Winter is on its way out – time for Spring cleaning, right? Absolutely. It’s great to clean things out to make space for new belongings. However, while Spring is associated with physical cleaning, you can also use it to take stock of your personal commitments.
In this article, I’m going to talk about tips for doing a personal Spring cleaning, for your work and life. How can you tell whether the things you’re doing are actually fulfilling? How do you cut commitments that you don’t feel fulfilled by? We have talked about tips for self-improvement before, with a focus on a personal SWOT analysis. Keep reading for more tips on editing your life for happiness!
Understand the commitment mindset
First, it’s really important to understand that every single thing you’ve said “yes” to is a commitment. This means that every time your boss asks you to help with a project, when your colleague asks for help in learning something new, your kids ask you to drive them to soccer practice, or you find yourself signing up for brunch with friends – you have made a commitment.
Some of these commitments may be really positive for your growth and development. Others may not have such positive returns. While you can’t get rid of all commitments that are negative and only engage in those that are positive (for example, you may have obligations that you can’t avoid), you should have a good balance. Research on commitment says that there are a few types of research-based commitments that are important to be aware of. I’ll describe them below so you can figure out where your commitments land!
Commitments due to sunk costs
The first of the three types of commitment is continuance commitment, or commitment due to sunk costs. This type of commitment represents things that you are doing because you have been doing them for a long time. Maybe you have always organized the company luncheon or been the person who runs the PTA meetings. Perhaps you have been in the same department for 20 years or you have been living in the same neighborhood forever. While these commitments aren’t bad if you still truly love them, they run the risk of carrying on for longer than they should. This is important because when you participate in things just because you have been doing it for a long time, your well-being decreases.
For example, maybe you fear that colleagues would think it was odd if you stopped leading a committee you have been running for so long. Maybe you feel like it would take a long time to train someone else to run PTA meetings. Perhaps you know the people in your department or neighborhood really well and are concerned about being able to form those relationships again in a new place. Again, if these commitments continue to bring you joy, you can keep them. But, if you are only doing it because you feel like it would be hard to leave, it might be time to say goodbye.
Try making a list of the positive things that you get from commitments you have been involved with for a while. Then make a list of positive things that you might do with your time if you didn’t have those commitments to pay attention to. Does the list of things that you might do excite you more than the list of things that you are already doing? If so, then you might be committed to the old ways because of sunk costs and not because you find the commitment itself enjoyable.
Commitments you feel obligated to
The second kind of commitment centers on participating in activities because you feel like you have to. In some instances, this may be unavoidable. You may have to do certain tasks at work that you don’t want to do, in order to have the opportunity to do tasks you enjoy. You may not have a choice regarding cleaning your house or making food for yourself or your family. But, there are other obligatory commitments that can be cut out. While obligatory commitments don’t necessarily have negative impacts on your well-being, they do take up time. So, if you can free that time up for other things, you should.
For example, you might be volunteering for a committee just because a friend asked you to and you didn’t want to let them down. Perhaps you’re coaching the Little League team just because none of the other parents volunteered. Maybe a colleague asked you to train them on a task you’re good at and you felt too guilty to say no.
Again, sometimes there are obligations that you can’t avoid. But, if you’re only doing something because you feel guilty or you feel like you can’t say no, you may be wasting time. Try making a list of things that you’re doing because you have to do them or would feel guilty if you didn’t do them. Then, cross off those things that you have to do, as well as those things you actually enjoy. The commitments that are left are things that are both optional and unenjoyable. Those are the activities you might consider dropping to make room for other, more fulfilling commitments.
Commitments you love
Finally, there are the commitments that bring you joy. These are commitments that are great for you. When you have a commitment that brings you joy and you couldn’t see yourself being happy without, you should keep it. These commitments help you to cope with negative stressors in life and also help to add positively to your well-being. These commitments should stay on the list. You shouldn’t compromise them – especially not for commitments that you feel obligated to do or that you have been doing for a long time. Perhaps you love leading an employee resource group at work. Maybe you are passionate about running or volunteering at a local community center. Do you love to have dinner with your family each night? If so, make room on your calendar for these commitments and hold them sacred.
This can be hard, however. How many times do we push off something that brings us true satisfaction to do something that we don’t have a passion for? Again, some obligations are unavoidable. But, being realistic about what you can actually cut out – and then actually cutting it – can be liberating. Crowding your schedule with things that you don’t love can keep you from achieving your true potential. Ensuring that you keep doing what you love is motivating and energizing. Don’t lose sight of that.
Feeling lighter yet?
So, this Spring, do some work and life cleaning! Make a list of all of your commitments and decide which ones you are involved in because of sunk costs, feelings of obligation, or true joy. Then, try to be realistic about what you can cut. Focus on getting rid of (not keeping) useless commitments. Vow to cut out those commitments (it’s like a band-aid – just pull it off!). Then, decide how you’ll use your newly free time for doing even more of what you love.
Don’t you feel more light and fresh already?? If so, comment with what you vow to cut or keep below. We would love to hear how this process works for you!