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Why Commitment Phobia is killing your business growth

Before I kick off this article, I want to remind you that you have less than 24 hours to crush the business fears holding you back from your goals — by grabbing my ebook “Demystify Your Fear”. It’s half price until midnight tonight. After that, it will no longer be for sale – at any price. Click here now for your last chance to pick up your copy for $47 $23.50

You just can’t commit. Am I right, guys?

“…But baby, I just want to be able to do whatever I want.”

Entrepreneurs and leather clad, Harley riding badasses have more in common than they realize.

Like that tattoo covered bad boy, the entrepreneur won’t commit. The desire for freedom pushes you towards an unstructured, carefree lifestyle… even though you know you need to eventually lock down and commit. 

Above all else, entrepreneurs value freedom. That’s what motivates us to shun the status quo and fly free of the bonds of working-for-the-man employment.

Write a thousand words a day. Meet with each of your team every week. Go running every morning. Clear your inbox daily. Make ten new sales calls.

… are all things you should probably be committing to. Even when you really want to be flying free, flirting with sexy new ideas and living the playboy business-owner lifestyle.

Business success is, unfortunately, built on the put-a-ring-on-it philosophy. You have to commit to daily, weekly and monthly practices. You have to commit to getting stuff done, to relentlessly move your goals forward.

In my career, I frequently find myself advising people to make uncomfortable commitments. Lately I’ve been telling a few clients (you know who you are) to commit to a minimum number of prospecting calls each day or week. I’m also a big fan of the zero-inbox productivity system. And all wannabe bloggers and internet marketers should commit to a daily writing practice.

You’d think that small commitments like these would be common amongst the aspiring business community. In reality, it is these suggestions I receive the most resistance on. By far.

People freak out when I ask for a commitment. I can ask someone to make hundreds of sales, write a whole book and hire fifty new staff. No problem. They say “sure”. In fact, the more enormous the task is, the easier it is for them to contemplate.

Not so when a commitment is involved. When “write a book” becomes “write five hundred words a day, starting today”, people start squirming. The fear of commitment sets in.

Intangible, far-off pipe dreams are easy to contemplate. We can imagine some heroic, future manifestation of ourselves magically just making it happen. It’s like a fantasy. However, when we commit to the daily practice of micro-make-it-happen steps… the fantasy ceases to exist. It’s replaced by the cold realization that this is gonna be hard work.

Insert metaphor for marriage here.

Want big business success? Want to start making your goals happen fast?

Identify your commitment phobia. Admitting it is the first step. The second step is to make a daily or weekly commitment to banging out good hard work. It’s not glamorous and it won’t be fun. It just needs to get done.

The good news, and really the whole point of this article, is that admitting your commitment phobia can change everything. You’ve probably been nursing a secret belief that you actually loathe (or “can’t do”) genuine hard work. This isn’t true – it’s the commitment, not the work, which is the problem.

Now that you can acknowledge and face what you truly fear, you can overcome it.

To really commit, you need to seek accountability beyond yourself. When people talk about the entrepreneurial path being a lonely one, they’re right. The problem this creates is that you’re not committed to a boss, colleague or partner to take those boring and sweaty daily actions that build your future.

Go out of your way to find a commitment buddy. Find a personal trainer for your business – someone to yell at you when you don’t do your ten sales calls a day.

Here’s some ideas to inject commitment into your business:

Peer Support 

Give the gift of commitment to one of your entrepreneurial friends – become their accountability trainer then have them do the same for you.

Significant-other Support 

Explain to your spouse the importance of commitment then have them hold your accountable to your business goals. Most entrepreneurs hide their business commitments from their spouses, because they know how relentlessly kicked their ass would be. Use that power.

Community Support

Create a mastermind group that aims to hold accountability for each of it’s members. These days you don’t even need to have a regular, face-to-face meet up – technology makes it easy.

How else can you commit to making more business commitments?

26 Comments

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  1. “My name is James, and I’m a commitment phobaholic…”

    Yeah, I’ll step up to the plate on this one. I have some serious commitment issues, and they’re fuel for a lot of my work-related anxiety. Making a list of to-dos, no matter how monstrous, is easy! Woot! Talking about plans and ideas… fun times!

    “Alright, James, now that you’ve planned out your to-dos to make that Big Idea happen, I want you to do three tasks a day. And email me when you’re done. Every day.”

    That lasted all of … uh… two weeks. (And I’m being generous.)

    Now I look at the list of to-dos I’ve committed to doing and yes, I freak the f**k out. Just this morning, I looked at Mr. Significant and said with a smile, “I have a lot of work to do today – I’m behind!”… and felt my stomach clench with nerves like a huge fist squeezing my guts.

    How’s THAT for crazy behaviour?

    My tip is commit small. When the suggestion was “three tasks a day”, I tossed off that, “Sure, Peter!” way too quickly. Fear sank in and it’s paralyzing me to doing NOTHING. No good, that.

    So I’ll recommit to a smaller commitment – something I can achieve that makes me feel good that I’ve achieved it. (I can do ONE small thing a day… right?)

    Now if you’ll excuse me… I have some work to do. 🙂

  2. Hi Peter,

    I bought your anti-fear-book a couple of days ago and I already started to apply what I read. The first result is that I’ve had a very important (and really scary) conversation that I should’ve had a long time ago. So, thanks for that 🙂

    Regarding this commitment thing…puh.. that really freaks me out.

    Ok, step 1: I admit my phobia. Done.

