Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Definition of Commitment

The idea of a commitment has been something that I have come back to consistently for a while now. Understanding the nature of commitment seems important as it plays a strong role in organizing the world around me. In my thoughts about commitment I have come up with a definition that I find useful:

A choice is committal inverse to the degree that a simple campaign can return you to similar choices


Simple and similar don't need tight definitions, but merely a sense of what is more or less similar or simple. I will leave that up to intuition. And a campaign is a collection of choices or actions.

To restate my definition, you are making a bigger commitment the harder it will be to get back to where you are.

Is taking one step forward a commitment? To figure that out we would need to know something about the environment. Will that step take you on a 40-story free fall? If so it is a commitment, if only because you will have to climb 40 stories to choose not to take that step again.

Are the choices you face when you take that step forward similar to the choices you face before you step? If so then the campaign that gets you to similar choices has a length of zero. That is pretty simple.

This may also help to explain why visualization can be so important. If you can see yourself having made the step, having no desire to go back to the choices that are now less accessible, then physically making the step is of little consequence. Yes, those options are less accessible, but they were of little value to you anyhow.

Consider a job offer. You would have to quit your job. That sounds like quite a commitment, but if you can visualize the new job with no desire to return to the old one, the real action of leaving the job becomes trivial and can be made confidently.

Through visualization a big commitment has been reduced to a trivial formality.

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