Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It Takes Commitment

     I’ve been thinking a lot about commitment.  The commitments we make are sometimes overwhelming—teaching, parenting, relationships.  While I was exploring the meaning of the term commitment, I found an interesting article online (on a leadership site, which, by the way, I know nothing about, but I liked the premise).  It stated: 
     A great business leader once said: "...the basic philosophy, spirit, and drive of an organization have far more to do with its relative achievements than do technological or economic resources, organizational structure, innovation, and timing. All these things weigh heavily in success. But they are, I think, transcended by how strongly the people in the organization believe in its basic precepts and how faithfully they carry them out." (from Thomas J. Watson, Jr., A Business and its Beliefs - The ideas that helped build IBM).
      As true as this is for the success of a corporation, it is even more so for the individual. The most important single factor in individual success is COMMITMENT. Commitment ignites action. To commit is to pledge yourself to a certain purpose or line of conduct. It also means practicing your beliefs consistently. There are, therefore, two fundamental conditions for commitment. The first is having a sound set of beliefs. There is an old saying that goes, "Stand for something or you'll fall for anything." The second is faithful adherence to those beliefs with your behavior. Possibly the best description of commitment is "persistence with a purpose".
     I love the term “persistence with a purpose.”  In the classroom, I’ve done a lot of work with my students around the idea of “Learning with a Spirit of Endurance” (see Conferring: The Keystone of Reader’s Workshop for more information).  And, while I’ve explored stamina and endurance with students, in terms of their learning, I think I’m going to go after the idea of persistence with a purpose with them next year.  To strengthen endurance, I think it takes both commitment and persistence. 
     Case in point – Exercise.  The dreaded “E” word!
     For the past five weeks, I’ve committed to exercising every day.  I’ve started doing P90X© for the SECOND time (I didn’t have right attitude the first time).  And, now I’m committing to not giving up.  In fact, to strengthen my commitment to getting in shape, I signed up to be coach with the Beachbody organization.  I’ve also started incorporating another exercise program, RevAbs©, an at-home exercise program designed to burn fat and strengthen core abdominal muscles.  Why become a coach – it’s made me accountable both to myself and to others.  Isn’t accountability an important aspect of commitment?
     For the past year, I’ve been sedentary, a couch potato.  I admit it, it’s been longer than that (but one year makes it sound a bit more forgiving)… but, because of the encouragement of my friends, Troy and Jarod, I’ve gotten up off the couch.  Through our conversations, text messages, and consistent nudges, we’ve all made a renewed commitment to exercise.  Mind you, I don’t look like the guy on the DVD; in fact sometimes I curse him when I’m working out.  But the point is, I’m trying.  Taking a 51-year-old body and putting it through daily rituals and routines, can’t help but improve my health!
     I’ve also committed to better eating.  I am an eater.  My mother was a restaurant owner – one fine and dandy cook.  And, fortunately/unfortunately, she passed the love of cooking and eating on to me!  So I’ve decided to make better choices.  I’ve committed to drinking a Shakeology©  shake every day as a meal replacement (it's an amazing product by the way, click on the link and read about it).  This choice alone has strengthened my endurance as I exercise.  I feel so much better energy wise (it’s doing a lot internally that I don’t even realize).  I’ve tried to be flexible and try something new.
     My older brother immediately responded, “Not interested!” when I told him about my new health regime.  But after watching our father have his leg amputated from complications of diabetes (according to the National Diabetes Association, more than 60% of nontraumatic lower-limb amputations occur with people with diabetes) and seeing our mother suffer through complications of diabetic gangrene, I realized that I had to become a decision-maker.  I had to commit to making sure that I’m doing what I can to prevent the same fate.  Eliminating body fat is one step in the right direction.  Perhaps my demonstration and modeling will help my brother change his mind next time we see each other.
     Commitment is gradual.  I’ve seen my friend Troy journey through a complete transformation of mind and body (we originally started at the same time, he kept going, I gave up… Then I made excuses, “You’re ten years younger!” or “I don’t have time!”).  Recently, I've watched him and wondered, “Why couldn't I do that?”  Through sharing and cooperation, he has helped me see that the benefits of making a commitment will pay off in the long term.  Troy checks in with me, he supports me, and he listens.  He’s a good coach, and more importantly, a good friend—he’s given me a tremendous amount of support as I begin making exercise an important part of my daily life!  In turn, he has encouraged my independence and I’ve passed my learning on to Jarod.  
     So what does this have to do with learning?  Everything.  The article I found also said, “Commitment is most difficult and most readily proven during tough times. How someone weathers the storms most clearly demonstrates their basic beliefs. In antiquity, Epicurus stated: "...a captain earns his reputation during the storms."  So as I end this school year and begin a new one, I’m going to take this idea of commitment and incorporate it into our workshops.  As I continue my new regime, I'm going to explore what other aspects of my new learning I can bring to the conversation.
     As learners, persistence with a purpose will be a moniker of our time together!


  1. PA --
    Wow, what a post! I feel like I've been given a gift with your words. It is a wise notion to talk about commitment and incorporate it into our workshops. I'm glad exercise is becoming a way of life. Keep it up!

  2. I was sent to your blog by a good friend - we are both teachers, lovers of books and of teaching reading... so thank you so much for your blog!

    I wanted to tell you that I started P90X again yesterday - many thx to YOU for the push. Right now I'm sore but determined that I will persist. Janice