I was teaching about this concept called “Escalation of Commitment” in my Management class at the community college, and it applies not only to managing your business or your home, but to managing your relationships and your health.
Escalation of Commitment is defined as “an increased commitment to a previous decision despite evidence that it may have been wrong”. (Robbins and Coulter, Management p. 47)
There are so many ways that I have seen this play out in my personal and professional life. For example, when you have a client that you have helped for a year, and they haven’t paid you yet (because you only get paid when the project is finished or the deal is closed), but if you work a little harder, if you give a little more, if you invest a little more time, maybe you will finally get paid and then that year will have been worth all the effort. But it is so easy for that year to turn into two and then three. And it is so hard to admit that you will never see a return on that investment. So you need to learn to see those clients and those projects more clearly in the beginning, before your commitment has escalated. You need to learn to calculate the risks and rewards of each project. But personally, I love how many times in the business textbooks, after they explain all the models and equations that you can use to create your matrix and do your calculations, that it all comes down to learning to tune in to your intuition!
“Although managers try to quantify a decision when possible by using payoff and regret matrices, uncertainty often forces them to rely more on intuition, creativity, hunches and “gut feel”.” (Robbins and Coulter, Management p. 53)
So, let’s assume that we have already invested a lot of time and energy into a project, or a client, or a relationship. Now we feel that we need to protect that investment. There are a few ways that we do this, the same as with any investments like our property and our retirement accounts. We buy insurance, we manage risk, we learn to look at it from all angles and see the big picture, and just in case those don’t work, we need to diversify. So in both your personal and professional relationships, it is healthy to have a large support network, and different types of relationships that serve different needs. I like to make sure that I have a healthy mix of mentors that I look up to and peers to network and collaborate with, to support and encourage me so that I can teach and mentor others.
But how do you learn to see the big picture and manage risk when it comes to protecting your largest investment? And no, I’m not talking about your property or your retirement account. I’m talking about your health.
- How do you learn to see your health from all angles (physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual) and learn to diversify your investments of time and energy?
- How do you learn to quit before you have given too much of yourself and admit that you will never get water out of that stone?
- How do you learn to discern what you are doing just out of habit so that you can make the conscious choice to stop and turn around and look for another path?
The problem is that we have invested a lot of time and energy in our stories. We have generations of family values wrapped up in those stories that we have been told since we were babies. To unravel that takes time and attention. Often when someone comes to me because they are in pain, they want more attention for their pain, but they don’t really want to stop being sick or stop being in pain because they have invested so much of themselves into that story. That pain has been such a part of who they are, that if they removed it, they wouldn’t know who they were anymore. Many times, that pain is the basis of their relationships with friends and family. Being a victim, or being sick, has meant that the people in their life need to take care of them and need to pay attention to them. Changing that story changes their whole world. If they no longer need that help, their rescuer or protector may find themselves out of a job.
So, we continue to protect that investment that we have put into this lifetime, (or generations) of stories. I am often asked “how did you do that?” or “how did you get to this point?” and I want to give them honest answers so that they too can begin to heal and stop being in pain. As a teacher, I love to explain how things work and share my discoveries, but I’ve found that if I just give someone additional information or facts, they may not be able to hear me because they feel it threatening their perception of reality. They start to protect their investments, even if they are not aware that they are doing it. So, even though they know that their choices thus far, or their family’s way of doing things, or their belief systems, are causing them pain and heartache and misery, it is hard to walk away from that Escalation of Commitment to the story. This is why they say that it is hard to “teach an old dog new tricks”. Even when we don’t really feel old, we need to realize that we are carrying stories and beliefs from our ancestors as Red Flags in our DNA that are warning us to fear change.
In my management class when we do the chapters on Innovation and Managing Stress, I show clips from the movie “The Croods” which is about how the cavemen were afraid of leaving what they knew.They had created a society with rules and strictures that kept them safe. Trying new things and being innovative could get you killed. They told stories about how someone left home once, and they died. Someone tried a new food once, and they died. So all of those stories were passed down not only as legend, but in the DNA as warning signs. All these years later, we feel ourselves getting stressed out or fearful over things that probably won’t kill us in our current reality. We are more afraid of speaking in public than we are of crossing the street. We are terrified of sharks, but more people died last year from taking selfies than from shark attacks. And many of us do not live anywhere near the ocean, or where there are giant spiders and snakes, but we still feel the ancient influences as we jump into full battle mode whenever we see movement out of the corner of our eye. So we quickly react to these embedded fears, but then we forget to calculate risk when leaning over some balcony to take a selfie or texting while driving a car.
There are interesting laboratory studies about how a fear can be passed down for several generations. They say that we will not understand the rise in obesity, diabetes and psychiatric orders without looking at the influence of our grandparents’ environment. They also explain the science of how you can inherit a Memory. But if you are not interested in the science and you want to just start to feel better, that’s okay too.
- So, what physical, emotional, or mental pain are you experiencing that is keeping you from living to your full potential or finding your joy?
- What are you passionate about but you aren’t doing because there is some fear that is keeping you from taking the leap?
- Is there an old story that is no longer serving your highest good?
- Where are you wasting your time and energy?
If you want help in solving this puzzle, contact me to schedule a private session. My technique is strategic, and targeted to get you answers quickly and painlessly so that you can get on to more rewarding projects.
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