Making or breaking promises


The way we deal with promises have a profound impact on our relationships, our public identity, our effectiveness and our well-being. Promises are everywhere! Our whole social and economic network are held together by promises. And this is so close we sometimes miss it. The way we manage our promises has a big impact on our relationships, the trust we have in ourselves or that people have in us, our self-esteem and our success. If we don’t keep the promises we make, this will have an impact in all these areas. The opposite is also true: if we keep our promises this will have a positive impact on our relationships, the trust, our self-esteem, and our success.
The question we need to ask ourselves then is: what side of the chart do I want to be on?

There are 3 types of promises:

  • Strong promises: that I am absolutely committed to keeping. You can count on me.
  • Shallow promises: they look like a strong promise but what I don’t say out loud is “unless x or y happens”.
  • Criminal promises: these are promises that at the moment of making, we know we have no intention of keeping.

The major domains of our lives where we make or break or promises are: family/spouse, work/career, social/friendships, body/health, spiritual/religious, mood/attitude, money/finance, learning/education.

As keeping or breaking promises is directly related to our self-esteem, let’s have a look at the person we often break the most promises to? It’s ourselves! Even though we make up many stories and excuses to ourselves for why we didn’t keep the criminal private promises we have made to ourselves, our bodies know!! The broken promises “live” in our bones and our bodies and over time this impacts our moods, our actions and our results!

As the impact is so big, we should manage our promises or commitments better. Being impeccable doesn’t mean that you keep every single commitment you make. It does mean, however, that you take full responsibility for actively managing them. Meaning you might have to re-negociate a commitment you made. We often make commitments on top of other commitments and that is where we go wrong. Because in a certain period of time we cannot meet all our commitments. And then we say we need to manage our time better and talk about time management. Where what we really need to do is manage our commitments better!! The fact is we can manage our commitments, we cannot manage time, 24 hours will always be 24 hours.

So, next time you are about to promise something to someone, what kind of promise are you going to make?


Source: Chalmers Brothers: Language and the pursuit of happiness