One thing you can give and still keep is your word. – Unknown
What does that mean?
This quote would make an excellent riddle, worthy even of the Sphinx. But the focus of this quote is on the giving of your word. This is an important thing in most cultures, and is part of the social bond of trust between the members of the society.
When you give your word, you are generally expected to keep it. Notable exceptions are when children promise to be good, or when adults promise something obviously impossible, often using the promise as a sarcastic statement.
However, if you become known as someone who gives their word freely, but only infrequently keeps it, you will soon find yourself unwelcome in most parts of society. In general, people don’t want to waste their time with someone who is untrustworthy.
Why is keeping your word important?
Well, how much time would you want to spend around someone who wasn’t able or willing to keep their promises? I don’t know anyone who enjoys being around someone like that, do you? They promise to do all sorts of things, but rarely follows through with any of them.
Sometimes, they are just spacey and cannot remember what they promised to do. Other people may have good intentions, but are just too busy and promise more than they can possibly accomplish. Those are well intentioned people, but I don’t imagine that’s what you want to be known as, right?
Most of us want to be known as trustworthy people. If we give our word to do something, we will make it a priority. If you had a choice, which kind of person would you want to be known as, and what kind of people would you want to hang around? Does that answer the question as to why keeping your word is important?
Where can I apply this in my life?
How often do you make promises? I suppose that isn’t as important as how often are you unable to keep promises? Even if you feel justified in breaking a promise, the people who were depending on you to complete the task you promised to complete.
If there were a bunch of people waiting on a cold and rainy day for you to open a building for them, and you didn’t keep your promise, they are not likely to be very happy with you, are they? Even if you think you had a great reason why you were unable to keep your promise, they might be inclined to disagree.
To me, the trick to promises is to under promise and over deliver. In other words, promise things only rarely, and then, make absolutely certain that what you promised gets done. You can try to get started extra early, so you have plenty of time, or make sure you clear your calendar to make sure you have enough time to complete your task.
One thing I try to do is to have a PlanB ready, just in case something really messes up my schedule. If it turns out I’m not going to be able to complete the task myself, I try to find someone to help me, in order to make sure it will be completed.
If there is no way I will be able to keep a promise, I do what I can to let the people who are relying on me know. That way, they can work to find someone to finish what I am unable to finsh on my own. While I still end up breaking my word, the people who were relying on me can try to get someone else to complete the task.
What did your review of promises made and promises kept look like? While we always have great excuses for why we weren’t able to keep our word, what is truly important is keeping it. So take a moment and consider what your primary challenge might be.
Is it that you are too eagar to please others by promising to help? Do you promise too much to too many people and end up with not enough time to get everything done? Do you find that other things keep popping up which are of higher priority than the things you promised to do?
There are no easy answers, but once you have identified a pattern, you can start to work on fixing them. If you think you’re promising way too many things to way too many people, you might work on not promising as often. If you keep a calendar with you (paper or in your phone), get it out and see how many promises you’ve made already that week, and consider saying no.
If you end up running out of time to get all the promised tasks completed, you might want to make fewer promises. The technique used in the prior paragraph might work well for that. You also might want to examine your priorities. If you have time to read or watch TV, but don’t have time to keep your word, perhaps you need to rethink your priorities.
If you are constantly interrupted by events that require you to stop working on what you promised, you might want to consider both your priorities (is a phone call from a friend really more important), and how many promises you make. The techniques in the two prior paragraphs might prove helpful.
Only you can determine how important it is to keep your word. And only you can decide how often is too often to break your word. It’s also up to you to determine what is happening to cause you to not be able to keep your word. Once you examine what is happening and spot the pattern, it is fairly easy to come up with a way to fix the problem.