I often explain coaching by telling people that I help clients "make and keep the commitments that matter: to themselves, their families, their work, their communities."

Honest assessment of our motives and of what we have to gain or lose by our actions is the key to making and keeping the commitments that matter. In addition, we must have compassion for ourselves and others or we'll get bogged down in self criticism or finger-pointing.

Here is how I recently assessed my motives and responsibilities in terms of some commitments that were troubling me.

I started by looking at why I first entered into the commitments. What were my goals, both personal and professional? I then asked if the work I was doing today was furthering those goals. When I decided that it wasn't, I had to decide whether or not to continue with the work.

Once I begin a project it can be difficult to let go of it, even when circumstances change. Among other things, I become attached to the image of myself doing the work instead of to the work itself.

I uncover that attachment by asking: Why am I doing this work? Would I continue to do it if no one would ever know about it?

If the answer is no, the odds are that I have become attached to the role I am playing or to the attention I am getting and not to the work itself. When my reasons for working are connected to the work itself, working is regenerating. On the other hand, if I am more attached to the role than the work, I find the work depleting unless I am getting enough attention, admiration and approval. In my experience it's almost impossible to get enough of those to keep my engine running in the absence of meaningful work.

Once I've faced my real motives I understand what I can expect if I don't change my approach. I have learned that I become resentful and unproductive when I am doing work more for the sake of image than meaning. At that point it is relatively simple, if not necessarily comfortable, to alter my course.

Over the years I have become more aware of my motives for making and keeping or breaking commitments, more accountable for the energy and attention at my disposal. I think I change course more quickly in response to my self assessments and that I spend less time beating myself up. I may not make fewer mistakes, but I have shorter relationships with them. Asking and answering the embarrassing questions and having a compassionate and patient attitude toward my weaknesses are the keys to keeping those relationships short.

Author's Bio: 

Hundreds of articles, quotes and exercises for self improvement are available free at molly's web site, http://www.mollygordon.com. For free e-newsletter, write newleaf@coachladybug.com.