In our most recent newsletter I introduced the idea of competing commitments and how they interfere with accomplishing goals and making the changes we want. Since many of my coaching clients come to me in January with resolutions to work on and it’s important to understand why change is sometimes so hard.

Take the following example: Many people set New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and go to the gym. They may do fine for the first month. At week 5, they revert to last year’s status quo. As much as they want to lose weight and get fit, they also want to have fun, go out, spend time with family and friends, and enjoy life.

Voilà! Competing commitments in action! It’s human nature to achieve equilibrium and balance through practiced habits and routines. When we try to change these routines, we’re unprepared to face the powerful magnet of our previous habits.

Yet, when we’re aware of this force’s strength, we can inoculate ourselves. We can push back. By acknowledging our competing commitments, we can make a more balanced decision about maintaining new goals and changing old habits and routines.

Most of us think it’s just a matter of willpower, but we truly underestimate the powerful force that pulls us back to old habits. The mind has ironclad excuse systems that run in the background, which are designed to reduce anxiety and protect us from worry. Unfortunately, these excuses are often based on false assumptions that can set us up to fail.

Consider the following examples:

My Goal

I am committed to the value or importance of…

How I Sabotage

What am I doing (or not doing) that prevents me from achieving this goal?

Competing Commitments

I may also be committed to:


False Assumptions

I assume that…


  1. Losing weight




I eat more than I need for my size; I snack; I eat the wrong foods, fats and sugar; I eat for pleasure, not to nourish my body. I don’t want others to see me as a dieter; I want to forget my problems and enjoy food/life; I use food to ward off unpleasant feelings. …if I diet, people will think I’m rigid and not fun; I’m afraid to feel alone and empty; food is my sole source of pleasure; I’m not a slim person, so why bother?
  1. Quitting smoking


I smoke to satisfy my addiction. I must keep nicotine in my system to manage my anxiety and nerves. …if I don’t smoke, Iwill explode with anger, lose my cool, be nervous, or lose my reputation as a “tough” person.

What would your columns look like if you were to fill out this grid with your goal and competing commitments? I’d love for you to try this, and let me know your thoughts. Leave a comment.