The Four Commitments: The Choices That Create Your Life
A successful life usually depends on making four major commitments: to a spouse or family, a faith or philosophy, a community, and a vocation. But how do we choose what we will commit to, and how do we execute those commitments? In later years, is it possible to launch a new booster stage with new or additional commitments? (Yes.) This will be another exploration of a life well lived.
- 2016 Festival
The 21st century zeitgeist, according to New York Times columnist David Brooks, is not one that rewards commitments. Reasons for evasiveness may be manifold, but Brooks thinks the end result is the same: individuals and societies that are fragmented and listless. Without long-lasting commitments that weave through the fabric of your life, there’s nothing tying it all together. Whether shying away from big life decisions or ghosting a date, we are not inclined to commit to ourselves or others.
A definition for the times
Many of the big commitments we make in life, no matter how much planning or soul-searching goes into them, are still acts of blind faith. In the absence of cold logic to guide our decisions, David Brooks advocates for love and morality to be the foundation of our commitments:
David Brooks: The first thing love does is humbles us, it reminds us we're not even in control of ourselves. You can't control your own thinking when you're in love, when you look across the crowd you think you see your beloved sitting there. The second thing love does is it plows open hard ground. It opens up the crust of our lives that we've used to cover of ourselves, exposing soft flesh below. And it makes us more liable to suffer deep pain, but also deep joy. The third thing love does is it decenters the self. You realize your riches are not in yourself, they are in another person. And the final thing it does is it leads to a sort of fusion unity between two people.
A strong inner morality allows us to set aside what may seem like the logical choice and put a higher calling at the center of our decision-making. Morality decouples ourselves from our decisions, in a way, and can be a constant throughout decades of change.
If love and morality compel our commitments, what maintains them over years and decades? What strengthens our commitments when love and morality butt heads with everything outside the mind? David Brooks has some suggestions: