Human beings are goal-oriented creatures. If we have no goals, we're frustrated. If we have too many, we're confused. Here's the key to putting your commitments in order.
When you watch a robin with cocked head, alert and engrossed, suddenly dip his sharp beak into the earth for an unwary worm, you might ask yourself the question: "But what does he do for fun?" The answer" Along with his other instinctual ha bits, that's all he does. That's his work, his fun, his play, his whole life. The robin is totally committed to "doing his thing." On the other hand humans must discover their "thing" on their own. That's why many just "happen" through life, letting time, circumstance, and life's vicissitudes push them here and there in an endless rat race. Small wonder so many are confused through much of their lives. We are made to commit ourselves to a purpose. In short, we are made to be goal oriented. If we are not facing a goal (immediate. short-term, or long-term) and moving toward it, we will not function very well. The force that helps us achieve our goals can be called commitment. The purer the commitment. the more powerful and the more energizing it will be.
The Energy That Comes With Pursuit
Electrifying force emanates from the made-up mind. The compelling power behind fully committed determination overshadows simple assertiveness or stalwart resolution. Psychologists have discovered an unusual denominator among happy growing people. They find it isn't attainment of prestige, wealth, or success that keeps people happy as much as it is the pursuit or direction that gives them joy. Enthusiastic pursuit of a goal gives people contentment. It is not enough for you to have a general idea of where you want to go: it is not enough to conveniently declare your desires with the same carefree spirit you display in predicting tomorrow's weather. You must be totally committed to your goals. The very act of involving your resources in the total pursuit of a goal will send hidden energies forward for full utilization. The joy gained from pursuit has been clinically observed by Dr. Csikszentmihalyi, a University of Chicago psychologist who has conducted many experiments concerning what he calls "flow," Psychology Today covered his experiments in an article entitled "The Fun in Fun" by William Barry Furlong. This article described the power, joy, and happiness that comes with complete involvement in an athletic or artistic event. It stated that "flow" can be experienced in everyday life. Says Furlong:
"Flow... develops when... we are completely immersed in what we are doing. In this state the person loses a self-conscious sense of himself and of time. He gains a heightened awareness of his physical involvement with the activity.... "Flow can make a person feel an almost Godlike sense of control. All the dichotomies, polarities and conflicts of life are resolved. I feel immensely strong. I have a general feeling of well-being, and that I am in complete control of my world" (June 1976, pp. 35, 36).
If a man running in one direction can achieve joy, fulfillment, and continuing energy, how empty must men be who have no direction, or who lose it in confusion somewhere along the way?
A Man Without Direction
When a man with ability and potential can't find a direction to which he can commit himself, he will suffer. Just such a thing happened to former astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Before he journeyed to the moon, he was in a constant upward spiral toward a goal. But after returning to earth, he found himself deeply depressed as he searched for a new direction and purpose in life. It was not until he found new goals for his life that he regained his former zest for living. This in a nutshell is the human story. It's not enough just to accomplish something. Life must have a constant, continuing purpose. You must be committed to a cause. For some the "cause" is amassing as much money as one possibly can. Some are committed simply to survival, or their own conception of identity or worth. Some want fame or glory. Living life by accident without singleness of commitment and a larger goal causes many people to lose direction, and this causes them to wonder, "Who am I?" Once we understand this, we can understand why a successful man like Buzz Aldrin could have been beset with depression. We can see why Madison Avenue executives suddenly drop out from the whirling world of activity and why celebrities shot into public awareness and acclaim continue to reaffirm their success year after year.
Too Many Conflicting Commitments
Having no commitment leaves emptiness, but having too many conflicting commitments is equally frustrating and energy sapping. In fact, life's dilemmas can be explained in terms of commitment. So you need to examine your life and see if you are overcommitted, Ask yourself: Should I commit my life to a career I don't like for the chance to rise in an organization? Should I commit my life to my personal dreams, though they might be considered to be impractical? Should I sacrifice my marriage and my family for my personal goals? Should I let my religion conflict with my career? These conflicts don't even begin to express the complexities and confusions that result from the myriads of goals, wants, and desires that we all have. A comedian once said. "Living is killing me." Indeed, life's commitments come in generous enough portions to occupy a person full time. So to insert the larger, more compelling questions of why was I born, why is man here, and where do I fit in the universal scheme of things is to add a disquieting element that only serves to disorient most people.
Hedonism and similar philosophies are sometimes man's answer to these questions. But those who look at this life as an end in itself, even if they are successful, must still face Solomon's quandary. Solomon realized that, if you selfishly commit your life to amassing riches for yourself, you still cannot enjoy more than you are able to use or consume yourself. And your wealth will one day belong to others who didn't work to earn it. But at the same time he recognized the value in catapulting your energies and resources into whatever you have chosen as a goal. He knew that the joy you derive from fill commitment is the greatest joy and provides satisfaction in full measure. His advice is still valid today:
"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol [the grave], to which you are going" (Ecclesiastes 9:10, RSV).
The Most Important Commitment
Hebrews 2 shows that man was made "for a little while lower than the angels" to be ruler of his earthly domain. But then God adds a greater challenge. God says he made man to share God's heritage, to become a member of his family, and to inherit the universe. This he describes as his real intention for creating man in the first place. God made life like it is, as complex and challenging as it is, so we could use our minds and order our lives, thus committing ourselves completely to the greater purpose for all humanity — that of developing God-like character. (Please read our free booklet entitled Why Were You Born?) Every other commitment falls into place when you are consumed with this goal. Priorities are simpler and clearer. When you realize that man's collective "thing" is to develop the character of God and become a son of God, there will always be that divine spark within you, motivating you to commit yourself to the very reason you were made. When you consider the commitment that God offers you and the fact that you can pursue most of life's challenges all the while, it should make you pause and set your commitments in order. Yes, you were made to labor and to enjoy life, but when your commitment to God is not given top priority, you are going to be confused and unhappy to one degree or another. Throughout his history, man has wasted his energies and resources while pursuing goals he shouldn't have been; he has been committed to ghastly causes, groping in the dark for some kind of purposeful balance. And in spite of his efforts. that omnipresent enemy has always loomed ahead — death. For many it's too much, having to face death without knowing the purpose for having lived. But with the understanding of man's purpose comes the understanding and belief in a resurrection from death and a restoration to life. The Bible declares in I Corinthians 15 and Revelation 20 that you do not have to view your existence as only temporary. You can find direction in your present life and also have the surging power and dynamic energy of heading toward your transcendent purpose. You can find yourself as an individual — you can find your talents, your needs, and your private dreams — if you are first willing to prioritize your commitments and then put your most important goal in first place. For the highest peak, the top of the mountain, is to develop the character of God. Why not head for that peak with a burning passion and commitment? You'll be out of the rat race into the real race where the personal satisfaction and ultimate rewards are unsurpassed.