Sunday, January 29, 2012

But You Promised!

As a child, I must have said those words to my parents a hundred times.
They were skillful practitioners of over promising.
People pleasers at their core, they often committed to Disneyland,
a beach outing or pizza for dinner.

Sadly, disappointment often followed these well intended vows.
Sadder still, I stopped believing their promises.

I confronted my parents after one particularly disheartening exchange,
and asked them to never tell us of intended plans
until we were in the car and on our way.
Because when things fell through,
we felt let down and we'd rather be spared the pain.

I was eight.

Keeping our word matters.
Painting pretty pictures for our own benefit
and dragging others through our made up visions is selfish.
It helped my parents feel better as excitement thrummed in hopes of a great time.
But when the truth surfaced and our dreams fell,
so did our trust in those who broke their word.

By the tender age of nine I had decided my parents couldn't be counted on.
To me, they were either liars or fools.
Neither option instilled confidence.

I wrote them off.

People discount those who lack follow through.
We've heard it said, that someone is all talk.
Nothing actually gets done and we don't take them seriously.
We might like the person who spins dreams,
but we never rely on them.

We must guard against being full of it.
It's terrific for our writing, not for living.

 Eye roll here. How do we accomplish that?

Think before we promise.
If we say we'll meet a deadline, assist a friend, wash the car, we do it.
End of story.

We decide our word means something.
That we have integrity.
We are trustworthy.

This week, keep your promises to a minimum.
I have a rule of three.
If someone asks me to do something,
I tell them I'll let them know rather than promise in the moment.
We deserve time to see if it's doable.

If we're committed to a critique group, family, and a deadline
then hold off before promising more.
It may feel great to give the other person what they want,
but when the rug is yanked out, they won't adore us.

They may write us off.

This week keep a record of what you have currently promised to do.
Is it reasonable?
If not, tell the people involved that you must decline.
I know, huge let down, flaky status.
But it's better to be up front.

No one likes to find out you can't do their wedding flowers
the day before the ceremony.
More time allows them to get it taken care of.

Try keeping your promises down to three.
Write those in your journal.
You might choose to only commit to something new once you've fulfilled one on your list.
More than that, you're over booked.
You'll be less stressed, get more done and do a far better job.
Everyone will be happier.

 Let me know how this works for you.
Thanks for your comments.


  1. My biggest disappointments are when I break a promise to myself. THOSE are the promises I am most careful about.

  2., have I been a victim of those. Taught well through my life and I'm pretty sure I've made myself victim of my own neglect. I'm fast to keep my promises to my grandchildren because I'm afraid to disappoint them, but you're right, I owe myself the same reward.

  3. Hmm, don't know which I identify with the most...the parental disappointment or the over-extension of one's self that you end up crashing trying to make it all happen. Only three promises a week? Not sure I can "promise" to keep that one. We'll see. Thanks for a great blog.

  4. I can't remember anything promised that wasn't fulfilled. But, then again, I have almost no memories of my childhood.

  5. A great lesson to live by! Thanks Sandy for the challenge and I'll see if I can live up to it this week. Notice I didn't say 'promise'? :-)

  6. Wise words from a beautiful lady. Thank you.

  7. The worse thing is to break a promise to a child. That's why my standard postion was "We'll see..." Then they knew it was a possibility, not a given. Trust, once shaken, is not easy to regain.

  8. Great point. One of the best phrases I've learned is "I'll pencil that in." Something could happen, and I have to erase an appointment and reschedule it. Thanks, Sandy!