Assessing Your Commitment Level(s) in Life

Do you often find yourself procrastinating on “must do” tasks? Do you quit or vow to come back to dealings that are often left unfinished?

Has today has been “the day” for the last few months that all your affairs would be in order?

Yet, repeatedly you find yourself coming up short of those goals. Have you experienced this in your work-life, school-life, social circles, and other areas?  

You have good intentions and yet your commitment to execute these plans is lacking?

The term commitment is measured in more than romantic relationships. When we lack commitment while faced with a task that requires long-term dedication, it often can cause us unnecessary mental and emotional distress. 

It takes deep commitment to change and an even deeper commitment to grow.
— Ralph Ellison

Do you find yourself experiencing:

  • Anxiousness / Dread / Worry 

  • Unable to finish a task in its entirety

  • Negative self-talk

  • Difficulty with time management skills



Lacking commitment doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t care.  In fact, studies have associated a lack of commitment to a type of defense mechanism. Are you wondering “what are defense mechanisms?”.

Imagine wearing a suit of armor. Its purpose is to protect you from potential harm. Well, defense mechanisms work similarly.  They are unconscious coping techniques that reduce our anxiety or prevent potential harmful stimuli from arising. *According to Psychology Today there are nine defense mechanisms:

1. Denial

You can consider this the “generic” defense mechanism because it underlies many of the others. When you use denial, you simply refuse to accept the truth or reality of a fact or experience. “No, I’m just a social smoker,” is a good example; similarly people can apply this to any bad habit they wish to distance themselves from including excessive alcohol or substance use, compulsive shopping or gambling, and the like.

2. Repression

One step above denial in the generic classification scheme, repression involves simply forgetting something bad. You might forget an unpleasant experience, in the past, such as a car accident at which you were found to be at fault. You might also use repression when you “forget” to do something unpleasant such as seeing the dentist or meeting with an acquaintance you don’t really like

3. Regression

From repression to regression – one little “g” makes all the difference. In regression, you revert back to a childlike emotional state in which your unconscious fears, anxieties, and general “angst” reappear.

4. Displacement

In displacement you transfer your original feelings that would get you in trouble (usually anger) away from the person who is the target of your rage to a more hapless and harmless victim. Here’s the classic example: You’ve had a very unpleasant interaction with our boss or teacher, but you can’t show your anger toward him or her. Instead, you come home and, so to speak, “kick the cat” (or dog).

5. Projection

The first four defense mechanisms were relatively easy to understand. I think. Projection is more challenging. First, you have to start with the assumption that to recognize a particular quality in yourself would cause you psychic pain. Let’s take a kind of silly example. For instance, you feel that an outfit you spent too much on looks really bad on you. Wearing this outfit, you walk into a room where your friends stare at you perhaps for a moment too long (in your opinion). They say nothing and do nothing that in reality could be constructed as critical. However, your insecurity about the outfit (and distress at having paid too much for it) leads you to “project” your feelings onto your friends, and blurt out “Why are you looking at me like that?” “Don’t you like this outfit?” See how silly that was?

6. Reaction Formation

Now we’re getting into advanced defense mechanism territory. Most people have difficulty understanding reaction formation, but it’s really quite straightforward. Let’s say that you secretly harbor lustful feelings toward someone you should probably stay away  from. You don’t want to admit these feelings, so you instead express the very opposite of those feelings. This object of your lust now becomes the object of bitter hatred.

7. Intellectualization

You might also neutralize your feelings of anxiety, anger, or insecurity in a way that is less likely to lead to embarrassing moments than some of the above defense mechanisms. In intellectualization, you think away an emotion or reaction that you don’t enjoy feeling. For instance, rather than confront the intense distress and rejection you feel after your roommate suddenly decides to move out, you conduct a detailed financial analysis of how much you can afford to spend now that you’re on your own.

8. Rationalization

When you rationalize something, you try to explain it away. As a defense mechanism, rationalization is somewhat like intellectualization, but it involves dealing with a piece of bad behavior on your part rather than converting a painful or negative emotion into a more neutral set of thoughts. People often use rationalization to shore up their insecurities or remorse after doing something they regret such as an “oops moment. It’s easier to blame someone else than to take the heat yourself, particularly if you would otherwise feel shame or embarrassment.

9. Sublimation

We’ve just seen that people can use their emotions to fire up a cognitive-oriented response. Intellectualization tends to occur over the short run, but sublimation develops over a long period of time, perhaps even throughout the course of a person’s career. A classic example is that of a surgeon who takes hostile impulses and converts them into “cutting” other people in a way that is perfectly acceptable in society.”     

Psychology Today, 2011

Therefore, lacking commitment for some individuals serve to protect or avoid feelings associated with failure. Assessing your commitment level can be beneficial and the first step toward identifying what has been holding you back.

You can learn more about defense mechanisms on Psychology Today.


Image by:  Stefano Pollio  on  Unsplash


Committing yourself to an endeavor can be difficult, especially if previous attempts ended in an unsuccessful manner. However, that does not mean that you are incapable of completing your tasks.  Before you claim defeat try these quick tips:  

Identify a plan: Constructing a plan is vital. Identify your goals and the resources needed for execution. Establishing a plan helps to promote a constructive focus. Recognize creative and innovative ways to increase your commitment. A course of action that works for others may yield different results for you – and that’s okay. Sometimes we need to execute a “trial and error” method before we can fully understand what works best for us. 

Assess your attitude: Are you able to effortlessly identify negative hinderances easier than positive accomplishments? Improving commitment requires a change in mindset. Minimize occurrences of negative self-talk. Often, positive accomplishments are not as readily recognized as shortcomings. Give yourself praise for small successes, you’ve earned them!  We respond much better to positive reinforcement than we do to punishments.

Establish a support system: Emotions and feelings can be contagious therefore be selective of those you choose to spend your time with. Surround yourself with positive and motivating individuals. Assess your support system and utilize them as needed. Suffering in silence is rarely helpful.  

Increase laughter: Studies have linked laughter to a decrease in anxiety, depression, and stress. Choose not to sweat the small stuff. Life can get hectic; calendars become booked, responsibilities of maintaining relationships pile up, work tasks increase, among other things. Minimizing laughter can lead to developing mechanical like behaviors. Life isn’t always about performance. Alter your routine, take breaks as needed, go on vacation or have a “staycation”. Seek out your “duty” to laugh, smile and feel alive!

Photo by  David Hoffman  on  Unsplash

And remember...

The mind is everything. What you think you become.
— Buddha
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Brittany has recently taken to the Charm City community and participated in psychoeducation outreaches focused on bridging stigmas in counseling, LGBT-related concerns, and Afrocentric Worldviews. Brittany’s integrative therapeutic approach has allowed her to interact with the young and older adult population to increase self-awareness, educate about community-based resources, and strengthen coping skills. Within a safe and compassionate environment Brittany strives to increase the autonomy of her clients.

While not working to evolve her counseling skills, Brittany enjoys outdoor activities such as 5k races, bonfires, and community festivals.  She loves attending WNBA basketball games, bicycling, and watching America Ninja Warrior.