Living Well

April 8, 2010

Keeping Promises

How good is your word?  When you say, “I promise I will do this or that” does the person receiving your words walk away in confidence that what you offered will be done?  Could that individual go about their usual business without giving even another thought to the conversation they had with you because they know the promise you made will be fulfilled?

It is easy to make promises, because we view them today as a description of intention, with an unspoken caveat that depending on the circumstances, our pledge may or may not be fulfilled.  Promises, however, are pledges of assurance that we will or will not act as we have stated.

Promises are a gift that we give people about our actions and intensions in the future.  Critical to this whole issue is that when we give a promise, we also give the receiver every reason to expect that the intent of our promise will be carried out.  Our stating we promise to do something is thus a guarantee.

It is easy to make promises, but much harder to keep them.  Promises we make to others is about our character, about who we really are; a description of our reliability and dependability in a given circumstance.  As Aeschylus, the ancient Greek dramatist observed, “It is not the oath that makes us believe the person, but the person the oath.”  It is not then our words, but our actions.  It should be remembered that a single promise unfulfilled does not discredit us as an unreliable person.  But if we are prone to not keeping our promises, people will over time stop believing in us and may even withdraw from us because we are not reliable or dependable when it counts.

We not only make promises to others, but we also make promises to ourselves.  David Allen, guru of time management, believes we create internal stress, self doubt, lower self esteem, and a sense of incompleteness when we break promises we have made to ourselves.  He calls this string of broken promises and the induced stress that comes with it “The Gnawing Sense of Anxiety.”  And the promises don’t have to be big ones.  They just have to be made and consistently broken.  Take the example, “I will lose 25 pounds of body weight in the coming six months.”  Now, to do this a man needs to eat only about 2,100 calories a day over six months instead of eating 3,000 or more daily and increasing one’s physical activity.  But it is easy to break the promise and commitment.  It simply goes like this.

You eat well for three or four days and then you “slip up.”  So, you chastise yourself and promise not to do it again.  This works for another 24 hours, but then that late night bowl of ice cream looks too good, you just don’t have any willpower, and there go 600 calories.  The result: agony about the eating of the ice cream and another pledge.  You know the cycle.  If you have ever tried losing weight you know the drill.  And so it goes.  Over time then, you stop making the promise because “I am just worthless and cannot control myself.” Again, many have been there and know the kind of self talk, self ridicule, and self loathing that creeps in.

So how to succeed?  It goes back to my last blog posting; if you make a promise, are you willing to be disciplined enough to fight through it or find those who will help you in the instance so that you might persevere and gain your goals.  Are you, as Muhammad Ali observed, willing to suffer a little now for a life of success and happiness?  Are you willing to expend the needed energy to keep the promises you make?  It isn’t easy, by any means, but it can be done when we are willing to put in the time, effort, and keeping the promises we make to others and ourselves.

 Blessings, grace and peace in this most difficult, but beautiful discipline of keeping one’s promises.

David Neidert

February 12, 2010

Patience and Endurance in a Microwave Society

I am home write now.  Recovering.  The recovery is from a very badly broken femur (thigh bone) that required surgery for the placement of a rod in my leg (from about hip to knee), screws, and metal bands to keep it all together.  It has also taken six weeks of sitting and not putting any weight on my leg.  A metal, “nursing-home-like” walker—fixed with a big basket on the front for carrying items around the house—has been my constant companion.

I have learned (actually relearned) an important lesson during this time.  It has been about patience and endurance. There have been a number of episodes during this time that I will call panic.  They came in weeks three and four of recovery.  These were times when I could not see the possibility of being anywhere else except in a chair looking out the window on the world.  The healing process for a bone is long for a person my age.  So, anxiety and distress came during a number of occasions.  It was then that I was reminded of my mission, my life purpose, and goals, especially by those who love me and give me daily support.  All of these pointed to the fact that this recovery would take patience and endurance, even into the many months yet to come.

I am reminded that we want things to happen so quickly in our society—in the West. We want microwave everything.  Speedy weight loss without effort, success without very hard work, a lifetime of love because I smell good or drive the right car, or healing without many hours of waiting for one’s body to regenerate itself.  We have been blinded by an illusion of instant success—like putting 30 seconds on the microwave and then being frustrated because it is taking too long!  If you don’t believe me take as much time as I have to watch the plethora of commercials that hit us on the TV during a ½ hour episode of anything.

I am reminded not only about this during my recovery which is taking time, but also because I am reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” (which by the way I highly recommend).  Gladwell convincingly puts forward through a lot of data and studies (which I like) that success comes through hours of work, patience, and endurance.  It comes with putting in a lot of time and effort—at least 10,000 hours of hard work. 

I love words.  I have a 10 pound, 5.4 ounce Funk & Wagnall Comprehensive International Dictionary that is really important to me.  I bought it for $3 at a rummage sale.  Over those 1,466 pages I find the meaning of words that help me really make sense of what we sometimes so flippantly think about or express.  One of those words is endurance.  My F & W says that endurance is “to bear with strain and resistance, but with conscious power, suggesting a contest to win and conquer; patient fortitude.”  Looking further, ‘fortitude’ says “to be strong, a strength of mind to meet and endure unfalteringly—determination; patient and constant courage, enduring courage that steadily confronts threats and barriers.”

In what Gladwell researches and I have found in my own life and work with thousands of people is that success comes through all the ingredients of competence, very hard work, support and networks, and patient endurance; standing courageously and steadily as we confront the threats, barriers, and mishaps of life.  Success doesn’t come instantly; it comes because of well established goals, focus, mission, having a purpose in life, a hopeful vision for the future, and very hard work.  Euripides, the 5th Century BC Greek playwright penned, “To preserve, trusting in what hopes one has, is courage for that person.”  Patience and endurance through hard work brings courage.

W.H. Auden, an American poet, challenges our microwave society and impatience when he wrote, “Perhaps there is only one cardinal sin: impatience. Because of impatience we were driven out of Paradise, because of impatience, we cannot return.”  Living well is not a sprint….it is a courageous, competent, hard working marathon.  That relearned lesson over these many weeks has helped me through these days of sitting, of wondering, of my own anxiety and impatience.  It is a lesson I am glad I found again; it brings courage for the many days yet to unfold.

Blessings as you live well.  Grace and peace.

David Neidert

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