Promises, Promises – weekly blog by Dee Chadwick, Counsellor

I wonder how many people were like me and were given the message when they were young – Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t make promises you can’t keep. I also wonder how we would rate ourselves on a scale from 1 to 10 on our success with regards to keeping to this? For myself, all I can say is that I have done my best and we can’t ask any more of ourselves or of others.

Just what is a promise? Basically it is a commitment given by a person or persons to do or not to do something. The promise is seen as a declaration of this intent with the word ‘promise’ sometimes being substituted by ‘I give my word’, ‘I swear’, and even by phrases such as ‘I pledge’ or ’I vow’ in such as traditional marriage services. In legal contracts, which includes a marriage, a promise is essential to a binding legal agreement.

That’s the easy bit, and for some, the words flow very smoothly be they spoken or communicated via writing. They could well be sincerely meant at that moment.  It’s when it comes to remembering that you made the promise and keeping to it that things can become a lot more difficult. The non-keeping of the promise may be ignored – swept under the carpet of life as seemingly more important, more pressing matters present themselves. This can be accompanied by, at best, an apology maybe along with a valid reason for the promise not being fulfilled. At worst, it is dismissed with an excuse, possibly being spun as a reason, to support this. If given as part of a binding legal agreement, having been legally bound, the promisor (and the promisee) have to be legally unbound if things, circumstances, feelings change, as with divorce.

Maybe the promise wasn’t top of the priority list, so it was broken even though it may have been well-intentioned at the moment of making. In this case, it wasn’t actually a lie, as it was not given with the intention of being broken. However, the person on the receiving end of the broken promise may still perceive the promise giver as a liar. Certainly, trust can go out of the window. Did the promisor REALLY intend to keep to their word; did they consider the implications of the promise and its breaking; did they consider how the breaking of their word would affect others; was the promise empty and meaningless to the giver, if not the receiver of the words? Broken promises can cause a great deal of hurt.

What of false promises?  Empty promises which are merely words –words which do not have the backing of any intention of them being kept. Such promises are often used to cheat, to deceive others.  I have to say that I feel many politicians are guilty of making free with promises, as during the whole of the Brexit debacle. I guess we will have to await events to be able to check out whether the many promises made during the recent elections are kept, or turn out to be empty words, false promises? Maybe politicians downgrade such happenings as ‘merely’ going back, reneging on their word. Thus spinning to themselves as not having done what they said they were going to do, in the hope that we would have forgotten those manifestos, debates, public meetings, flyers. The blame is put on other pressures taking precedence. This, rather than accepting that they used false promises to tempt voters to support their cause, their party.


I did say in a previous start of the year blog post that I don’t set resolutions. I used to set myself goals. OK, you could argue that I am merely playing with words here, but I see a big difference, as a resolution tends to be something that is rather woolly. Sadly a way that my history teacher often used to describe my essays!  Woolly as lacking in the specifics accurately required to lead to a well balanced essay. Woolly as in setting targets, those resolutions, that lack specificity, so can be manoeuvred and manipulated when we lose impetus, interest or claim a lack of time. Manoeuvred to be allowed to drop by the wayside.

My previous goal setting which did include the specificity, timed elements necessary for successful goal setting.  However, as I regularly set myself goals, I decided that I wanted to make the New Year goals somewhat different. I therefore now make promises to myself. Promises to make changes for my benefit, whilst still liking, accepting and appreciating the person who ended the old year in my shoes.  It’s back to that saying told to me as a child – not to make promises that I can’t keep. For me, and I guess for many, it’s easier to make and keep promises to others rather than to myself. It took some reflection and self-talk to remind me of the importance of treating myself to the same levels of honesty, respect and promise keeping as always happens with and for others.


Simply, just don’t let yourself down. Think of how you wouldn’t let down a friend or family member to whom you had made a promise. Having said that, it is far easier to let yourself down  as the chances are that others aren’t aware of the promises you made to yourself in the first place, or that the promises are being broken. It’s easy to go into self-argument mode and convince yourself that it was the wrong choice in the first place, you knew it wouldn’t be seen through. The reasons – the excuses – flow readily with no-one putting up a counter argument. They are very much an internal dialogue. OK, they may be shared with a trusted friend or partner, but this may be after the fact or with no intent of seeking support with actually keeping those promises that you made.  They are treated as having been inconsequential  rather than being the most important promises that we ever make. Important as they include elements of how we would choose to see our lives panning out. They include elements of our dreams, our hopes.  Promised goals towards making the changes we so very much want to make. They are therefore the most important promises and they deserve to be taken seriously, to be prioritised by you. For your well-being – be this physical, emotional, social, whatever.


