We make agreements all the time. We agree to get our work done by a certain time. We agree to fix dinner for the family. We agree to pay our bills. We agree to meet our buddy for coffee. We agree to be at meetings on time, among many others. But what agreements are OK to break and what agreements should we make sure we keep?
The best way to answer this is to look at the costs. What are the costs of breaking an agreement? I bet it’s a lot higher that you might think.
The hard thing about the costs is that often they are hidden from you. People often react to your breaking agreements without telling you or talking about it.
Here are a few examples of the costs of breaking agreements:
- You show up late to a meeting with a potential client, and they choose to not go with your product or service because they’re not sure they can trust you, as evidenced by your tardiness.
- You tell your friend month after month that you’re going to sign up and go to the gym with them, but you never get around to it. Now your friend starts looking for other people to go to the gym with them.
- You tell you kids that you’ll take them to the park, but every Saturday you’re busy. Now they don’t trust what you say.
Ouch! Now those are high costs.
The highest cost is in breaking the commitments that you make to yourself. How does it affect your self image and self esteem when you break agreements with yourself? How can you trust yourself?
The short answer is that it’s not OK, to casually break agreements. The cost is way too high. Instead you should be keeping nearly all of your agreements to maintain a high degree of personal integrity. People will trust your word, and you will be able to trust yourself.
You might also note that there are high costs to avoiding making commitments in the first place as well. You become so non-committal that people can’t count on you. The best approach is to make agreements – even bold commitments, and then find ways to keep them.
One simple tool to help keep your agreements is to change the question you ask yourself from, “Can I do (blank) right now?”, to “How can I do (blank) right now?” This second form of the question adds only one word, but the line of thinking it creates is so much different. It opens up focusing on solutions rather than being stuck focusing on the problems.
What about you? What has your relationship to your agreements been in the past?