When your imagination and your thought are in conflict, your imagination will inevitably win.
Promises. We make them every day without even thinking about it. If you consider how many times you’ve said, “I promise” within the past week, you’ll realize that the phrase almost comes out as automatically as do phrases like “good morning” or “I’m fine.” Although most of us are good at making promises, we often aren’t very reliable when it comes to keeping them. And while we may think that the person to whom we made the promise is the one who will be most harmed, think again. The person most harmed is you.
A recent TED speaker made note of a study that showed that when we announce a goal to a friend, the chances are that this goal will not come to fruition. Why? Simply because when we say we are going to do something, our mind tricks us into thinking we’ve already done it. According to a Psychology Today article, this happens because we are seeking a sense of completeness. In other words, committing ourselves in words gives us a sense of completeness such that we think the commitment has already been kept.
When a promise isn’t kept, we undo this sense of completeness, we essentially reverse it, and although your friend with whom you made a pact may be upset with you, in the end, the process of completeness reversal takes a blow to our self esteem and self worth. In other words, every time you make a promise and don’t keep it, you are negatively impacting your overall mental well-being. You don’t need a study to show you how awful you feel once you’ve told someone you are going to do something and you didn’t do it.
Still, promises sometimes need to be made. How can we assure that we will follow through and keep them? According to the Psychology Today article, it’s best to avoid making promises as much as possible, especially those that you make simply to bolster an identity that is important to you. For example, if you make a promise that you’ll help a friend move out of an apartment, chances are you are doing it so that you support the part of you that likes to think you are a good friend.
The promises that we often do end keeping are those in which we emphasize the task and process for its own sake. Dr Heidi Halvorson cites the following example in her Psychology Today article:
“The father who vows in front of his pals to spend more quality time with his kids has probably just made himself feel like a Good Dad, but just reduced his chances of actually being one. If instead, he vows ‘to spend more time with my kids, because they really need me right now,’ or ‘because I love being with them,’ he’s made it clear to everyone, including himself, that it’s not just about being a Good Dad – it’s about time with the kids, for its own sake.”
So next time you are about to make a promise, to yourself or to a friend, make sure to stop and think about it first. Am I making this promise because I want to show others I’m a good dad, friend, or employee? Or am I doing so because I believe the promise I’m making is important in its own right? If the former, then consider not making the promise in the first place. If it’s the latter make sure to emphasize why you value the task in the first place. This way, you’ll be much more likely to keep the promise, and you’ll feel better about yourself because you followed through with a commitment.
This guest post is contributed by Roger Elmore, who writes on the topics of hotel management degree. He welcomes your comments at his email Id: rogerelmore24 @gmail.com.