February 22, 2014

Why Keeping Commitments Counts

"My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far I've finished two bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake. I feel better already." —Dave Barry

I LOVE this quote by Dave Barry! It’s not only funny, it shows how ingenious humans are at hearing what they want to hear.  Interpretation is a wonderful thing and worthy of a writing all it’s own...but for now, back to “finishing.”

 I’ve often had visions of myself in procrastinators hell...a room filled to the top with all my unfinished projects, and none of the supplies I need to work on them. I shudder just thinking about it. (especially that ugly hook rug!)

I'm pretty sure I’m not alone in this. I guess many of us start things we don’t get around to finishing.  What happens to the excitement and energy present as a project gets underway?  Could it be that we overlook the "process" as we’re romanticizing the finished product? I know that tends to be true with me. I forget, while picturing the new finish on that old table, the hours of messy, smelly work involved in getting it from point A to point B. 

 I suppose we can claim no harm/no foul on some of the projects we start and go rogue on.  Who really needs another cross stitch, and if all tables were finished...why would we need table cloths? 

There are other “projects”  however, that really need to have a good "finish."  Having a child for instance. There’s a project that demands seeing through, and the most difficult moments, well handled, will reap benefits for years to come. Relationships are another place where going rouge on commitments is a bad idea. It takes so much time and effort to build trust and so little of each to lose it.  

Commitments we make to others are important not only for what it means to them, but for what it makes of us.  

The world is changing. It’s becoming much easier to isolate ourselves from the immediate consequences of breaking promises. It’s much simpler not to follow through when we can text, tweet, or email our excuses.  We can postpone the discomfort of seeing the disappointment in the eyes of those we leave at the curb. The point is this:  

 We never break any promise that doesn’t break off a small part of ourselves as well.  The most expensive clothing will never dress up poor character.  

Our character enters a room before us and stays long after we leave. It's what lets us rest easy when we lay our heads on the pillow at the end of a long day and offers the same peace and reassurance to those who are depending on us to keep our word.

With the world seeming to speed up daily, It's easy to get ourselves over involved and over committed.  We want to help whenever we can and take advantage of every opportunity put before us.  Often, somewhere between the good intention and the performance of our commitments, other things may come along that cry louder for our attention. It can be something that we know we'll enjoy more or an unexpected crisis we're called to deal with on short notice.  Being stretched to our limits can create situations where it's more likely we'll be unable to keep promises made.

When we break a promise to someone, it doesn't feel any better that we've forgotten than it does when we just don't bother to follow through. The message "You're not important" is the same.  We may forget our commitments, but those we've made them to won't - even if they don't mention it.

Because I’ve learned the hard way, that saying yes too often (or when I really mean no) leads to frustration instead of satisfaction for everyone involved, I’ve adopted this new policy:

 “If I can’t say yes with passion, I say no without apology.”

This allows me to be a happy commitment keeper.  Now, when I do say yes, I mean it and put my heart into following through. When I say no, I leave the opportunity open for someone else who could fulfill the role in that same happy spirit, possibly even better than I might have.

When my new policy fails, (and it will...I'm a recovering people pleaser,)  I'll do what it takes to muster the passion to follow through well and enjoy doing it.

I’ve found that in some instances, not making commitments can be just as character building as keeping the commitments I do make. 

 It also allows me to keep a commitment to myself to live a more authentic life. Besides, if I don't over commit, I may have time to finish that ugly hook rug!


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