Sometimes it’s hard, but it’s worth it

By Studio
26 January 2024
7 min read
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Dedication, commitment, and working on oneself have a growing importance in our culture. And they are often perceived as the way to initiate a transformation that reverberates on other people and on the world around us. The symptom of a phenomenon which involves entire communities. The only possible antidote to the loss of meaning and the dispersion of individuals into the magma of society. 

Commitment is the new genius

What really determines success or defeat? Sport, which is often a life metaphor, can provide us with answers valid in other areas as well.

Let’s start from a certainty: Messi is probably the last great pure talent in football history, the genius capable of creating beauty out of nothing. His historical rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, is without any doubt a talented player, but more than anything else we exalt his dedication. His total commitment to become the best, maniacally controlling every aspect of his life, from nutrition to the training schedule, from sleep to leisure time. 

Today the tale of commitment interests us more than the tale of the genius who does everything effortlessly: we watch, charmed, the super training of Ibrahimovic. The athletes most loved by the fans are the ones about whom we hear saying “he is the first to arrive at the sport centre and the last to leave”. And we also better understand the story told by Andre Agassi in his autobiography, Open: him being forced by his father to train against a tennis ball-throwing dragon, because “if you hit 2.500 balls a day, that’s 17.500 a week, that’s a million balls a year, you can only become Number One.”

Sport is sacrifice, discipline, willpower, passion, planning. Dedication is what turns a sportsman into a champion. The performance, the technical gesture, the result are no longer the centre of sporting activity: they are almost the natural consequence of commitment and preparation. And indeed, we keep following Ibrahimovic’s superhuman feats even now that he is no longer a professional player.

Carring this concept into other areas of life and work, we attribute the success of people like Steve Jobs not only to their talent and vision, but also to their ability to work 90 hours a week, to always do the most extraordinary thing possible.

For the same reason, we dismiss all the occasional environmental initiatives by companies  as greenwashing, whilst we are certain that Patagonia is going to save the world: because that is simply what they have always tried to do and what they will continue to do until they exist, with all their energy, their commitment, their dedication.

Is this continuous and unwavering loyalty to oneself that builds public trust, even beyond results. 

Commitment is the new social  

Jasmine Bina and Zach Lamb of Concept Bureau have written a wonderful piece to explain how the open and visible claim of dedication is what shapes the social status and reputation of individuals and organizations today. 

More and more, we see people challenging themselves, training hard, undergoing strict diet regimes, organising their life according to very carefully analysed welfare parameters. Along with the body, they also train and heal the mind, seeking the support of psychotherapy, and exploring the boundaries of consciousness and perception through psychedelics.

Faced with the difficulties of transforming and reforming society, we have decided that we, as individuals, are the priority. We have to think about our oxygen mask first, as we are told before the plane takes off. The most important transformation must occur in our inner self, affect our will. And our status, our place in the world, will depend on our ability to improve ourselves.

If before it was consumption, the possibility of acquiring objects, services, access to places or experiences that distinguished us from others, and defined who we were, now what really sets us apart from one another is the ability to shape our lives in our own image.

The most radical self-commitment projects are born on this drive: from the forms of asceticism of those who decide to shut out the world in order to rebuild themselves by following regenerative fitness programmes, to projects to achieve immortality based on the scientific study of vital parameters, to the revival of psychedelic spirituality experiences.

Above all, however, this cultural transition based on self-commitment has broken a creeping taboo: until now, talking about “self-work” and self-transformation was perceived as an individualistic, selfish, anti-social behaviour. In its new version, though, it becomes a way to initiate a transformation that reverberates on others and the world around us. It is the symptom of a phenomenon that involves entire communities. It is the only possible antidote to the loss of meaning and to the dispersion of individuals into the magma of society. 

Commitment is the new status

In a society in which hopes for the future seem to be dwindling, in which it is so easy to judge, to criticise, to bring down and to be brought down, to deeply believe in something positive and optimistic has become a new form of luxury, an opportunity that is not available to everyone. 

Engaging seriously in a path of growth and improvement is what keeps us alive, what makes us wish we are alive.

Dedication is a reservoir of stories to tell, stories that people really want to hear. We do not settle anymore for a feed of retouched photos on Instagram: we want to read the captions, to understand in depth how each of the experiences recounted in those photos fits into a wider transformative journey, to which we are dedicating our full energy.

Think about the last time someone told you about their overriding passion. If you listened to them with interest (and maybe even with a hint of envy) it was surely not because of the things they described to you, but for that light you saw in their eyes, that struggle to find the right words to express total, almost obsessive adhesion to a life project. 

The economy of commitment

The secret is to transform a routine, i.e. something we repetitively do in an automatic way, into a ritual, i.e. something that we do with maximum awareness and energy, fully immersed in the experience of the task as it unfolds, instead of thinking about its completion. 

There is a proliferation of services which help us channel and empower this experience, converging towards a holistic approach to the concept of well-being, which become being well in all aspects of existence. Achieving an overall balance that is the true ultimate goal of self-commitment. 

The online psychotherapy platform Serenis, for instance, has introduced a digital journaling feature which allows one to track and monitor emotions and set daily goals to achieve a psychophysical well-being: drinking water, spending time in nature, sleeping 8 hours, and lots of other “healthy” activities. Likewise Buddyfit, which was created to accompany people in their workout routine, moves towards the holistic wellness ritual by integrating Chef, a section on nutrition.

Visible and declared self-commitment is loaded with potential both for people and businesses. It offers us new ways to feel free and act to find authentic meaning in our life. And for the first time in a long time, it seems to us something real, something which has tangible transformative potential, something into which we can pour our hope for the future. 

The best version of ourselves  

There is a problem, though, and it is a linguistic issue. Words such as commitment and dedication have been emptied of their meaning because we have abused them: everyone declares that they are committed, all companies have “passion” among their values, and therefore no one is actually doing it, no one is able to make it a truly unique and distinctive attitude.

That is why being able to recover the deeper meaning of dedication will be decisive, if necessary borrowing words and images from other worlds, such as sport, where the meaning of a word and its effect on people are clearer, more readable.

Yet we must also go further, shifting the focus of our attention from the results we achieve to the magnitude, complexity and fatigue involved in the challenge we want to overcome. Those who play sports know this: the athletes are not looking for the perfect performance, but for the gestures that make them feel completely aligned with themselves, in harmony with their body and mind, immersed in the “zone” where they become the best version of themselves.

In the near future, in which automation and optimisation promise to make routine more and more efficient, dedication and the search for meaning in what one does will be decisive: not only for individuals, but also for organisations, which will be able to distinguish themselves if they can add to the efficiency of routine the attention and willingness that turn it into a ritual. 

Future brands will distinguish themselves not so much by results, but by the importance and complexity of the challenges they will have accepted to face. The challenges they will be able to turn into a story. It won’t be much use promising simplicity, ease of access, avoidance of friction: ease is everywhere, everyone will be able to promise and guarantee it. The difference will be made by those who know how to discuss complex issues which deserve our utmost dedication, because they really do have the power to transform our lives, bringing them to a higher level of intensity. 

“Sometimes it's hard, but it's worth it”: this is the promise that in the future will give meaning to our lives and grab our attention. 

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