A coaching client I was working with this week, who has an ADHD diagnosis, wanted to make a commitment to himself to increase his phone calls to prospective clients; sounds good, except he has tried this more than half a dozen times without successfully following up.

This time I encouraged him to not make the commitment. I felt he still didn’t have a realistic chance of fulfilling it, and if he had made the commitment and not followed through on it again, the value of all his commitments would just continue to erode.

In my coaching, I’m always looking for ways to help my clients bring a higher level of awareness and motivation to the task of changing their habits. A commitment is a classic and sometimes powerful method, but part of its potential power is in its ability to draw attention to a situation – to create a “different than life as usual” moment.

Making a commitment stand out – catch your attention – means it needs to be thought through carefully and it has to marshal your best efforts. Taking the time to make a deliberate decision before making a very specific commitment, even to yourself, raises the value of your commitments and the chances they will be effective.

My client and I spent the last half of our session identifying what strategies he could use to increase the odds that he would successfully follow through this time. He ended up making a commitment to do something he was sure he could accomplish, create the tracking sheet he would use when he was ready to move forward on the phone calls. If he is successful at completing the new form, his subsequent commitments may be even more powerful motivators.

Don’t over commit!