पूज्य बापू को शत्-शत् नमन… Key Lessons from Gandhi for Leading a Powerful Life of Commitment
I bow to Mahatma Gandhi on his birth anniversary.
This week was the 145th anniversary of the birth ofMahatma Gandhi, one of the greatest human beings who ever lived.
If you have never heard of Gandhi, where have you been!?
As Einstein said:-
“Generations to come, it may well be, will scarcely believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.” – Einstein
What is Commitment?
Firstly, let’s get clear what we mean by commitment.
“The state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity etc” – Oxford Dictionary
Please understand that what I mean by commitment in this context is not just another word you throw around loosely – but a way of being and something you take on being for the rest of your life. Just like Gandhi did.
“Commitment is an act, not a word.” – Jean-Paul Sartre
Commitment is about declaring your word to something bigger than you.
For this life-changing article, the real question is really not about what Gandhi and others like him have achieved in their life – but what made him and them stand out from the rest of us?
So this is really an inquiry about what allows you and me to be totally committed to what we say we are committed to.
And as a backdrop, I’ll use Gandhi’s life as an illustration of what he was committed to – and how he changed the world as a result.
I learnt a lot about the power of commitment when I recently came across The Deuce Story – all about how an American Footballer transformed overnight after declaring his commitment to be the #1 player in his position.
I am committing today to henceforth write my ultimate Guru My Diary on Daily Basis without any failure.
In the words of Steve Hardison, I am here to:-
“Be Me, Be Love and Be in Service”.
Gandhi’s commitment to his vision was actually greater than his commitment to his own self-interests.
So let us begin.
What made Gandhi who he was – and what made him the man he become?
To start with, who was Gandhi as a person? By all accounts, he was actually quite an ordinary man who was raised to greatness by one life-changing experience. The real question is this:-
What makes an ordinary man extra-ordinary?
What transformed Mohandas Gandhi into “Mahatma” Gandhi?
(Mahatma is Sanskrit for “Great Soul” – and Gandhi was bestowed with that title during this lifetime by his ardent followers).
One of the inspirational figures Sadhguru wrote a fabulous article about how Gandhi’s life as a struggling lawyer in South Africa was turned upside downafter he got thrown out of a train for being in a first class carriage. His only “sin” was the colour of his skin.
In that life-defining moment, Gandhi identified with the plight of all those around him who were not as fortunate as him. He rose beyond his own “petty” daily challenges of survival and making money, and made a commitment to something larger than him. His old identity was shattered and the rest is history as he rose to become a giant amongst man.
So what’s commitment and how can we all become committed just like Gandhi did?
1. Connect to Something Bigger than Yourself
How does one get committed?
Simple – getting committed to something is a decision you make within yourself. A decision that resonates with you and makes you come alive.
Everyone one of us has something within us that makes us tear up and get connected to something bigger than us.
And this is what happened to Gandhi when he speculated on life, whilst sitting on that railway platform after having been thrown out of the train carriage simply because of his skin colour.
By all accounts, Gandhi was an ordinary man – “average” in all ways but he went on to do things that he himself probably never imagined possible. There were so many more talented and qualified leaders around him at that time, but he rose above them all – simply because of his commitment.
You and I – we all live with a limited identification. And it takes something outside of us, for us to wake up to our own power.
So the key is this – be willing to be sacrificed and to be “used” for something bigger than yourself!
Feel the Fear and Change the World Anyway
Know that being committed to something is simply a decision you make.
And please, NO half-hearted commitments!
2. Focus on Your Being
Once you are clear on your commitment, your BEING is the most important part of you and your commitment.
A key part of being committed is to come from the future you want to create and work backwards to WHO you need to be now. If you come from the past, you will of course, get more of the past.
WHO do I need to be to fulfil on what I am committed to?
What type of person will it take to create the future I want?
What’s the “being” of the being who fulfils on such a commitment?
Being authentic and being courageous about what you stand for in the world is what will have people knocking on your door.
So in Gandhi’s case, his being was one of someone totally loving and peaceful, and yet he was powerful and steadfast in his resolution. He espoused peace and love, and never did he falter in being loving and forgiving towards the British despite being jailed a number of times.
