The paradoxical freeing power of commitment


I’ve got a riddle for you: Let’s say you’re playing golf by yourself and you have to use a washroom. You just gotta. So you leave your golf bag on the tee.

While you’re in the loo, say your golf bag falls over. There’s no one there to hear it land on the ground.

Does it make a noise?

Super deep, eh? It’s good for you to think about stuff like that—at least for a few seconds before you look it up on Google.

Ok. I got something else for you to cogitate upon. (It’s not a riddle, but it appears more like a Zen koan.)

Commitment is freedom.

You might ask: How can making a commitment—which one definition describes as “dedicating oneself to a cause or action”—be freeing? Especially when the second part of the definition says: “an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.”

I first heard it from Fred Shoemaker, one of the wisest golf coaches today, on Show #24 of the Swing Thoughts podcast that I co-host with Howard Glassman.

As soon as I heard “commitment is freedom,” it resonated with me, although it’s true meaning escaped me for a while. I immediately used it in coaching sessions. One client loved it so much, he used it like a mantra throughout his summer tournament season. (Mantra? This is getting more Zen all the time.)

I’m big on commitment, as you saw in my last blog. Commitment is important in all parts of life, and especially for a golfer. By committing to a shot, my mind and body are in unison, connected to the task of sending the ball to the target. It’s the same with changing behaviour or trying to live in a new way.

Change is difficult because we are creatures of habit. Even with iron will and insight into ourselves, when we’re stressed, tired and emotionally wrung out, we’re prone to doubt, rationalizing and giving in to old patterns.

However, when we connect thoughts and feelings to a course of action and commit, we have increased our chances of change dramatically.

Commitment in the truest sense is not entered into lightly. If I commit to something or someone, I am dedicated. If I write it down and even say it to myself in the mirror, my resolve is even deeper.

Commitment displaces doubt, insecurity, tentativeness and overthinking. It prevents me from wriggling out of it.

Thus, commitment is freeing.

It took me a few months to understand the deeper meaning of that three-word phrase; it came home to me over a beer. Well, as I was wrestling with my relationship to beer.

Having worked from home for about 25 years, I ended most days with a beer. But this year, for fitness and financial reasons, I thought it might be wise to forgo my daily workday libation. However, I routinely talked myself out of it, rationalizing ‘it’s only one beer,’ and the like.

I wondered: Had I become dependent on a beer to end my workday? Could I stop? Did I have a problem?

As it happened, my wife and I considered experimenting with a new way of eating that forbade alcohol for 17 days. Once I committed, I was amazed. Like the student in my previous blog, it seemed easy. I even went to a couple of parties and sipped nothing but soda water. Now, I’ll have the occasional beer after work, and many days I don’t.

I believe that the freeing power of commitment allowed me to do that.

You might try applying the wisdom of ‘commitment is freedom,’ and feel free to clap for yourself—with one hand or two.

Graphic by Mark Parisi,




About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID—a Guelph punk band!