Commitment vs. Flexibility: Find Your Balance for Freedom On Your Terms

Table of Contents

One of my VisionPath participants asked me to speak about the fear of commitment. “This has been my Achilles heel all my life,” he said.

And I get it; I have often called myself a commitment-phobe. But, I have come to realise that what we call commitment phobia might be hiding something deeper.

Let’s explore.


Flexibility is cool, but it comes with a cost

Do you buy your flight tickets flexible?

Everybody would if the flexible ticket would not cost significantly more.

For some of us, flexibility and peace of mind are worth the extra dollars for the tickets; for others, they are not.

It is the same in life and business. Flexibility is fantastic, but it comes with a cost. We need to make a conscious decision whether we are willing to pay for it or not.

For example, I had avoided committing to hiring a full-time team member for years. This gave me flexibility and a sense of freedom.

I had hourly-rate contractors, and nobody’s livelihood depended exclusively on my business. I could adjust their hours depending on the business needs.

The cost was that my contractors were not fully committed to my business, and their availability was not guaranteed.

This year, I decided that the cost of flexibility surpassed the benefit, so I hired a full-time team member.

This brings me another sense of freedom. The freedom of feeling supported by a well-trained person whose exclusive focus is my business.

To give another example, a friend of mine loved open relationships. Until she got an STD scare and decided the cost of flexibility surpassed the benefit for her.

Sometimes, the cost of flexibility is worth it for us. For example, I have no products that require long-term commitments of my time in my business.

My longest program is VisionPath, and it lasts six weeks.

The cost of this freedom and flexibility is that I do not have predictable revenue all year round. This is a cost I am willing to pay to have a freedom-first business.


Is it fear of commitment or fear of being wrong?

I noticed I have no issue committing when I know something will be supportive.

For example, I would love to secure the support of my coach for another year, which means wiring him a multiple five-figure amount in advance.

This commitment does not scare me because I know and trust my coach.

But this trust took years to build. I first read his books and listened to his podcast for years.

Then, I had a 2-hour coaching session. Then, I committed to 6 months of coaching. Now, I am at a point where committing to a year feels liberating rather than restrictive.

I can take a lot more risks when I know I am well-supported.

Commitment, in this case, just like in my marriage or with my team members, provides me peace of mind, which means more freedom.

So, what if your fear of commitment is simply a fear of getting it wrong?

Then, what you simply need to do is build trust. Start slow. Get more information. Get a trial. Experiment before you commit. Date before you get married.


Is it fear of commitment or inability to pivot when necessary?

When people find it hard to quit, pivot or have uncomfortable conversations, they will avoid starting things.

They assume that when they start something, they must continue it even when it no longer works.

It is natural to be afraid of commitment when you assume you must commit to everything or it is hard for you to pivot.

One of my favourite quotes from Glennon Doyle is this:

“Every time you’re given a choice between disappointing someone else and disappointing yourself, your duty is to disappoint that someone else. Your job throughout your entire life is to disappoint as many people as it takes to avoid disappointing yourself.”

It is OK to fire an employee you hired.
It is OK to resign from a job.
It is OK to discontinue a product or a business.
It is OK to stop working with a customer.
It is OK to leave a relationship.

None of these scenarios are comfortable, but they are not the end of the world.

Learning to handle those situations will allow you to start more things without unnecessary fear of commitment.

There are very few real commitments in life. I can only think of one, actually, and that is being a parent.

For all the rest, you can always change your mind, pay the switching cost, pivot and move on.


The hidden cost of no commitment

The first hidden cost of no commitment is that it reduces your chances of success.

Dr. Benjamin Hardy researched what separates the people who become entrepreneurs from those who want to but never get to do it.

The key difference was a moment of no return. A symbolic act of burning one’s ships.

This could be an investment in their business. Or leaving their 9-5 job.

A “commitment” towards your vision will significantly increase your chances of success.

If you want to ensure you take over the island, you may need to burn your ships.

