Hot tips to build commitment

HeartWhether you are wanting to build a stronger relationship with your partner this Valentine’s day or take on a new course of study, improve your diet, exercise or work output this year it all takes a certain level of commitment. Have you got what it takes to put your heart and soul into it?

Defining Commitment

  • A promise, contract, brand
  • A willingness to give time and energy
  • The act of binding yourself (emotionally or contractually) to a course of action
  • The trait of sincere and steadfast fixity to purpose
  • A firm decision to do something.

Pretty heady stuff. Some people do study these things for a living so how can their work help you?

In his book Intrinsic Motivation at Work: Building Energy and Commitment, Kenneth Thomas reports on research he has carried out in the workplace. Thomas has found that building commitment depends on internal and external motivators as well as a sense of altruism.

Extrinsic motivators

Are about having things, e.g. more money, a bigger house, office at work or car. Thomas noted that while these things are great, they seldom satisfy people for long.

Intrinsic motivators

Are related to emotions, e.g. feeling happy, loved, valued, recognised etc. Thomas observed that these things are becoming more powerful motivators in the work place, particularly to the X and Y generation.

Doing the right thing

Is also a powerful tool as it makes people feel good about their actions.

Thomas noted that building gratitude for what we have, caring for others and the environment is becoming an increasingly important motivating tool for people today.

What motivates you?

When you want to become committed to a course of action, what factors will bind you to it and give you that sense of purpose to help you to “drive” the venture through? Using Thomas’s management approach in the workplace let’s consider how it may relate to managing a personal change such as weight loss.

The extrinsic verses intrinsic approach

People trying to lose weight often concentrate on wanting to be a certain number of kilograms and may postpone their happiness until that specific weight is reached.

While weight is an important key point indicator of progress, a weight goal in its self can be like money, an extrinsic motivator. While it might be pleasing when you reach it, a certain kilogram goal may not matter or have as powerful hold over you over time. Particularly when things are getting tough in your life and you are under a lot of stress or pressure?

However if instead you were to concentrate on the collection of “feelings” you want to experience, it may help you to reach the goal more quickly. These intrinsic motivators could be a number of feelings such as sense of lightness and  more energy, more confidence, maybe more sensuality, feeling proud of yourself (for having persisted),  experiencing more fun  when out shopping and being able to fit into clothing styles that once eluded you .

Environmental “spin offs”

Perhaps we could also look at weight loss in terms of the good to the environment. Eating our share of food (rather than over indulging) leaves food for others. Also if each of us takes on the responsibility to stay fit and healthy (particularly as we age), we in turn, free up the health system (health dollars) to help those in greater need.

People who are healthy take fewer sick days from work and may be more productive mentally and physically. These powerful drivers can lead to economic and educational gains for our country as a whole.

So if you want to build more commitment for yourself, family or a team you might like to think about the steps it will take you to build a “sense of purpose”

6 tips to build commitment

Building commitment is easier if you have a long-term vision of the finished product and “a recipe” for success. Consider e.g.commitment to better health

  1. Define what is the purpose of your decision?
    To improve my blood pressure, lose weight
  2. How do you want to feel?
    Fitter, lighter, more confident, alert, happy, loveable
  3. What do you need to do to achieve it?
    Change my diet, drink less alcohol and exercise more effectively
  4. Start your course of action.
    Follow Lea’s dietary advice, aim for a minimum of 300min or more per week of aerobic exercise and resistance training. Enlist support from others
  5. Monitor your level of competence.
    Keep a food diary, record exercise achieved
  6. Monitor your progress
    Check weight,measure your waist/hip ratio. Visit your doctor for a check on your blood pressure and levels of blood cholesterol and glucose. You might also measure the “ knock on effect” your actions have on others  e.g. Does your spouse seem more attentive? Are you sleeping better?Rate your level of happiness 1-5.

Feel good factors

What are the rewards for taking this “self- management” approach?

A sense of choice

People can feel more empowered when they step back from a situation, weigh up the pros and cons and then choose a course of action that will get them closer to their goals. E.g. In the case of weight loss others may offer you extra foods or drinks but in the end it is you who chooses to swallow.

The building of competence

Gathering new skills can help to build confidence and self-esteem and open up new opportunities for the future. For instance weight loss is not just about changing eating habits. Once a person has recognised that losing weight involves a process: of also being dedicated to the cause; gaining support; planning and organising and putting in effort etc it is possible then to apply these same set of skills to other things in life that may need  changing  e.g. saving more money,  smoking cessation, finding more productive work, starting a new business.

A sense of progress

When you measure the steps to your goal it can create a sense of achievement. But don’t only measure the changes to weight, shape and size. Also look at the feelings that you have.

  • Getting fitter, completing exercises more quickly
  • Breathing more easily without tiring when walking up stairs or hills
  • Sleeping longer and waking more refreshed
  • Noting the positive vibes, the compliments when people give them
  • Having more energy as measured in lower levels of stress or tasks performed more effortlessly.
  • Feeling less anxious and irritable.
  • Not feeling hungry or craving for sugar

Good luck with whatever you commit to this year. But if improving your health and fitness is on the agenda and you would like some help and support, then do contact us today.


Thomas KW Intrinsic Motivation at Work: Building Energy and Commitment, 2002 Published by Ingram Publisher Services


About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

View all posts by Lea Stening »


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