THE BLOG
09/29/2014 02:36 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Commit: You Won't Forsake Options Down the Road!

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If I Commit, I lock myself into a direction.
I need to keep my options open.
Once I dive in, there is no way out.

Sound familiar?

Every time I visit my friend Edward in the English countryside, I come back relaxed, refreshed. Something about long walks and the fresh air...

This weekend I was taking a walk down the country road leading from Edward's house; it is one of those typical long winding, narrow roads with hedges and fields on either side - the kind that if you are driving and another car comes from the other direction, one of you has to find a slight easement to let the other car through.

It got me to thinking about a common discussion I have with my clients. The discussions center about committing to a path, to a direction. Leaders are always thinking through commitments of resources, direction, and product development:

  • At what point do you stop evaluating options before you commit?
  • When I commit, am I charting a course that eliminates optionality, the ability to change course and take advantage of opportunities?
  • When I commit to a course, is that a tradeoff for optionality?

That country road I was walking on had one way to go - straight ahead. As far as my eye could see, there were no turnoffs.

And so commitment is unavoidable if we want to reach our objectives.

And as I walked down that road, I hadn't walked more than three hundred yards when, as I got closer, I saw that there was a turnoff - a smaller dirt path. I hadn't seen it, but it was there. When I came to that turnoff I saw that this new path split again several hundred yards ahead.

Whether it is a business project, a product direction for a startup company, or a decision we make on a course in our lives, the reality is that commitment does not mean we are barreling down a path without options; it does not mean we have unavoidably committed ourselves down a path. Life isn't like that. Decisions aren't like that.

We commit, but as we forge ahead, if we keep our eyes open to opportunities within our chosen path, then we will find points where adjustments can be made.

But we have to keep our eyes open.

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I followed the smaller path and as I came around the bend, the path led into a huge field as far as the eye could see. I never would have known it was there when I stepped onto that road from my friend's house.

To achieve our goals, we have to make decisions, even if part of our course requires some faith. But the biggest faith leap is not as to whether there are options ahead. The faith leap is in yourself. That you, in committing, aren't shutting down to options ahead; rather you take the step forward, with the faith that you and your team go in with eyes wide open.