Are you thoughtful about making promises? Do you really intend to keep those promises when you are making them?  Here we discuss the distinction between how you make promises and when you keep promises.

Intention without action is an empty promise

I’d like to share my ideas based on an expression I recently crafted which goes as follows:

Intention without action is a promise made – intention WITH action is a promise kept!

Many many years ago the chairman of the company I sold one of my businesses to came to my house. He was a charming man very good at building rapport with people in just a few seconds and many would have called him charismatic. During a conversation with my wife, he asked for the date of her birthday. And then made quite a show of noting the date in his notebook.

Wow! I thought. He really does care about the people in the businesses that his company acquired. I bet that Sharon, my wife, will receive a card or perhaps even a small present on her birthday. Did she? No! Nothing, no card, no present, no phone call – nothing. And yet his request for her birthday details and his noting on the information was certainly an implied promise made. Why would he want the details unless he was aiming to do something with it?

The downside of a promise not kept

And the downside was that having implied the promise of future action, his lack of action damaged his reputation in my eyes. I thought that his actions at the time were great, his subsequent lack of action was poor. And this can happen in so many ways, in so many different situations in which you and I find ourselves. How many times have you and I made promises that we subsequently failed to keep?

Perhaps in conversation with a friend or colleague or client, we’ve made a promise to take action. That promise may have been explicit or implicit. Explicit because we actually stated that we would take a certain action, implicit because we implied by our words that something would happen.

Perhaps it was as simple as a conversation about a great book we’d read and we told someone – I’ll get you a copy. Maybe it was the promise to send a report or piece of information to a client. Perhaps even the promise to call someone.

Certainly, at the time we meant what we said, we had the intention to take the action, we made the promise. But for some reason we didn’t live up to that promise, we didn’t follow through on our intentions.

I think that the problem is that many people, having made or implied the promise of future action don’t make a note of what they’ve promised, or if having made a note don’t have a system in place to pick up that information at a later stage.

Noting the promise as an action point

Do you have a notebook app on your phone, or carry a notebook and pen?  I do – these days I have an app. Then if I ever made a promise, explicitly or implicitly made I make a note instantly, immediately, now! Each day I check my phone to make sure that I take action with those promises. Perhaps you can use this idea yourself if you’ve ever found yourself reneging on the promises you’ve made.

Self promises

Now, what about promises we make to ourselves?  The expression comes into play again, doesn’t it? Intent without action is a promise made. Intention WITH action is a promise kept. What are the promises that you made to yourself? Promises that, at the time, you had the total intention of keeping? Things to do, things NOT to do!

The first thing to do with such promises is to write them down or record them on your phone. Make a record of the promise, create something that can be audited at a later stage.

This was brought home to me at a recent seminar I was running. Many of the people who attended the seminar were furiously making notes as I shared my ideas on sales and marketing. I know from the conversations I had and the feedback forms of the day, that they had every intention of taking action with the ideas. There certainly were promises made. And yet experience tells me that many of those promises won’t get into action, won’t be kept, despite those good intentions.

Has this ever happened for you, I know it has for me? So when we make those promises, either to others or to ourselves, with good intentions, then we must make sure that we record them and then take action. The downsides of not doing so are damaged reputation in others’ eyes and an erosion of our own belief in what we say to ourselves.

Let’s keep more of those promises. After all – Intent without action is certainly a promise made – Intention with action is definitely a promise kept.

Image courtesy of Depositphotos

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