Commitments vs. Obligations

Many of my clients struggle with focusing on themselves and losing weight because they say they are overcommitted in their lives. I submit that they are actually over-obligated.

Commitment is defined as: “The act of committing, pledging, or engaging oneself.”
(Never mind that they define commitment with the word “commitment”…)

Obligation is defined as: “Something by which a person is bound or obliged to do certain things, and which arises out of a sense of duty or results from custom, law, etc.”

I go a little further with the differentiation.

Obligations are external. They come from our thinking about what we should be doing or what we think others expect us to do. Many times we obligate ourselves to gain approval. Obligations feel stressful, resentful, overwhelming and hard to keep.

Commitments are internal. You don’t do them to gain external approval, commitments are a natural extension of who you are. Commitments feel peaceful, gratifying, exciting and even the hard ones are easier to keep.

It’s not the action that differentiates a commitment from an obligation, it’s why you are doing it.

If you’re feeling obligated, you might:
Take on more clients than you need because you’re worried there won’t be enough money.
Sign up for that PTA committee because you didn’t want to disappoint the president (either the PTA president or Obama).
Agree to go to your families’ for the holidays so your mom wouldn’t give you that look.
Choose to nurse your husband’s mother because you feel like you’re supposed to.

You might do these very same activities out of a deep sense of commitment, but they would look more like this:
I take on the clients that are fabulous and happily refer out the others because I believe in abundance.
I sign up for the PTA committee because I love decorating school gyms and enjoy my fellow committee-members.
I go to my family for the holidays because even though they are nutso, I love them.
I nurse my mother-in-law because I adore her and truly want be there for her.

Don’t the commitments have a way different feel?

One of the reasons people overeat is they are over-obligated with activities that are not aligned with their real priorities (commitments). The tension is created because on some level they know they’re out of whack.

The answer lies in fousing on your commitments. Try this:

List out your obligations, then list out your top 5 priorities (commitments) for yourself. How many of your obligations fit within your top 5 priorities? If not many, consider axing your obligations and deciding what commitments you want to make. Getting rid of your obligations doesn’t mean you become a colossal flake. In fact, it becomes much easier to keep your commitments because you truly want to.