Think about an agreement that you made with someone else, but you failed to keep. I am sure that one will come to mind. It could be a small one, like not returning a friend’s call when you said you would. Or it could be a big one like not paying your mortgage to the bank on time.
If you think about the consequences of not keeping your agreement, there is obviously a cost to others no matter how big or small. Your friend might be disappointed. The bank’s books could be impacted.
But the real impact is to you psychologically. A broken agreement impacts your self-esteem, your values, your integrity. Isn’t that the case? How do you feel about yourself when you recall that agreement you failed to keep?
Thinking further about that agreement, when did you first know that you would not be able to keep the agreement?
Often times, we know it before we actually made the agreement. If I told my friend I would call her back but I knew I would not likely get to it, I actually knew I would likely break the agreement before I made it. So why do we make agreements we know we are unlikely to keep?
The answer is often 1 of 3 reasons:
1. Comfort. We do not want go through the discomfort of saying no initially.
2. Approval. We want our friend to like us.
3. Control. We want to control the interactions and the relationship.
But if there is such a psychological cost, then we should really think about what we are avoiding and if it is really worth the cost.
The same thing goes when we find that we are unable to keep an agreement we truly intended to keep. The reason we do not deal with it immediately often falls into 1 of these same 3 buckets as well.
So think about these tips:
1. Don’t make agreements you don’t intend to keep.
2. Re-negotiate agreements as soon as you are aware that you can’t keep them.
3. Write your agreements down.
4. Review them regularly.
5. Let those affected know as soon as you become aware you will not be able to honor agreements.
6. Don’t over commit.
If we view all agreements as being made with ourselves and consider the high cost of not honoring them, we will make fewer agreements that we likely break, and we will clean up messes we unintentionally make faster. This keeps us clear to make the contribution in the world we ultimately want to make.