His being of love, peace and equanimity won the day in the end – and that’s why we still talk about him to this day.
And that’s why Gandhi will always be my hero – I aspire to be like him daily – goofy teeth and hair style notwithstanding :-).
3. Make Your Commitment a Life-Long Thing
When you get committed to something bigger than yourself that becomes a lifelong commitment.
Once you are totally committed in such a way, you express yourself daily – completely and in every possible way.
So what you commit to for life is not something you do lightly – and nor is it something you can only do when you feel good about it.
Nelson Mandela was in prison for 27 years – and his commitment to a united and free South Africa never wavered. Now that’s commitment!
Okay, I appreciate not everyone reading this will want to change the world for the better (why not!?).
But whatever you truly want in your life – for yourself and others – getting truly committed to that is a conscious decision you make for yourself. And you can choose to make that a lifelong commitment.
4. Do Not be Attached to the Outcome
Once you are committed to something you are committed. And then you give it your all.
Even if the results don’t come, you remain committed – there is no such thing as a “failure” for a committed person.
You don’t care about the outcome – your commitment is your reward enough.
Gandhi remained committed to a free and united India – and though he did get to see a free India in his lifetime, the country being ultimately partitioned broke his heart. And he was rather sad and forlorn in the last few months of his life.
Something I need to clear up here – a friend asked about being committed in a marriage.
Yes, once you are marred, you are committed to your partner. One can’t get married on a Saturday and then decide to be “unmarried” the following Wednesday!
Commitment in relationships is an article I shall write in the near future, but consider this question. What should one do about one’s commitment in a marriage / relationship that has become say abusive?
Hard as it may be sometimes to get out of such a relationship, the greater commitment you must always have is to yourself.
So in such a scenario, your commitment to your own wellbeing and greatness overrides any commitment you may have made to another person. And yes, you can break your marriage vows, despite any family or social pressures. Of course I am simplifying greatly here but your ultimate commitment must be to yourself.
Conversely, being solely committed to yourself and your ultimate actualisation does mean that you DO get committed to something bigger than yourself!
This reminds me of a family folklore story that I only heard recently from a cousin’s wife. 60 years ago, soon after my parents got engaged, my mother got seriously ill a few months before the wedding date. The story goes that he was put under a lot of pressure from his elder brother, the family patriarch, and others to break off the engagement with this “sick woman”.
However my father remained resolute and reassured my mother and her family that he was totally committed to getting married – his stance was what would have happened if my mother had fallen ill 6 months after the wedding?
Well, fortunately for me (!), my mother recovered fully within a few months – and here I am today to share the story.
I only heard this story a few months ago and this is yet another testimony of the type of man my late father was. And Gandhi was his hero too :-).
Check out Lessons in Compassion from my Father
5. Declare your Commitment
Your commitment has to be declared publicly.
There is a reason why most cultures make the act of getting married such a big, public celebration. Of course, I am an advocate for any partying any time, but there is a bigger underlying reason to taking your marriage vows publicly.
You are declaring your commitment to the world – and your word has power.
Beyond the wedding celebration and beyond your marriage ceremony, you do need to renew your commitment to each other daily. I bet that if more couples actively reviewed their marital commitment to each other, they would be much happier and the divorce rates would come plummeting down.
So remember the power of your word. And of your commitment.
Nelson Mandela endured 27 years of hardship in prison. Yet he remained committed to his vision of a united and peaceful South Africa. Now that’s commitment!
6. Renew Your Commitment Daily – and Review Periodically
As I said above, it is key to renew your commitment daily. Otherwise like Deuce, you’ll go by the wayside – and your dreams will be stalled or forever lost.
What is also important is to review your commitment regularly. Challenge yourself and check in that your commitment is still valid. Ask what changes you need to make in light of your ongoing life journey.
Ask – why am I doing this? Is this still valid?
Of course some commitments are life-long – such as to a married partner. If you are single, and you want to be in relationship, your commitment could be to create a loving fulfilling relationship, rather than being committed to creating a relationship with one particular person.
7. Get Clear about Whose Dream it is
Before you get committed to something, get clear about whose dream you are committing to.
Is it really something that fires you up? Or is it something that you think you ought to be doing? Maybe your parents or your peer group influenced you to take up something?
