Never Promise Results

Never Promise Results

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I recently received a flyer in the mail from a politician that started with, “I promise.”  The candidate listed several items he planned to improve, if elected to office.  I threw away the flyer.

Promise is a powerful word that is a primary source of conflict and failed relationships.  I remember my sister receiving a promise ring when she was in high school.  Even as a young kid, I was skeptical of a promise ring.  Most men promise their future brides the world as they’re courting them, and it all sounds so good wrapped in young love, but becomes a bitter blanket of disappointment when the man fails to deliver.  I’ve promised my kids that we would do certain activities, just to get them off my back, only to disappoint them when they came back later to take me up on my promise that I could not deliver.

The hard truth is that the world is complex, complicated, and chalked full of variables that we cannot control, so to promise a result on anything, is doomed with failure.  So why do we continue to do it?  No one starts anything with an intent to fail.  Excitement and hope rule the day as we begin a project, a relationship, or partnership.  We tend to over promise and under deliver, because we focus on the end outcome and fail to shift our paradigm on the action and strategies necessary to succeed.

Instead of a politician saying, “I promise to lower your taxes, improve our schools, and improve our roads.”  Wouldn’t it be refreshing if he said, “I cannot promise you any results other than I’m a tax paying citizen with three young kids of my own and I’m willing to sacrifice my time to work hard towards lower taxes, improved schools, and improved roads.”?

Instead of telling my kids, “Let’s go roller skating this weekend!” How about I say, “I have some work I must get done this weekend around the house and if I can get that done, I would like to go roller skating with you.”

Instead of a young man saying to his future bride, “If you marry me, I promise you a wonderful life.” Why not say, “If you marry me, I promise I will love and cherish you and provide for our family to the best of my abilities.”

Life is hard enough without disappointment due to failed promises, that’s why I urge never to promise a result, instead promise your intent, and then back up your intent with action.  One of my goals this year is to produce 26 new contracts for my company.  So far, I’ve produced four, way off my targeted goal of 26.  Unless I have an awesome last six months of the year, I will be short of my goal.  Will I miss my goal because I’m not working hard enough?  No, not even close.  When I assess my work, my daily tasks and strategy is spot on, but variables outside of my control have held me back so far.  That doesn’t mean I’m devoid of any responsibility, but it does mean that I must manage expectations by establishing a goal, crafting a sound plan, but only promising action and then learning what I can do to adjust my strategic plan to meet missed goals in the future.

So when you set out on your next adventure, just remember one simple truth.  You don’t control life’s outcomes, you only control your attitude, strategy, and actions.  Sometimes you will win and many times you will lose, but most important is the health of your relationships at the end of it all.  If you want to maintain a relationship, then always be careful with what you promise.

What are you striving for right now, that may be causing some issues because of a flawed promise?  Stop what you are doing and manage the expectations around that promise to maintain the relationships with those that are most important to you.  Do this and your relationships will thrive well beyond a failed or less than stellar outcome of one project or joint venture, I PROMISE!

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  1. I like this…..and I promise that I will just try harder

  2. A very good point, and said many times without much thought. Cute ending!

  3. Love this article. Thank you. I would emphasize this with promises to our children. My wife Denise and I have been extremely aware and purposeful when discussing potential scenarios with our children so as not to disappoint. If all goes right, then… It is looking strong that blah will happen… There are just a few more items and if they get completed, then… Sis seems to be coming home from college, so as long as traffic holds up… Always describing potential challenges that need to be overcome or situations that might arise our of our immediate control to ultimately become a life bummer.

    I have found by not breaking the kids “guarantee” or as your article states a promise, we have been able to have our children rely on our words more fully. When mom or dad do commit, it happens and often. Again, not every time and certainly there has out of our control event that causes a miss, but the kids understand. We were on our way and this blah blah blah happened.

    Finally, I will say that small wins help. Something as little as me committing to come hang out with the family after only 5 more mins of emails/work/time suck from the mighty computer. What I mean is, in my past I would say 5 mins and you guessed it it would become 30 or worse 60. About 1 year ago, during one of these “5 more mins, that became 30+” I remember vividly my daughters sad look when I finally in sloth like fashion came out of the office. I decided then I would never do that again. I am proud to declare triumph in my new way. My daughter did ask me again to join her, I did tell her 5 mins, but this time I was out in 2. I also remember vividly her look of disbelief and joy. Much better memory then the sad face. Anyway, I have made it a game, say 5 and see how early I can be. A couple times, I just STOPPED and left the room with my daughter. We actually hold hands and skip. I am not a good skipper, but my daughter LOVES it. Recently my wife asked me to come out of my office man cave, I said 5 mins. Eyes rolled. My daughter caught the whole exchange and told my wife that “Dad really means it mom, watch he will be out soon.” I smiled and was out in 2 mins. I also remember the look on the face of the love of my life as I came out triumphant. Might read silly to the Eric Rheam fans out there, but I must tell you. It has worked amazing life magic in my family.

    Thanks for the thought provoking and spot on article. Well written! Now let’s keep those politicians honest. Yeah, right. 🙂

    1. Gary, you are thoughtful and intentional father and leader. Thank you for your insight and adding value to the conversation. I appreciate your passion and zeal for life!


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