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February 16, 2017

"Yes, I Will!" – the Power of a Promise

Charlie Swift

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©©GettyImages/xavieramau

An early morning appointment seemed such a good idea when I booked it. What else would I be doing with that time, anyway? Probably setting up my workstation, eating a leisurely breakfast, and groaning at the sarcasm of Twitter. Yes, it was definitely the right decision to act quickly and firmly, to show that I meant business.

In truth, I hoped that I could almost fool myself into making something happen at last, by not giving myself the opportunity to hesitate. Like any high-wire walker, I'd be OK if I didn't look down... So I'd said, "Yes, I will do that, I'll be there!"

But right now, lying in bed in the dark, back stiff from too much sitting, eyes sore from late-night screen time, and mouth sour from an over-rich dinner, I saw how over optimistic I'd been. How likely was I to set foot in a gym, let alone submit myself to the one-on-one scrutiny of a personal trainer? Duh!

The problem that now faced me, however, wasn't an overwhelming fear of discomfort or embarrassment. Rather, it was the thought of breaking a promise. The trainer would be there waiting for me, so how could I not deliver on the deal?

Yes, it was that dullest of qualities, a sense of duty, that got me to my first gut-wrenching, lung-bursting fitness session, not a vision of renewed energy, health or wardrobe. And I've kept going ever since.

Finding the Will to Deliver

I'm what Gretchen Rubin refers to as an "Obliger" (Mind Tools club members can read our review of her book about the Four Tendencies here), and my Locus of Control is prone to drift outward... So I'm at risk of not fulfilling my goals and dreams, because my own opinion, wants and needs usually come low on my list of priorities. But, by harnessing the power of a promise, I can redirect my need to please someone else so that it benefits me too.

This isn't some kind of sinister manipulation, but the result of a growing self-awareness, and an honesty with colleagues, managers and friends, that helps me to get things done. So it's very useful in the workplace, whether my co-workers know it or not. They're likely unaware of the "contracts" that I sign in my head every day – the benefit is in the commitment that I've made, not the grand gesture of making it.

I guess that this is simply my take on conscientiousness, but it also helps me to set better goals than I used to. After all, I'd be sabotaging myself to agree to unclear or impossible targets – another bad habit that I'm happy to drop. And one of the simplest and most-effective tools that I've found to help make change happen is the GROW Model.

It is possible to apply GROW to yourself, without the input of a mentor, coach or manager, but involving a third party will likely raise your sense of accountability!

As you might expect, the GROW model begins with setting a Goal, but it's also rooted in Reality. It opens your eyes to more Options for how you could progress, and to the Obstacles that you might meet on the way. The equally important final step in the process is to show the Will to commit to the Way forward.

Once you've planned a practical and robust strategy in the full knowledge of what you're dealing with, you'll be free to make that promise to yourself, or a trusted ally, with no more lingering doubt – you Will actually get there!

Use our infographic about GROW to remind you of these four steps, and share it with others to help them to find the will to deliver, too.

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One comment on “"Yes, I Will!" – the Power of a Promise”

  1. I hate breaking my word. I've scolded myself at times for giving my word. Other times I was glad I did it - like you wrote here it motivated me to do something that I wouldn't have done otherwise.

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