    Step 2: I think I will need some time and energy for this. So I’ve set a reminder for saturday to come back to this post and make a new business-related commitment.

    Lucas

  3. Hi Peter,

    Good article for folks. It’s hard to take the good ideas and move forward with them. I’m pretty good with making a commitment with one exception: writing my book! Can bang off essays and op-ed pieces but THE BOOK kept getting put on a back burner. It felt BIG and overwhelming, even when I broke it down into smaller chunks and worked on those chunks. I kept stumbling in the middle, my mind saying, “what is this really about?” I don’t think my mind wanted me to be a book author because that would mean …

    So, I did what you suggested and enlisted some peer support, someone who will look at my 500 words per day. Now, it will get written.

    Sometimes, we need to bring a friend or two on our journey … No one ever said we had to do these monumental things alone.

    G.

  4. I LOVE what you have to say here. As a freedom lover myself, I often squirm about any sort of commitment (like the daily meditation practice I’ve been doing for several months that makes me feel amazing but pushes my freedom buttons every day) and yet, there’s actually tremendous freedom that comes from commitment. The truth is if we have too many choices and too much freedom it can be paralyzing so a little structure can go a long way to launching us into our true potential. My thoughts on how “Freedom is a Trap” from back in March in case you’re interested in perusing something that continues the dialogue: http://www.katenorthrup.com/freedom-is-a-trap. Thanks Peter!

  5. If I was to break commitment down into two sub skills it would involve a promise and then action. Now I am great with the promises but not so much with the follow through.

    So my strategy has been to really look at what I want to commit too and only do the bare minimum. I figure once I get better at follow through I will up the commitments.

    1. Sounds to me like you need to put more emotion behind your promises… cos they obviously don’t MEAN enough to you yet 🙂

      …. just something to think about. You’ve made a good distinction here.

  6. My mother and father had a running bet a few years ago, Was I more afraid of success or of failure. Why was I constantly planning, planning, planning and then half way to my goal I always seemed to peter out. You know, the start a million things and finish none type.

    Failure? That has never scared me. I learn more when I fail then when I succeed.
    Success? Oh hell no, I love success and was very happy when I was able to leave corporate America far behind.

    So I think you nailed it. I must fear the daily commitment to myself. Give me an editors deadline and I somehow meet it. Give me a grumpy boss and I pull a miracle out of my arse. Give me an overwhelmed client and I create utopia for them.

    For myself… I procrastinate, I delay, I get overwhelmed. I think my main issue is I need to commit to simple, achievable goals and feel the same satisfaction as when I complete something for someone else.

    When I can’t write all of my tutorials in a single day, I curl up and blow 5 hours watching Law & Order reruns, then cram all that writing time into a day or two, completely burning myself out.

    Great article. I think I fear commitment to myself more than anything. Strange thing that. I had not stared that truth in the face.

  7. First response to reading this was “well f*** off” – nailed in 1. again.

    Second response is to follow James’ lead – hello, my name is Cat and I’m a (personal) commitment phobaholic … personal in so far I’m great at making and keeping commitments with other people … but to the stuff that makes a difference to me … mmmm

    I echo Marni’s sentiments … I faff – I get overwhelmed, procrastinate and essentially allow myself to ‘disappear’ my day …

    So, I’ll take your suggestion (again) Peter, I’ll buddy up at a higher-level with my buddy … and ask her to keep me accountable for the things I say I’ll do. AND I’ll keep myself accountable to – decide each week and then each day what MUST get done to get the important things done.

    repeat after me, ‘the price of freedom is eternal vigilance’ … commitment creates the space for flexibility and the ‘freedom’ we’re all seeking.

  8. “A personal trainer for your business.” I freaking love that. Committing daily is something I’ve been avoiding. It comes in fits and bursts. This is an interesting app that I’ve avoided experimenting with http://tdp.me/about

  9. OMG did you just say “put a ring on it”?? *shudders*

    Yes, commitment-phobe to the max here.
    And what a wake up call!

    Of course, I know that my indecision is definitely causing some serious stagnancy with my business and if I ever want this thing to, you know, BE a business, I better level up quick. That’s why I’ve been saying things like “going pro” and “take myself seriously” and “stop dicking around”… but those are just words and when you put measurable and actionable steps to it, I still falter. So, good point. Yes, I need to do the basic commitment of writing every day *at least*. Thanks for this post.

  10. You really did hit the. Nail on the head! Great advice!
    You have an excellent website, very organized and neat. I love it!
    Keep up the good work. Cheers!
    Rosangela

  11. Hello

    I really found this page useful in helping me understand the apparent opposing “pulls” between commitment and freedom for entrepreneurs.

    But, I almost left your website because of the cheap “only 24 hours to respond… last chance…” offer at the top for the page, for an ebook for 47 dollars, no cross that out, 23.50 dollars etc. This is not your natural style and does you no favours in my opinion. If you want to sell your ebook, I have no problem with that and would consider it based on the quality of your writing, but sell it YOUR way, like you write the rest of your content, not in the way that all the self-styled internet marketing “gurus” say you should sell it. I bet you will sell more. Just my opinion.

    And I DO like your writing.

    Michael

  12. Hi Peter,

    Any chance I could pick up this book? I only just stumbled across you website today when it suddenly occurred to me (while playing my dart thinking board) that I have a fear of committing.

    So I search it up online and your blog appears outlining exactly what I’m going through.

    From Australia!

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