It’s not hard to have fun at a good wedding. By “good” I mean food, dancing, friends and family. A little champagne doesn’t hurt. But, of course, the really good part is the hopeful and happy commitment of two people to each other. They share some vows about being faithful, squeezing the toothpaste from the bottom of the tube and being very, very patient.

Commitments aren’t limited to wedding vows, though. We make commitments all the time. And while we’re on the subject of “good,” a good commitment is a promise made to another with no expectation of return. As long as our promise is dependent on the actions of others it is not a commitment but a deal, a contract I devise and keep hidden in my mind. I’ll pick up my socks if you don’t bug me about watching football this afternoon. I’ll turn in this paperwork late because everyone else in the office is late.  And then there’s conditional commitment, which depends on the answer to that famous question, “What’s in it for me?”

“I’ll try,” is not a commitment. Neither is “I’ll do the best I can.” Those are often code for refusal. It may not be a final refusal, but at the moment there is no commitment. Interest, perhaps, but interest becomes action only when it’s convenient. The problem is that the marriage, the task force, or the big project can’t move forward with “maybe.” There is no momentum with “maybe.”

So here are some questions to ask yourself next time you inventory your commitments:

  • What is the cost to others if I keep, or fail to keep, my commitments?
  • What is the ”no,” or refusal that I’m postponing?
  • What is the commitment that I’ve changed my mind about?
  •  What kind of evaluation of my commitment is meaningful to me?

Commitment takes some staying power, if you continue the course of seeing your promise through. I suspect if you ask someone who has been married for fifty years if it’s worth it, the answer will be yes.