It happens every day. We make promises and every day we keep most of them sometimes all of them. Making a promise in the first place and then keeping it becomes a delicate balance between our desires to truly be helpful to the person promised and the juggling act that is our life with all of its volatile nuance.

I personally have always wanted to be a man of my word. I want people to know if I say I am going to do something then they can be sure that something gets done. However, shouldn’t there be a scale to determine which promises you should keep and those that “don’t really matter?” Even the small promises like, “I will be there at 10 am,” are they really promises. For some people 10 am means 9:45 am and you know they will be there early, while for others 10 am is just a good starting point. Then come the excuses and rationalizations, the flat tire, the dog ate my post-it note, traffic was terrible, etc. until you lose trust in that person and their promises become just so much hyperbole.

It is interesting to note that even those people who rarely keep their promises have their own list of people with whom they lack trust for not keeping promises.

Which person are you and on a scale of 1-10 how well do you keep your promises? I believe we would all like to be a 10 or we wouldn’t make promises in the first place but how did you score yourself? Don’t be too hard on yourself we are all less than a 10 because at one time or another we made a promise that we did not keep. Does this mean that we all lack integrity and we can no longer be trusted. No, it simply means we take responsibility for our mistake, make another promise and then keep that one. It is this easy; “I know I said that I would be there by 10 am and I am not going to make the time I promised. I will however be there in 15 minutes”. Then you must keep the second promise and each subsequent promise after that and your integrity will be intact. It is when you create a pattern of breaking promise after promise that integrity is eroded. It is then your choice to restore integrity or maintain the pattern of not being your word. I’m not judging.
So, what do we know? One, we all want to be a 10 and we all fall short. Two, whether we are a 1 or a 10 we all have people on our list that we know not to ask to make or keep a promise because there is very little chance of it ever happening. Three, we can restore our integrity by beginning to keep our promises or stop making promises all together.

All that said, it is time to answer the question; “What is the hardest promise to keep?”
Now that the New Year has come and gone we can simply look at the numbers. 1 in 3 people ditch their resolution (read promise) by the end of January and more than 75% never attain their stated goal. The hardest promise to keep is the promise that we make to ourselves. Most of us need to add ourselves to the top of the list of people we don’t trust to keep a promise. We are the most important person in our lives and yet we are quick to break promise after promise with impunity. There is no consequence to this action, no punishment, no distrust, no admonishment we just go on believing that someday we will keep that promise. However, there is a consequence and it is the original reason we make the promise in the first place. I need to lose weight, stop smoking, exercise more, save money and the list goes on and on and they are all consequential when breaking our promise. You see we depend on ourselves for the really important promises and when we give up on ourselves we have certainly given up period and are willing to suffer with the result of our inaction. Ouch!!!!!

How do we then overcome this great flaw we have created? We can continue to overlook it, or we can begin to make deliberate but small promises to ourselves and begin to keep them. Instead of “I am going to work out every day” put on your shoes and say “I am going to go for a walk today” and then find joy in that walk knowing you not only exercised, you kept a promise. Then when you can make that promise again the next day the next week or whenever, you will find that the joy of keeping a promise to the single most important person in your life will carry you to making and keeping more of them more often. Remember keep them short and easily finished before moving to the next one and you will find that the big ones take care of themselves.
What promise will you keep for yourself today?

Rodney B. Vestal ©