Making and Keeping Promises

Firstly, I should probably make it clear what I mean by a promise. I would like to differentiate it from a commitment. A commitment is something that you have agreed to do for someone and while it is also very important to honour commitments as well. So much greater is a promise. A promise is a solemn vow with the same gravity of a doctor’s Hippocratic oath or a nun’s vow of silence or chastity.

I personally never utter the words ‘I promise’ Unless I know 100% it is something I can actually deliver on, but once I have made a promise I will do everything in my power to fulfil my obligation, even if it is to my own detriment.

If you want to develop the skill of fulfilling promises:

Make Very Few Promises but Keep All That You Make

A promise is something special. Keep it that way. The fewer promises that you make the easier it is to keep those that you do make.

Make Sure You Can Actually Do It

When you make promises, be very sure that the promise is something you can guarantee to fulfil. Make sure that it is something totally within your capabilities.

Do It With Your Entire Heart

A promise should not always feel like a bind although sometimes it can certainly feel that way. You should truly want to fulfil the promise. Actually wanting to do something makes it so much easier to do. 

Place the Promise as the Highest Priority in Your Life

Day to day we have many conflicting desires and obligations. Place the promise at the top of the list. If there is ever a conflict between a promise and something else in your life, barring major heart surgery put the promise first.

Execute the Promise Well… Going the Extra Mile

There are many ways to deliver a promise. You can do it functionally, with no frills and you will have delivered on your promise and that is ok. However, try not to execute the promise sloppily or half-heartedly - sometimes meeting someone half way is worse than not doing it at all. Always do a little more than you are asked to even if it is a small thing.

The Value of a Fulfilled Promise

This is your reward for fulfilling promises. People will trust you and will know that if you promise to do something for them, it will be done and done well.

The Appearance of a Fulfilled Promise

A promise must be seen to be done. If people cannot see you actively fulfilling the promise, they may not realise you are doing it. Negating the whole point of promise keeping beyond the point of pride.

Never Use a Promise as an Emotional Blackmail Tool

Do not use phrases like ‘After all I’ve done for you’ as your martyrdom will decrease the value of the promise. So keep promises small in quantity, excellent in quality and elegant in presentation and you will become someone to rely on.

This gives you the language to be clear about your ability to commit. Letting people know you can be absolutely trusted when you use the words ‘I promise.’