We are still very much at the beginning of this new decade but I imagine that many have already knowingly set aside our New Year Resolutions. No problem, simply make a fresh start, after all there is no rule that says we can only make changes that begin on January 1st. In many cases it is a bad idea, especially if the resolution is a woolly one involving weight loss. Many of us are still surrounded with  Christmas chocolates which seem to shout out ‘eat me’. The supermarket offers of cheap ‘special’ chocolates are tempting as we whizz past with our trolleys.

So, make a fresh start now that the decorations have been put away, the parties are merely memories stored away and life returns to whatever is ’normal’ for you.

Hone in on just what you want to do – for you. Apply the SMART rule to it so that you are –

ensuring that you are losing any wooliness and instead being Specific;

your aim is Measurable:

your aim is Achievable;

it is Realistic for you and can fit with such as your lifestyle, commitments, finances;

that you set a Time by which your promise will be met.

Lose the woolliness of statements such as ‘I am going to lose weight’ ‘I am going to get fit’ rather spin them to include the SMART criteria so that you KNOW when you have kept your promise to yourself. Don’t be tempted down roads such as fad diets which come out of the woodwork at this time of the year. They are a short-term sticking on of a plaster over the cracks. Cracks which usually return, but on a larger scale. Rather aim for lifestyle changes that will last a lifetime.

If you are finding it hard to do that honing down, get out a piece of paper and go into spiders web mode. Put  ‘YOU’ in the middle and then surround yourself with the changes you are going to make – note, not the changes you would like to make. Choose your priority. Then break it down into those SMART targets – if you need a hand with this, please do get in touch. Keep this sheet for future reference once you have chosen your first promise/s.

Next, write this promise down. As the ‘timed’ bit is important in your promise, it can be a good idea to have a specific promise diary and there are plenty around at reduced prices in the shops at present. Make sure that you don’t bite off more than you can chew. That’s as bad as wooliness. Break down your target into chunks.  Personally, I use a special little book that I keep at my bedside so that I can track progress at the end of the day; add in progress along the way and allow myself to celebrate achievement, whether this is a step along the way or actually reaching my ultimate aim. I don’t allow myself to dwell on any steps back. Hey, we’re all human – hence we will err, but be your own divinity and forgive yourself. Maybe you can make a note of any specific causes, reasons for your erring, though make sure that you steer clear of excuse making!

Checking in regularly keeps your promise at the front of your mind, reminding you that you made the choice, you want and are going to achieve. Back this up with some positive affirmations – again, if you want help with this, get in touch. You can either speak them or put post-its somewhere that you will see each day. I am assured that you can set as the background on your phone with an affirmation – something I am going to have to investigate. These promise reminders are important, as is keeping written track of your progress.

Then keep to it. You have set up a system to support yourself. Use it, refer to it and include those pats on the back along your way. These promises that you make to yourself are important. You are important. Important  to others but make sure that you are important to yourself too. Don’t let anyone put you at the bottom of their list and certainly NEVER put yourself bottom of any list of your own.

Use the word promise when referring to your goals, your aims. The actual word is a powerful one for many of us. It is said that keeping promises is good for you.  An article in Psychology Today explains this.

So, if keeping a promise helps the promisor to feel positive and gives a feeling of being valued and thought about to the receiver of the promise – why not have the double whammy of being both the giver and receiver simultaneously? You have put yourself top of your list by keeping the promise you chose to make. It makes a huge difference; and by respecting yourself, valuing yourself and your choices, you may be surprised at how others also pick up on this. But that’s another story for another day.

Remember that you are making changes from a position of being good enough already. Don’t put yourself down by believing that you need to make the changes because you are not worthwhile. You are a unique, special person so hold your head up high as you step into this year. The world is a richer place, your friends are richer people for having you around. for more blogs and podcasts.


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