“Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life; dream of it; think of it; live on that idea. Let the brain, the body, muscles, nerves, every part of your body be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success, and this is the way spiritual giants are produced.” – Swami Vivekananda
Commitment is risky but only when we are actually taking a risk do we open up to the possibility of creating authentic connections and art. When we commit to one idea fully we are able to let go of all the other distractions that stop us from really making progress. When we are fully committed, there’s no longer places for us to divide our attention so that we don’t have to face the tough stuff. We are left facing our obstacles to improvement right in the face. Many of us avoid this all in, hold-nothing-back, level of commitment because it means several things:
First, we need to actually do the work, the hard work. We need to have the conversation we have been putting off, write the blog post we have been avoiding, discuss the issue that is uncomfortable, take the trip to a new place, sign up for that surf lesson or yoga class, or meet that person standing next to us. We are required step out into the unknown right here and right now instead of some undetermined time in the future many of us call “soon.”
Second, we are forced to face ourselves. The truth that nothing is holding us back except ourselves becomes sparkling clear since there are no other distractions or excuses in which to deflect responsibility. Our creative life becomes simplified to the point that we are either doing the work or avoiding it. There is nowhere for our small-minded, fear-driven motivations to get a foothold so we are forced to plunge deeper into our creative process.
Third, we might actually succeed. This has always been challenging for me to believe. Why would I ever be terrified of my own success? But after further examination, it makes a lot of sense. Many of us have invested a decent amount of energy into developing our identity and the stories to support it. We are therefore invested in maintaining this image, even attached to it to the point that we cannot distinguish between who we are and “our story.” If we were to succeed at the very things that hold us back the most, how would we identify ourselves? Who would we become? What does our life look like then? All of these questions can subconsciously sabotage us into not taking any action. All of a sudden it seems safer to remain in the comfortable and familiar story of us rather than step into the unknown. We are confronted with the opportunity to take a risk without knowing who we might become when we do take that risk, while at the same time cultivating the guts to do it anyway. As Swami Vivekananda put it so well, “this is the way spiritual giants are produced,” and it is in this moment we have the chance to unfold our own myth.
Ultimately, commitment is not something that needs to constrain us. Rather, what Swami Vivekananda is emphasizing is that the way to true freedom comes from the ability to let go fully into whatever it is we are doing. If what we are doing is not something that we can fully let go into, we might want to consider looking for something that is worthy of our full commitment. Once committed, we are free because we can trust that all of our actions originate from an authentic intention that we have deliberately set ourselves.