What is a promise?
Promises. When we are little we little, we are repeatedly asked ‘do you promise?’, or told ‘I promise we will….’ or ‘I promise we can…’, but what is a promise?
In the dictionary, a promise is defined as:
- (n) a declaration or assurance that one will do something or that a particular thing will happen.
- (v) assure someone that one will definitely do something or that something will happen.
For those on my qualification courses, we talk about promises as an integral part of coaching and working with children, I openly discuss that when working with children, if you have no intention to follow through on something, you simply should never say it. We can often undermine the power that promises have, and the negative impact that breaking them has. Here’s 4 reasons why we should keep our promises to ourselves and others:
When we keep promises to children and adolescents, it builds trust, which subsequently builds safety. Many young people will have a story to tell of a time when an adult did not keep their promises, and fundamentally this affects their connections. Trust is built when words and actions align. When we are congruent in both words and actions, it allows others to feel safe in our company and feel able to relate to us. Think of a professional who did not keep their word to you, perhaps it was a teacher, a doctor, a social worker…. when their word was broken what happened to your perception of them? Did you take their word to hold as much power the next time? Trust is developed through the simultaneous alignment of words and actions.
Keeping our promises is associated with our self-esteem. When we make promises and follow through on them, we increase our self-esteem. This starts at the small things, keeping promises to meet with friends, complete errands for others or to make the call you promised. To the bigger picture, helping others, completing tasks, following through on plans, executing goals etc. The act of keeping promises allows us to see our value and purpose, as well as enhance our self-esteem. When we break promises, we can find ourselves ruminating, feeling disconnecting, or projecting to others. Ever experienced a situation where someone broke a promise to you, and you received excuses, someone else was blamed or they blamed you? If we want great self-esteem, we can start with making promises and keeping them.
The act of promising something, to ourselves (health, fitness, rest, self-development) or to others is intricately linked to our self-worth. Those promises start with us. When we break promises to ourselves, we can experience our self-worth dropping. This can be a promise to go to bed earlier, rest more, workout, eat healthier, spend less time on tech, commit more time to our families etc. When we are in a habit of keeping our promises, we make the same commitment to promises we make to ourselves as others, and we can watch our self-worth increase as an outcome. Promise keeping is a habit, and lifestyle changes are a promise to ourselves, the habit is easier to create if we reframe it as a promise.
We are always being watched by children and young people. The link between words and actions is not only affecting us, but also the perceptions that they create of the world around them. We are the greatest role models, so what do we want to be known for, and copied for? If we break promises, our words and actions do not match, or we go back on our word, we teach children that words are meaningless, promises are hollow and that lies are acceptable. This, in the grander scheme opens children up to more vulnerability. Where they learn that promises are empty, if they meet future friends, partners or employers who break promises have we have normalised the behaviour? In comparison, when we teach children that we keep our word, act on our promises and follow through, we role model to children the power of integrity. We teach them that promises are bonds of trust and that follow through is expected, which allows children to decipher the difference between those who take purposeful action and value others (and themselves) versus those who are inconsistent.
When we work with children, our promises are vital to our relationships, connections and their outcomes. If we want to build greater trust with children, the easiest place to start is to ensure that our words and actions are always in line.
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