Through my life, there’s something really important that I’ve learned, mostly through fucking up. That something had evolved and is now one of the pillar that hold part of my reality, see it as the corner stone of a house.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
I’ve known that most of my not-so-long-life, since my first memory of making “important” promises, I’ve always said “I don’t make promises I can’t keep” or something alike. And that was true for quite some time.
But then, I broke a F#. lot of promises—laughs— indeed. And why did I do it? Well, because it was easy, it’s always easy to promise something, just like it’s easy to lock a lock, the hard part is to actually keep that promise, to open the lock when you lost the key. And that’s why so many people don’t really care about what they promise, there are some reasons of course. The most important that come to mind:
- They just forget about the promise itself. If you promised to buy milk tomorrow, well, that’s fairly easy to remember, you can write it down in a stick note if you feel like it, I do sometimes, “shave” appears every now and then in my yellow post-its. I don’t shave. God gave me the wonderful gift of a hairless face—also known as boyface (…)—, so I just write it down once in a while. In the other hand, if you promise to be somewhere in a year time, that’s other completely different thing, you might just forget about your promise, a lot of things can happen in one year, and I mean a lot. If you did forget, that’s doesn’t really make you a bad person, just a poor memory person (write it down?!).
- They don’t care. As I said, it is quite easy to make a commitment and not keep it, like a kid that could get out of trouble only by promising his mother not to eat candy, just to eat candy half an hour later. What did you do in such scenario? Well, we all know what you (we) did. But that’s not the whole point, is it?
The point is, that when you’re a kid you don’t really have a lot in your personal bank account (7 Habits of Highly Effective People and 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens), no one really cares about your little lies, why? Because you have 7 years old! You are allowed to not keep your little promises. It’s fairly simple to open a kid’s plastic lock, not so much a metal one.
But it all changes when we grow past those 7 years old. When the promises we make can change lives, when your personal bank account have some dividends in it, and with every promise you keep, the more dividends you have, the more currency you are allowed to spend, and the reverse is true, the more commitments/promises you break, the higher the account interests (just like a real loan!). What happens when a bank account goes empty? When you have no more money left and you need to pay your debts? Something called bankruptcy. And the same goes to personal bank accounts, our debts are not money related, but trust related.
As said in James Altucher’s book The Choose Yourself Guide To Wealth which I highly recommend (It’s about much more than financial wealth):
Don't Steal Paperclips From the Office It seems small. But a million paper clips in life add up to what you are, a mishmash of twisted metal. Be honest. Honesty compounds until your word becomes The Words. Try it and see.
If you promise to start your diet next Monday, and you don’t, and if you do that three or four times, how much will you trust yourself when you say “I will start the diet next Monday” for the sixth time? Most probably you won’t trust yourself.
If we don’t trust ourselves, how can we thrive? How can we grow? How can others trust us?
Well. That’s why I (usually) just make promises I know I can keep. I know I can buy milk tomorrow. I don’t know If I’m going to love you same (damm you, Ed Sheeran) in a year.
There’s no point in making empty promises, just as there’s no point in buying a ticket for a movie you know might not be able to attend. You might feel excited, or make other people feel excited about the movie tickets you bought. But the sadness or dissatisfaction will be much bigger, if you don’t manage to get there in time. It’s a dull bet, and I really dislike betting.
That’s why I don’t make empty promises, that’s why I say real things that might not be so exciting as a cold lie. But it’s up to everyone, it’s easy to lie, it’s easy to promise what is not there (hello Politicians), but it’s much better to know that what you say have value, to trust your own words, just as in those old and BS movies about Honor and all that.
How to fix all this? How to suddenly become a truth teller above (almost) all? Easy. Don’t promise something when you have a minimal doubt that won’t be able to keep that promise. Also, don’t take the easy way around, the truth can be easily modified while still telling the truth, phrases like “I’ll do my best”, or even “I promise I’ll do my best” are completely different from “I will do it”, if you truly did your best and couldn’t accomplish something, no one can tell you that you lied, can they?
That’s why I use too many Maybe’s, it can be annoying, trust me, I know. But maybe there’s a reason for it. Honor your own honor. Trust your own word. Promise to keep your own promises.