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Superpower of Commitment

Oliver Burkman, former columnist for The Guardian, wrote in his final article for that publication, “8 Secrets to a (Fairly) Fulfilled Life,” that one of these secrets is the ability to tolerate minor discomfort; he likens it to a superpower.

Avoidance of discomfort can be strong enough of a motivator to keep us from taking on tasks or projects that could give us great satisfaction and fulfillment. This avoidance manifests in various ways, such as hitting the snooze button instead of rising for exercise or meditation, allowing our email inboxes to balloon as a means of deferring decision-making or departing a virtual workshop prematurely to avoid sharing personal experiences in a breakout session.

What does it take, then, to boost our tolerance for discomfort so we can move through resistance and complete those tasks and projects that get stymied or take personal risks that could provide truly enriching experiences? Brute force? Sheer willpower?

Neuroscientist Rebecca Acabchuck might offer awareness as a remedy. In a recent talk at the XCHANGE “Awakening Conscious Leadership Experience,” she points out that while willpower is a limited resource, awareness is more compassionate and more honest. Willpower might be a good kickstart, but to get to completion, we could benefit from bringing a renewed awareness of what we are aiming to accomplish and connecting with why it matters. Even awareness of our fears and the willingness to probe the roots of those could provide a path forward.

I experienced great discomfort last week while attending a virtual workshop during which we were asked to bring colored pencils or markers and embark on a drawing exercise to illustrate our current world on one page, and a visualization of what our world could be on another. Up to that point, I was getting a lot of value from the sessions and even pushed through the discomfort of being vulnerable with strangers. Ad hoc art projects may be used to extract insights into our inner world but were enough to make me strongly consider turning my camera off and finding an excuse to bail.

I turned to the idea of building up my superpower. I leaned into my discomfort and tried to practice awareness to get to the source. Was I that terrible of an artist? Was I lacking purpose? Was I stuck in the status quo and not aiming high enough? I realized I just needed to start drawing and see what emerged.

Then I had another insight. I thought about a talk that author and social entrepreneur Lynn Twist gave recently about the power of commitment. Lynn Twist is the author of “Soul of Money” and “Living a Committed Life.” She also does profound and life-giving work with The Pachamama Alliance. During this talk, she said something to the effect of, “When we make the commitment to something larger than our own lives and take a stand for something bigger, that commitment reaches back into our own lives and transforms us so that we can live into that commitment.” I wondered if this idea that the sheer act of making a commitment could be a catalyst, a transformative event, could work on a smaller scale. Completing an art project was not tantamount to taking a stand for something bigger, but it could represent a commitment to completion, to following through, and to the possibility that I might emerge with an even deeper understanding of myself. It is not a stretch to acknowledge that the better we understand ourselves, the more equipped we are to connect with a larger purpose.

I committed. I picked up the multi-colored highlighter one of my daughters had left on my desk and began laying down strokes on the first sheet of paper. I had no idea how it would turn out, but I rotated different line directions and colors and a beautiful pattern emerged. The commitment was reaching back in and supporting me. When I was cued to transition to drawing my “what could be,” instead of starting a new drawing on a second piece of paper, I filled in the white spaces and deepened the colors, which, with a highlighter, made them more vibrant and fully expressed as their true colors. Thinking back to my Best Year Yet plan I had drafted in December, the guidelines, my new paradigm, and my goals for the year, I was quickly able to connect the dots and find meaning in the exercise. When it came time to break into small groups for sharing, I had an authentic, true story to share.

Each day, I look for ways to embrace discomfort and commit to something – no matter how minor: Monday, it was starting to write my very first blog submission (yes, the one you’re reading right now); Tuesday morning it was getting up at 4:45 am for a swim; today, it’s kicking off the 2023 tax return process. It is a work in progress—there are certainly still things that are easier to put off or avoid altogether—but it usually helps to think about the power of commitment and imagine my superhero cape flapping behind me in the wind.


Author – Kelty Vaquerano, InteraWorks Relationship Lead


About InteraWorks

InteraWorks is a global learning company on a mission to elevate the human experience at work. Specializing in professional development and performance enablement, we offer top-rated learning programs based on four defined conditions that must exist for individuals, and teams including Effective Edge, Best Year Yet, and the Essentials series. Our integrated learning framework and online tools generate immediate and sustainable breakthroughs in performance. Through decades of working at all levels in enterprise companies across many industries, we’ve built a reputation for helping people and organizations harness their focus, mindset, talent, and energy to produce results that matter most. 


We’ve defined four conditions that must exist for an individual, team or organization to be effective within the arena of performance and development; Accountability, Focus, Alignment, and Integrity. We’ll continue to explore these and more in our blog and look forward to your engagement and interaction with us. Stay tuned as we engage the edges.