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Commitment Causes Us to Grow

We need a new standard for young people. Clearly, the impression we're giving the world is not a good one (see yesterday's post for more on this). As a twenty-something myself, I want my generation to leave a lasting legacy in the world. And right now, we're not doing that — mostly due to our crippling fear of commitment.

I propose an alternative to flaking out: develop a discipline of making seasonal commitments.

It's okay to treat your twenties like a series of internships, but instead of changing your lifestyle every six to twelve months, try adopting a new standard: a minimum two-year commitment to anything you're serious about doing.

A lot of young adults I know skip out on a commitment once it gets hard. They don't acquire the discipline to push through "The Dip" and miss the reward that comes with persevering. At the same time, it's unrealistic and even dangerous to expect a young person who is still finding their way in the world to jump right into a commitment and stick with it for decades without question.

There needs to be a way in which twenty-somethings can acquire some legitimate life skills, while still experiencing the freedom of moving around and trying out different things.

Maybe that means sticking with a job for another year, when you'd rather walk out the door tomorrow. According to Barna Group President David Kinnaman, young leaders often leave their jobs far too soon. When you feel you're at your breaking point, he says, "stay a little longer."

Maybe it means dealing with your restlessness in other ways than just permanently skipping town — like taking up camping or cycling. A group of men I know go on regular "man hikes" in the mountains to rediscover their rugged masculinity and to give their restlessness an outlet.

On his blog, Tony Jones wrote about how he lives two blocks from where he grew up, why he plans to staying put, and why he's not embarrassed to admit it.

My friend Josh (who moved to Oregon from Georgia about a year ago) recently admitted that it's hard to stay put in a place when youthful restlessness begins to kick in. Nonetheless, he's committed to the relationships he's built there and is sticking it out. He wants to build trust with those who have come into his life, and he knows that only comes with relationship over time.

Given the title of this blog, the mission organization for which I work, and my passion for travel, I obviously believe in the importance of leaving home. There is something transformative that happens in a person's life when he leaves that which is comfortable for the first time.

Conversely, there is great value in sticking things out. If you've done the former but neglected the latter, consider making some longer-term commitments. You need commitment in order to grow. Begin with a season — commit to something (a church, educational track, job, or relationship) for longer than is comfortable for you.

When it gets tough, don't allow yourself to quit (unless it's unhealthy for you to stay). See how you grow as a result.

Question: How has commitment caused you to grow in the past?