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Our commitments

It was many years ago that a colleague asked me this question, but I have never forgotten how shocked I felt at the moment of self-recognition.

At the time, I was challenged by the simple task of arriving on time. No matter what time I was due at a meeting, and appointment or an evening out, I would be 5 or 10 minutes late. And I would arrive earnest, breathless, with tales of traffic, tube delays or other such disasters. And each time, I would believe my own stories even as I expected others to believe me.

It was not until this quiet, almost innocuous question curled its way towards me that I was forced to face my self-delusion. And when I did, I was shocked.

I realised that no matter what time a meeting was scheduled, no matter where, I would likely always be late. And this was because I did not truly believe myself when I promised I would be there at the agreed time. Worse, I did not believe it was important to be there.

I did not intend to be rude, or inconsiderate. Nor did I intend to promise something I could not deliver on. But that was exactly what I was doing.

I realised that my performance against my promises was the only evidence I could offer of the person I am inside. So, if I believe the person I am inside is the dependable one, the one who keeps her word, what makes me deliver a performance that disproves this? What is more important than being my word?

Francois duc de la Rochefoucauld has said: We promise according to our hopes, and perform according to our fears. In other words, we promise according to the person we hope to be and perform according to the person we fear we really are; we over-promise and under-deliver. Neither are true.

But, when we intend to keep our word, our promises start out with the firmness of intention. And an intention has 5 ‘priest-ly’ characteristics.

Positive: It is phrased as a positive statement. ‘I will do this…’
Realistic It is clearly thought through to ensure it is practical and possible for me to do this. (It sometimes requires you to take a breath before a promise, so that you can check this out)
Initiative The initiative to deliver on the promise is held with self, it does not depend on anyone else to deliver on this promise
Senses By imagining the result through all of the senses, it becomes more motivational. (When I deliver on this promise, I will feel/see/hear…)
Time bound Setting a time for the delivery of a promise enables a measurable boundary against which to evaluate your own performance

And the power of a ‘priest-ly’ intention is that it is more likely to enable you to promise and perform according to the person you really are – dependable and well intentioned.

(c) Anne Fuller-Good

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