Author: Pete Davis
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Summary: I enjoyed hearing about the many different things committed people have accomplished, but I think this book would be more helpful for someone earlier in their search for the meaning commitment can provide.
I was interested in this book about choosing to make more commitments because I’ve found committing to more things quite satisfying. About five years ago, living in California, I finally decided to hang pictures on my walls. Last year, when I moved to Maryland, I finally decided to become involved in local politics. I’d never done either of those things before because I never expected to live in one place for very long. I’m glad to have finally to have just started doing the things I want to do where I live regardless of whether I end up staying. However, I think I would have gotten a lot more out of this book before I came to this realization on my own.
The main argument in this book is of two parts. One is the fairly obvious point that to accomplish most things that are worth doing, you’re going to have to commit a lot of time and effort. The second point is less obvious, but a logical corollary to the first point – that committing to something will make you happier. I think the author does a good job of identifying the pros and cons of committing vs browsing. He also recognizes that both have their place.
For people just considering a commitment, I think the most helpful part of this book is the many examples of people who have committed to something. A lot of these examples are around social activism and I think these are the less useful examples. The author briefly acknowledges that most big change relies on the work of many people, but most of the stories still focus on a single hero. For someone considering getting involved in activism, I think A More Beautiful and Terrible History gives a much more helpful description of how an individual can do their small part to make change. On the other hand, I particularly appreciated that the author gave a wide variety of examples of possible commitments. I also liked that he treated commitment to things like developing a skill with the same respect he gave to potentially more altruistic goals, like activism. I think both types of commitment have their place!
For someone considering new commitments, I found this book to be lacking in specific advice. There was a bit of obvious advice about how to pick what to commit to. There was no advice on how to find groups to get involved with or how to start a group yourself. Personally, I found this part of commitment pretty daunting! To be fair to the book, I’m not sure I have much advice for finding groups to get involved with either, just to use meet-up, Google, and a local paper if you’re lucky enough to have one. Once you find some groups you’re interested in, they might then lead you to others.
Something that would have made this book more interesting to me, given that I’m already on board with making commitments, is some scientific studies on the topic. Sadly, this book has almost no citations except for in-text philosophical quotes. Something I would have preferred be left out was the author’s thoughts on the role of commitment in society. I found these parts a bit of a stretch. For example, you can frame students doing activities only for their resumes as people being less committed than they used to be, but I’d argue that it actually reflects decreased class mobility and increased fear of precarity.
As someone looking for interesting science and specific advice about deepening commitments, this book wasn’t what I was hoping for. If you or someone in your life is a twenty-something searching for a feeling of greater meaning in your life though, this just might be the book for you. I thought the author made a great argument for picking an area or two of your life in which to make a deeper commitment as a path to greater meaning and happiness.