The second cost of the lack of commitment is that you waste energy and time making the same decision repeatedly rather than once.

I have committed to sending you this newsletter every Thursday, for example.

I do not have to debate whether to do it every week. This saves me energy.

I have committed to a weekly hike with my friends on Mondays. The same, I do not have to think about it; we do not have to coordinate every week. We just go.


Strategies to Overcome Fear of Commitment

To overcome the fear of commitment, we need to adopt strategies that address both the fears of being wrong and being unable to pivot. Here are a few approaches:

  • Build Trust Gradually: Take the time to build trust before making significant commitments. This could involve researching, seeking trials, or getting to know someone better before committing.
  • Define Exit Strategies: Knowing you have a way out can make a commitment less daunting. Define clear exit strategies or conditions under which you can pivot or end a commitment. This can apply to both personal and professional commitments.
  • Focus on Learning: Shift your mindset from a fear of being wrong to a focus on learning and growth. Whether successful or not, every commitment offers valuable lessons.
  • Consider the cost of the lack of commitment. There is always a cost when you do not commit. Get clear on what it is and whether you are willing to pay for it.

Conclusion

Both flexibility and commitment come with costs and benefits. Recognising the trade-offs between the two helps us weigh our business investments and personal choices.

What is your natural tendency? Overcommitting or under committing? Is it a deliberate conscious choice with a clear awareness of the price tag?


Download my free guide with the 10 Powerful Mindset Shifts To Achieve Your Vision.

Discover:
What are the 10 telltale signs that you are living your vision?
What are the 3 things you might think you need for success but you really don’t.
The 10 mindset shifts all my clients who enjoy success in all areas of their lives have made.

Link here.

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Picture of Caterina Kostoula

Caterina Kostoula

Caterina Kostoula is an executive coach and founder of The Leaderpath.

Her mission is to coach pioneering leaders for impact and fulfilment.

She has worked as a Global Business Leader at Google where she was
also a 5-star rated internal coach. She has coached leaders and teams from Google, Amazon, Stripe and Workable, as well as a number of startups.

Caterina teaches the popular Life Vision Programme at INSEAD Business School.

Her work has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company and Thrive Global. Her best-selling book, “Hold Successful Meetings”, was published by Penguin in 2021. Her TEDx talk is called “Do your goals prevent your success?”

Education

– MSc in Executive Coaching from Ashridge Business School (EMCC-accredited)

– INSEAD MBA

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Commitment vs. Flexibility: Find Your Balance for Freedom On Your Terms

One of my VisionPath participants asked me to speak about the fear of commitment. “This has been my Achilles heel all my life,” he said.

And I get it; I have often called myself a commitment-phobe. But, I have come to realise that what we call commitment phobia might be hiding something deeper.

Let’s explore.


Flexibility is cool, but it comes with a cost

Do you buy your flight tickets flexible?

Everybody would if the flexible ticket would not cost significantly more.

For some of us, flexibility and peace of mind are worth the extra dollars for the tickets; for others, they are not.

It is the same in life and business. Flexibility is fantastic, but it comes with a cost. We need to make a conscious decision whether we are willing to pay for it or not.

For example, I had avoided committing to hiring a full-time team member for years. This gave me flexibility and a sense of freedom.

I had hourly-rate contractors, and nobody’s livelihood depended exclusively on my business. I could adjust their hours depending on the business needs.

The cost was that my contractors were not fully committed to my business, and their availability was not guaranteed.

This year, I decided that the cost of flexibility surpassed the benefit, so I hired a full-time team member.

This brings me another sense of freedom. The freedom of feeling supported by a well-trained person whose exclusive focus is my business.

To give another example, a friend of mine loved open relationships. Until she got an STD scare and decided the cost of flexibility surpassed the benefit for her.

Sometimes, the cost of flexibility is worth it for us. For example, I have no products that require long-term commitments of my time in my business.

My longest program is VisionPath, and it lasts six weeks.

The cost of this freedom and flexibility is that I do not have predictable revenue all year round. This is a cost I am willing to pay to have a freedom-first business.


