This I Believe

Joseph - Shaker Heights, Ohio
Entered on April 10, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe in making strong personal commitments. Commitments flow through our daily lives like the blood in our veins.

Many of life’s biggest commitments are dictated by other people, such as bosses, spouses, and children. These commitments sometimes leave me feeling I’ve lost control of my life. As a result, I have struggled with keeping these commitments.

My earliest memory of not keeping a commitment was my decision to stop playing basketball in high school. I had vowed not to play for Coach Haines that season. In the previous season, he had denied me of my rightful place as a starter on the varsity basketball team. My teammates had told him about my decision. On the first day of practice, he met me as I was leaving the school on my way home. He yelled, “Where do you think you’re going?”

I ignored him and got on the bus. Inwardly, I savored the experience of having defied a major authority figure for the first time in my life. I had never defied my parents, though I had often had enough justification to do so.

After that, defying authority by not keeping commitments became my standard method of handling adversity. I quit graduate school, because it was what others wanted for me. I quit jobs, because everything I did was dictated by my bosses. I even thought about leaving my family due to the financial and emotional pressures.

I’ve often wondered how good a basketball player I might have become if I had kept playing. For years, I blamed Coach Haines for taking basketball away from me. The truth is that I took basketball away from myself. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, basketball wasn’t a commitment I had made to Coach Haines. It was a strong personal commitment I had made to myself. I loved the game and had worked hard to develop my skills. I regret having given it up.

I have learned to make strong personal commitments based on my values, my skills, and my passions. By doing this, I take full ownership for my actions. I feel like I’m driving my life, rather than just going along for the ride.

Just as our blood requires a specific amount of red blood cells to supply oxygen to our bodies, commitments must include the proper amount of personal investment. Otherwise, life becomes anemic. Anemia can lead to a slow, suffocating, death.