What Ever Happened to Commitment?
I have contended for years now that we, the human race, have some muscles that have atrophied over recent years. Some of our emotional, spiritual and volitional muscles just don’t get used like they did thirty to forty years ago, and they've shrunk.
Want an example? Take commitment.
Long term commitment is rare these days. People are more apt to job hop, drop a girlfriend, block a friend, get divorced or just plain “quit” than at any time in the last one hundred years.
In my book, Generation iY—Our Last Chance to Save Their Future, I provided some ideas to build commitment in our emerging generation of kids. If we don’t, I suggested, we will eventually see five-year marriage contracts.
Did you hear the news last week? Mexico has joined the ranks of countries that are proposing short-term marriage licenses—as low as two-years long. The reform would allow couples to choose the length of their commitment, opting out of the lifetime commitment to a partner. Hmmm. I can only imagine the conversations children will have with mom: “How long did you say dad would be around…one more year?”
Just like atrophied muscles, I think we must develop exercises for kids (and adults) to build the ability to stick with a commitment even when the glitz and glamour are gone. So, how do we work with this generation who forgets the last commitment they made yesterday, and has dozens of options in front of them today? What are some steps we can take to draw a more firm commitment from young people and young adults? Let me suggest some ideas below.
1. Listen to them and affirm their dreams and goals.
2. Provide them a sense of big-picture purpose as they perform menial tasks.
3. Give them short-term commitments they can keep, and put wins under their belts.
4. Offer them realistic steps to their often over-optimistic goals. Help them prioritize.
5. Work with them to focus on one, meaningful objective and pull it off.
6. Encourage them to simplify their life, and remove some self-imposed pressure.
7. Discuss personal values with them and help them to become value-driven.
And most importantly, be sure that you model commitment and develop committed students under your leadership!