Is it fear of commitment or fear of being wrong?

I noticed I have no issue committing when I know something will be supportive.

For example, I would love to secure the support of my coach for another year, which means wiring him a multiple five-figure amount in advance.

This commitment does not scare me because I know and trust my coach.

But this trust took years to build. I first read his books and listened to his podcast for years.

Then, I had a 2-hour coaching session. Then, I committed to 6 months of coaching. Now, I am at a point where committing to a year feels liberating rather than restrictive.

I can take a lot more risks when I know I am well-supported.

Commitment, in this case, just like in my marriage or with my team members, provides me peace of mind, which means more freedom.

So, what if your fear of commitment is simply a fear of getting it wrong?

Then, what you simply need to do is build trust. Start slow. Get more information. Get a trial. Experiment before you commit. Date before you get married.


Is it fear of commitment or inability to pivot when necessary?

When people find it hard to quit, pivot or have uncomfortable conversations, they will avoid starting things.

They assume that when they start something, they must continue it even when it no longer works.

It is natural to be afraid of commitment when you assume you must commit to everything or it is hard for you to pivot.

One of my favourite quotes from Glennon Doyle is this:

“Every time you’re given a choice between disappointing someone else and disappointing yourself, your duty is to disappoint that someone else. Your job throughout your entire life is to disappoint as many people as it takes to avoid disappointing yourself.”

It is OK to fire an employee you hired.
It is OK to resign from a job.
It is OK to discontinue a product or a business.
It is OK to stop working with a customer.
It is OK to leave a relationship.

None of these scenarios are comfortable, but they are not the end of the world.

Learning to handle those situations will allow you to start more things without unnecessary fear of commitment.

There are very few real commitments in life. I can only think of one, actually, and that is being a parent.

For all the rest, you can always change your mind, pay the switching cost, pivot and move on.


The hidden cost of no commitment

The first hidden cost of no commitment is that it reduces your chances of success.

Dr. Benjamin Hardy researched what separates the people who become entrepreneurs from those who want to but never get to do it.

The key difference was a moment of no return. A symbolic act of burning one’s ships.

This could be an investment in their business. Or leaving their 9-5 job.

A “commitment” towards your vision will significantly increase your chances of success.

If you want to ensure you take over the island, you may need to burn your ships.

The second cost of the lack of commitment is that you waste energy and time making the same decision repeatedly rather than once.

I have committed to sending you this newsletter every Thursday, for example.

I do not have to debate whether to do it every week. This saves me energy.

I have committed to a weekly hike with my friends on Mondays. The same, I do not have to think about it; we do not have to coordinate every week. We just go.


Strategies to Overcome Fear of Commitment

To overcome the fear of commitment, we need to adopt strategies that address both the fears of being wrong and being unable to pivot. Here are a few approaches:

  • Build Trust Gradually: Take the time to build trust before making significant commitments. This could involve researching, seeking trials, or getting to know someone better before committing.
  • Define Exit Strategies: Knowing you have a way out can make a commitment less daunting. Define clear exit strategies or conditions under which you can pivot or end a commitment. This can apply to both personal and professional commitments.
  • Focus on Learning: Shift your mindset from a fear of being wrong to a focus on learning and growth. Whether successful or not, every commitment offers valuable lessons.
  • Consider the cost of the lack of commitment. There is always a cost when you do not commit. Get clear on what it is and whether you are willing to pay for it.

Conclusion

Both flexibility and commitment come with costs and benefits. Recognising the trade-offs between the two helps us weigh our business investments and personal choices.

What is your natural tendency? Overcommitting or under committing? Is it a deliberate conscious choice with a clear awareness of the price tag?


Download my free guide with the 10 Powerful Mindset Shifts To Achieve Your Vision.

Discover:
What are the 10 telltale signs that you are living your vision?
What are the 3 things you might think you need for success but you really don’t.
The 10 mindset shifts all my clients who enjoy success in all areas of their lives have made.

Link here.