t give up on them. Most people fail initially when trying to change. They are not used to keeping commitments because it is difficult. With time, those who are truly motivated will be successful.
Scottish mountaineer and writer, William Hutchison Murray, wrote,
“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, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”
If we, as employers, parents, friends, coaches and counselors want to help others, we must be committed to them and committed to being better people ourselves. Our lives and their lives will be richer, healthier and happier.