Coming back to the example of a couple getting married, ideally the two people involved should be committed to a common, greater goal.
In my ideal world, two people can come together with a big dream to transform the world and get committed to doing so together. And such a powerful union would thrive and CAN change the world.
So get clear – whose dream are you committing to?
Own your dream and your commitment – it’s your life, your vision, your commitment.
Ultimately, your life is your life – though often this might be hard for some of the key people in your life such as your parents to accept.
I am not advocating disowning anyone in your life – after all they have, or they think they have, your best interests at heart. But when you get committed to something bigger than you, you have the power to inspire and draw others into your vision of the world.
It is also about truly believing in what you are up to – and not worrying about looking good.
Do not wait for others to buy into your vision – nor care about what others might say or think.
8. Get a Sense of Urgency
I have realised that time is just so short – our lives are speeding up day by day. And before we know it, they will be burying us under the ground – or in my case sending me up in smoke :-).
Every day brings each one of us closer to our ultimate day of commitment – our death. Life beyond death is a topic for discussion for another day – but for now I suggest that all you and I should really be interested in is how best to make the most of our time here on this fragile yet achingly beautiful planet.
And that means truly getting committed once and for all to what our heart is yearning for – and then going for it.
9. Do Not Seek Certainty
There is no certainty in life – except for something I mentioned above – death.
Once you get committed to something, and it is something that totally rocks you and your world, then go for it and give it your all.
You’ll find that paths open for you – and you’ll naturally draw in the internal resources and external resources you need for your journey.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” –
Do not look for certainty – instead just keep taking those daily actions and the rest will take care of itself.
10. Simplify Your Life
When you get truly committed to something, a beautiful thing happens – your life actually becomes simpler!
There is no time to waste or even desire to spend any energy or time on superfluous things.
Gandhi led a very simple, monastic life and he had no time for the trappings for life – he was devoted to his cause and his ultimate spiritual growth. Indeed, he was the ultimate minimalist.
In this day and age, we have so many distractions, we can hardly fulfil our daily commitments, never mind our life-long commitments.
But a powerful life-long commitment will automatically filter out any minor distractions.
For instance, for me no more endless email checking or time-wasting on social media!
At the same time, you must enjoy your life and make the most of the abundance that this planet offers. Remember that the earth was created for our delight and our pleasure.
And I am open to receiving and enjoying all the delights that the universe has to offer. Even fast cars :-).
If less is best, why do I still want a Porsche!?
Ultimately though, remember that you and I are just dust and ashes. So isn’t it time you and I got truly committed and made the most of ourselves so that we might even become star-sparkle before reverting back to mud and smoke!?
“Everyone must have two pockets, with a note in each pocket, so that he or she can reach into the one or the other, depending on the need. When feeling lowly and depressed, discouraged or disconsolate, one should reach into the right pocket, and, there, find the words: “For my sake was the world created.”
But when feeling high and mighty one should reach into the left pocket, and find the words: “I am but dust and ashes” – Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peschischa
11. Inspire and Create a Dedicated Team
When you get committed to something bigger than you, you will naturally inspire and draw in like-minded people who will join you and support your cause.
Gandhi had an incredible set of talented and equally committed people who enabled him to do what he did in his lifetime.
He was very much the kingpin and the leader of the pack and yet he was nowhere near the archetype of a leader! He was a tiny, skinny, bald man with goofy teeth and wiry round glasses.
By all accounts of his physical presence, Gandhi was a nobody – but it was his being and his commitment that made him the man who he was.
My point is this – you can get the best A-team and a super mastermind group around you – but it all begins with you, your being and your commitment.
So get committed – and then let the people inspired by your commitment be drawn to you.
The Way Forward
It’s time for you (and me) to wake up and truly get committed to what you want in your life – and what you want for the world.
Life is short – the clock is ticking. The sands of time are running fast.
The world needs you to share your gifts. Whilst you can.
Are you ready to get committed?
Please share in the comments below just what you are committed to. When will you begin?
TODAY is the best day to declare your commitment – and then take that first step.
My Own Commitment
So naturally, some of you may be wondering what I am committed to in my life?
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” ― Henry David Thoreau