Deciding what to do and sticking with it.

By Peter P. Micu

We occasionally find ourselves making commitments, not following through and upsetting the people we made commitments to. Is it wrong to do this? Does this make us unreliable and not trustworthy? The answer is it depends. The nature of the situation and the timing of our commitments are the two main variables that often influence how much we stay true to our words.

Small commitments can be significant

Every day, we make commitments, either small ones or significant ones. For the most part, we follow through with what we say we are going to do. Either picking up Johnny from school at 2:17 pm next Wednesday, or going to the tennis club for a previously scheduled 1-hour private lesson, we can quickly decide to commit to these tasks or similar tasks because they do not require significant effort.

However, following through small commitments are actually important. If you say you are going to do something and don’t, you may run the risk of staining your relationship with the other person. They may understand your situation, but they may not look at you the same way as before. There is a degree of respect that is lost, and the dynamics of your relationship with that person may drastically change. This may be more true with more significant commitments, but can be applied to small ones as well.

On the other hand, they may just brush it aside and treat you the same. But if it keeps happening several times, they may catch up to your habits and see you as someone they cannot rely on. People are unpredictable. Unless you know the person really well, it is best to think through the situation before making a promise to a responsibility.

Timing of the commitment

I find it easier to follow through a commitment when the nature of the commitment needs to be done soon. You don’t have much time to think things through when you make a commitment that needs to get done promptly. Once you make such a commitment, it allows your mind to focus more on the task at hand and virtually nothing else. We are great multitaskers, but human nature allows us to place emphasis on things that we commit to.

There are more variables that can pop up and challenge that commitment and how much we are willing to stick to that commitment. If you are 100% certain and willing to do the favor, say yes. If you are uncertain, do not simply say yes by giving in to the pressure of someone asking you a personal favor and have a huge question mark hanging whether or not you can follow through. It is important to have open communication and that you are honest about your ability to make the commitment given the particular situation.

How it is okay to opt out of commitments of significance

There are instances when commitments have to be broken by necessity. If you truly feel a deep regret and mistake into putting yourself into a significant commitment, let the other side know how you feel. They may feel some bewilderment and disappointment, but put yourself in their position and you will feel very similarly. They can respect your bravery to come clean and tell them that it has not been the best decision you have made to commit to a responsibility.

It is important to make sure that we think first of what we are committing to and how we and others are affected by our decisions. It is even more important to stick to our commitments to keep a good relationship through trust, honesty, and goodwill with the person we made a commitment to. Yes, sometimes we forget that we have made a decision to take responsibility for an action. But it is paramount that we make certain to remember to carry out the actions we say we are going to do no matter how small or insignificant they may be.
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