I am part of what has been called the “Peter Pan Generation.” We have been named such because as a group we tend to delay our passage into adulthood. Throughout our 20’s, we continue to live at home with our parents. We bounce around from job to job. We postpone the traditional rites of passage such as beginning a career, getting married, or having children. We want all the privileges that come with adulthood without any of the responsibilities. To our parents, we look like Peter Pan and his lost boys… determined to never grow old.
Sociologists have developed all sorts of reasons for why we behave this way (see here, here, and here), but the fact remains that it is a prevalent lifestyle for people my age. To some degree, I am the same way. I’ve just graduated three years after many of my peers (mostly due to my time spent as a missionary in South Africa) and I certainly have collected a diverse range of life experiences by now (ask me about my marathons, winter camp-outs, or high school rock band sometime).
At the same time, I feel like the desire to make and keep commitments which appears to be absent from my generation has been a critical part of the successes I’ve been able to be a part of. Let me explain.
Committing to a path means focusing your efforts and not deviating when obstacles come. No successful person, be they a politician, musician, or Olympic athlete, becomes able to perform at a high level without persistence. Persistence happens when you are committed. Of course, making commitments brings a trade-off. It means you lose flexibility. A student, committed to a heavy course-load, cannot always go snowboarding with his unfettered buddies. A commitment to serve your country means you are told where to live and given assignments for months at a time. Yes, in making commitments there is always a trade-off.
But as far as I am concerned, the benefits to committing far outweighs the costs. First of all, flexibility is overrated. Sure, I could drift through life, sampling a little bit of everything, being free of responsibility… but what kind of impact could I make? Being a Jack-of-all-trades inevitably makes you a Master-of-none, and being somebody who wants to make a significant contribution somewhere, I cannot afford to be a generalist. I’d rather do three things very well than twenty things poorly. There’s an abundance of mediocrity in the world… I don’t need to add to that.
Committing also leads to more meaningful interactions with people. My friendships are stronger because I don’t blow off my friends. My family is stronger because I take my marriage vows and religious commitments seriously. I strive to be a person who keeps my promises, despite the costs. These costs are heavy sometimes but I’d rather accept the costs than suffer from the absence of meaningful relationships in my life.
I’ll be the first to admit that making commitments can be scary. I am currently experiencing several transitions in my life. Nobody wants to commit to the the wrong choice and be trapped in a dead-end career or a love-less marriage forever. Yes, making commitments is scary, but running away from commitments is not the answer. Rather we would be better to carefully study out our options, educate ourselves, and counsel with people who are wiser than we are. Once we have done all we can to confirm our choice, we commit and we don’t look back.
I don’t profess to know the road to success. I’m not sure if I even know how to define success. But as short as my life has been, this much is true: Every good thing I have in my life is a result of my decision to make and keep a commitment.
And with that kind track record, I’d be a fool to stop now.