How A Fear Of Commitment Is Sabotaging Your Goals Plus How To Turn This Around For Good

fear of commitment

Do you sometimes find yourself at some point veered off course and seemingly farther away from your goal than when you started? An underlying fear of commitment could be at play, but not in the way you might think. 

When you set out to achieve a goal, you feel that initial sense of excitement and determination, yet as that initial enthusiasm wanes, it can become harder to achieve your goal. From the outside it can look like you are simply not committed. But it’s likely more complicated than that. Our brains love habits and autopilot, so changing anything can often kick up complicated internal conflicts that can sabotage your progress if you aren’t ready for them.

Here are three research based strategies to try next time you feel your fears of commitment rearing its head.


1. Focus on what you want, rather than your resistance

Time spent figuring out your resistance to change and fears of commitment can be constructive,  but focusing on what you want, rather than what you are doing wrong, tends to be more efficient. The truth is that you will commit when you really WANT to commit. Science confirms want-driven commitments tend to override most obstacles. 

One of the best ways to avoid self-sabotage and procrastination is to tune into what you really want, and then make the process manageable. Getting focused and clear about your goals, whether externally or internally driven, means breaking your primary goals into smaller, achievable ones.

Begin by thinking about what you want (your goal) and identifying the easiest next step that will bring you closer to it. This could be as simple as turning away from the endless scroll of social media and instead listening to a podcast about people who have  achieved the same goal themselves. Shifting your attention away from delay tactics and toward inspiration can help you stay in motion, repeating the process and identifying next manageable steps.

2. Anticipate obstacles and avoid self-sabotage

Once you are feeling inspired and moving in the right direction, keep your eyes open for obstacles to your success. You want to see them coming rather than stumble upon them unaware. When you keep your head up to see what could get in your way, you can put checks and balances in place to create a clear path through the obstacle minefield.

In the previous example, one quick step to move you in the right direction is to shift your attention away from social media. But this assumes that you have already gotten sucked in and steered off course, because this is an unconscious habit you use to alleviate the anxiety created by your fear of commitment. What if you could curb this habitual soothing BEFORE you even start?

Research led by Timothy Pychyl (Piers Steel and Alexander Rozental), offers the idea of implementing “microcostsor mini-delays,” that require adding in some small effort to procrastinate, such as having to log on to a separate computer account for games or social medial.

By having to exert more effort to engage the procrastinating behavior, you delay an important reward of the procrastination: immediate gratification. And this small delay has been shown to give you the delay and cue you might need to rethink your distraction. 


3. Find the fun

Sleuthing your goals, breaking them down, and setting up barriers to distraction may sound like a lot of extra work to get you on track and keep you there. And it can be, for sure. Keeping it fun can go a long way to help. 

The mind is reward-centered and can resist actions that don’t have clear and immediate intrinsic reward. So finding intrinsic, obvious rewards, however small, can help fire your intrinsic motivation and keep you on track. 

Before recalibrating, or walking away from a project, try finding the fun in the effort, or noticing the intrinsic pleasure of seeing progress, however small.  Make a game of it – a find-the-success game. Track and celebrate the mini-successes along the way to help keep the process fun, and fuel your intrinsic motivation.


Even if you’re like most of us and get stuck resisting progress from time to time, your fear of commitment doesn’t have to drive self sabotage. You can shift your attention away from the fear and toward what you really want; clear the obstacles in your way; and find fun as you leave your fear of commitment behind.



Looking for more help with balancing anxiety? Check out my book Hack Your Anxiety and the digital tools I’ve developed to expand the book’s concepts here, or sign up for my free mini e-course here.

Photo by on Unsplash

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD