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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


What Ever Happened to Commitment?

I have contended for three years now that we, humans, have some muscles that have atrophied over recent years. Some of our emotional, spiritual and volitional muscles just don’t get used like they did thirty to forty years ago, and they’ve shrunk.

Want an example?  Take commitment. 

Long term commitment is rare these days. People are more apt to job hop, drop a girlfriend, block a friend, get divorced or just plain “quit” than at any time in the last one hundred years. 

In my book, Generation iY—Our Last Chance to Save Their Future, I provided some ideas to build commitment in our emerging generation of kids. If we don’t, I suggested, we will eventually see five-year marriage contracts.

Did you hear the news last week? Mexico has joined the ranks of countries that are proposing short-term marriage licenses—as low as two-years long. The reform would allow couples to choose the length of their commitment, opting out of the lifetime commitment to a partner.  Hmmm. I can only imagine the conversations children will have with mom: “How long did you say dad would be around…one more year?”

Just like atrophied muscles, I think we must develop exercises for kids (and adults) to build the ability to stick with a commitment even when the glitz and glamour are gone.  So, how do we work with this generation who forgets the last commitment they made yesterday, and has dozens of options in front of them today? What are some steps we can take to draw a more firm commitment from them?  Let me suggest some ideas below. 

1. Listen to them and affirm their dreams and goals.

2. Provide them a sense of big-picture purpose as they perform menial tasks.

3. Give them short-term commitments they can keep, and put wins under their belts.

4. Offer them realistic steps to their often over-optimistic goals. Help them prioritize.

5. Work with them to focus on one, meaningful objective and pull it off.

6. Encourage them to simplify their life, and remove some self-imposed pressure.

7. Discuss personal values with them and help them to become value-driven. 

I trust you will model commitment and develop committed students under your leadership!

What do you think?



  1. Lori on October 14, 2011 at 10:46 am

    I really like this.  I think that many of us would benefit from some examples of actually putting this into practice.   I have written these down and plan to read these over each day.  There are a few that I believe I need to work on also.

    • Tim Elmore on October 15, 2011 at 12:27 pm

      So glad you found it helpful. Hope that the daily reminder helps reinforce the habit!

  2. Dclouser on October 14, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    These are important things to work on, but nothing can replace the modeling of commitment. Because so many of the parents of this generation have not done a good job in this area, they are now reaping what they’ve sown in the lives of their children. Even young people who have chosen not to follow Christ in spite of their Christian upbringing will live behaviors like commitment if they have been modeled in the homes where they grew up. As usual walking the walk is the most important thing, even though it’s the hardest!

    • Tim Elmore on October 15, 2011 at 12:29 pm

      So true! We can’t underestimate the importance of modeling virtues we want to see in our children and parents. The “do as I say, not as I do” just doesn’t go very far.

  3. Jon Collins on November 2, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Yea. I feel like we are a generation of NON commitments!  No one can commit to anything a week out because they always think something “better” will come along….Really terrible if you are trying to plan for things.

    • Tim Elmore on November 9, 2011 at 7:00 am

      Good example – thanks for sharing.

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What Ever Happened to Commitment?