Keeping Promises

“The promises that we make and keep and those we choose to dishonor – they are what define us. They define our character. They always have. It was that way long before my father was ever born, and it will be that way long after I die. Perhaps the greatest measure of honor is how we treat our promises.”

Alex Sheen, author of Because I Said I Would



The New Year inevitably brings about the conversation of setting goals, resolutions, promises to keep over the next 12 months. Ideally, we review our previous year with an honest self-assessment of what we committed to doing at the beginning of the year and what we actually completed. In my previous blog, I invited my readers to answer two important, additional questions when reviewing 2018, “Did I show up for my own life?” and “How did I show up?”  Reaching goals, completing tasks, and keeping promises are significant accomplishments and I find that the way in which I show up – with patience, kindness, integrity – is equally important and essential to reflect upon with any year-end self assessment.


The prospect of looking forward and creating promises for 2019 is often met with mixed feelings. As I scroll through Facebook, I see a variety of blogs about New Year’s Resolutions – some ‘how to’ articles, some motivational pep talks, and a spattering of posts encouraging us to say F*&%* You to making resolutions (if you don’t mind a bit of profanity, this is pretty funny! . My intention here is to offer something a little different and focus on the value of keeping promises whether they be grand New Year’s Resolutions or simple goals you set for yourself to feel better, healthier or more productive.


I’m going to start with the bottom line first:  It doesn’t matter what goals, promises or resolutions that you commit to, what matters is whether you keep your word. Keeping your word is paramount to feeling a sense of mastery, empowered, and trustworthy. The icing on the cake is an increase in vitality, motivation and self esteem. So, whether you commit to going to the gym 3x a week, learn to play the guitar, or record a podcast in 2019, what matters most is if you keep your word and do what you say you are going to do!  Thus, getting clear about what you are committing to and being specific is an important first step. A friend of mine recently said something to the effect of, “Keeping promises is a lot simpler than breaking them. It becomes quite complicated to talk about, defend and explain a broken promise.” Think about that – think about the last time you broke a promise – whether to yourself or to someone else – and think about the time, energy, and excuses that you gave to try to rationalize your behavior! It is a lot of work!  Keeping a promise, however, is also a lot of work, especially when you “don’t feel like” doing something. When you are tired after work and don’t feel like changing clothes and going to the gym, despite the New Year’s Resolution, it is often easier to talk yourself into a night at home. Easier but misguided. The consequences to broken promises are distrust, lowered self-esteem, and for those who break promises often, anxiety and depression. A friend of mine, Masen Yaffee, who leads accountability groups, A.C.T. or Action Coaching Teams, asserts that, “When you trust yourself to get things done regardless of how you feel or what happens around you, you will have a powerful, experiential awareness of your ability to do and have anything you want in life.”


Keeping your promises, keeping your word, will be a powerful and potent way to start off the New Year. The most effective way that I’ve found to be successful in keeping my promises is to participate in an accountability group. Telling others what I intend to do, being public with my promises, and receiving support and coaching has been paramount to my success. I’ve done things like exercised every single day for 90 days (no matter how I felt!), started my own business, walked every day while in chemotherapy (no matter how I felt!), completed a boatload of classes, read challenging books, organized my house, and most recently, committed to not using plastic cups and straws, with the support of my accountability team. Making simpler promises like taking my car in for an oil change, drinking 32 oz of water a day, and getting my labs done on time, also get done a lot quicker and with less resistance, more ease than they would otherwise. Whether you join an accountability group, get a coach, or ask a friend or family member to support you, I encourage you to ask for help.


Here are my tips for KEEPING PROMISES and having a year filled with integrity, vitality, and success….


Commit with Purpose – Keeping promises are a lot easier when you make them with full intention and purpose, not ‘on the fly’, in a reactive state, or half ass!


Keep it Simple – Start off simple. Commit to small goals, achievable ones and build on your success. Build up your trust with yourself and others.


No Matter What – No matter how you feel, no matter whether someone bails on you or changes their mind, you keep your promise. Try it for one week – no matter what – and see how you feel. It has changed my life to not be run by how I feel, but by what I say I’m going to do!


Get Support / Be Accountable – The most successful people in the world assert that their successes would never have occurred without the help of others. Seeking out accountability, coaching and making our intentions public are all critical steps for success.


Celebrate! – For each and every promise you keep – celebrate – your integrity is worth celebrating. Whether you clean out your car, stop eating sugar for a week, teach a class, read a book, go to the gym, stay on budget, or help a friend move, celebrate! You are worth it!