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Posted by on Jul 15, 2014 in Communication, Featured, Leadership, Strategy, Transparency | 2 comments

The Case For Keeping Commitments

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“My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far I’ve finished two bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.” —Dave Barry

I LOVE this quote by Dave Barry!  It’s not only funny, it shows how ingenious humans are at hearing what they want to hear.  Interpretation is a wonderful thing and worthy of a writing all its own, but for now, back to “finishing.”

I’ve often had visions of myself in procrastinators hell – a room filled to the top with all my unfinished projects, and none of the supplies I need to work on them.  I shudder just thinking about it (especially that ugly hook rug!).

I suppose we can claim no harm/no foul on commitments to projects of our own choosing that we later go rogue on.  Who really needs another cross stitch and if all tables were beautifully finished why would we need table cloths?

Commitments we make to people are important – not only for they mean to them, but also for what they make of us.

The same can’t be said of commitments that we make to others, whether personally or professionally.  Commitments we make to people are important – not only for they mean to them, but also for what they make of us.

Commitments made to employees by employers can create a climate of trust and loyalty when they’re kept or destroy the same by neglecting to follow through.  When we make promises that will affect the lives of others, we must do so with caution, and full intention.  Commitments carry consequences.  Some common examples of broken commitments by employers are:  promising bonuses and delivering excuses, promising promotions with no intention of delivering, and promising future raises when there’s no guarantee the funds will be available for them.  When commitments are used as manipulation and trickery to get others to do more, you can count on it not ending well.

When we make promises that will affect the lives of others, we must do so with caution, and full intention.

It has become easier to isolate ourselves from the immediate consequences of breaking promises.  It’s simpler not to follow through when we can text, tweet, and email our excuses or just use avoidance to delay consequences.  We may be able to postpone the immediate discomfort of seeing the disappointment in the eyes of those we’ve left at the curb, but we can’t eliminate the consequences entirely, and they have a way of catching up to us at the most inconvenient times.

The point is this: We never break any promise that doesn’t also break off a small part of ourselves.  Our reputation is built one action at a time.  It enters a room before us and stays long after we leave, and it doesn’t matter whether our offenses are intentional or just a matter of oversight.  The most expensive suit can’t dress up poor character and lack of integrity or clean up a soiled reputation.

Living with integrity lets us rest easy when we lay our heads on the pillow at the end of a long day and offers the same peace and reassurance to those who are depending on us to keep our word.

With the pace of life seeming to speed up daily,  It’s easy to find ourselves over committed.  Often, somewhere between the good intention and the performance, other things come along that cry louder for our attention.  Being stretched to our limits can create situations where we’re more likely failing to keep promises made.  Keeping track of our promises may not be easy, but it’s worth every effort.  We may forget something we’ve committed to do, but the person we’ve made the commitment to won’t – even if they don’t bring it up.

Keeping commitments is important.  It’s just that simple. If there is no ability or intention to perform, no commitment should be made.  Not making commitments, when we’re unsure we can keep them shows a different kind of character born of self control and self awareness.

I’ve found that in some instances, not making commitments can be just as character building as keeping the commitments I do make.  It allows me to follow through with less stress and overwhelm and without having things inadvertently fall through the cracks.  Plus, by not over committing I may even find time to finish that ugly hook rug!

Not making commitments, when we’re unsure we can keep them shows a different kind of character born of self control and self awareness.

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Copyright: eric1513 / 123RF Stock Photo

Anita Stout

Anita Stout is an author, and the CEO of Wellness Pays Inc. which focuses on helping people live better lives through better choices physically and financially. She believes her greatest contribution, raising six children, will prove to be her life’s masterpiece. She recently completed a new book titled Life Isn’t Broken (in editing) and publishes a blog by the same name. Her love of diversity, brilliance, and lively conversation, led her to her husband David, who pastors a different church than she attends and has opposing political views.

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  • ChristaJeanne

    Love this! I’ve been an overbooked overachiever since college and did just fine keeping up with everything until sidelined by health issues in the last couple of years. It’s been a hard lesson to learn, but I’ve embraced the idea of committing to only that which I can complete. I’d much rather make last-minute plans with friends when feeling up to it than to break plans last minute because I’m too sick to go. That line about losing a piece of our soul when welching on a commitment is so true!

    • http://www.lifeisntbroken.com lifeisntbroken

      Thanks for your comments CristaJeanne
      It took the same experience – health issues to lead me to that as well. I agree it’s much better to surprise than to disappoint. I also find that “welching” on commitments to myself have the same effect though I like to believe there’s a difference between disappointing someone else and letting myself down. Hope your health issues resolve!

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