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Ms Hopkins' Thought for the Term

Posted on: 30/09/2021

A commitment is a pledge made to do something. A promise now, for something later. There are the huge commitments we make in our life – to a job, a person or a cause. But these big commitments, these future promises are not kept sometime in the distant future. The only way to honour a commitment is right now, in the present moment, in the small daily actions that make up how we turn up and ultimately, whether or not we honour those big commitments.

Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher, said ‘watch your words, for they become your actions, watch your actions, for they become your habits, watch your habits for they become your character’.

When we make a commitment, it is easy to think that it is something that we will get around to later, or something that will never really come around. But the moment we make the commitment is the moment we need to begin to act upon it. If we follow Lao Tzu’s advice, we will start to act to honour that commitment immediately, and those acts of keeping our promises will build in us the character of the kind of person we want to be. When you make a commitment – don’t make it lightly. It might not seem like a big deal to promise to help but then never quite round to doing it. It might not seem like a big deal to say you’ll meet a friend only to let them down on the day. But the habit of ‘it doesn’t matter if I don’t do this’ will become a part of your character. Commitments aren’t just to other people; they are to yourself as well. Don’t give up on the character you want. Another great philosopher – Aristotle – said ‘we are what we habitually do…. Excellence is a habit’. If you keep your commitments, you will build not only a good reputation, but a bridge towards the person you intend to be.

The next time you make a commitment or promise – try to outline the actions you need to take to make that thing a reality. Add dates to your calendar, set reminders for the deadlines of the things you promise, think about scheduling the little actions that will help you honour your promises.

Finally – watch out for overcommitting. Taking on too much comes from great intentions but if you find you don’t have capacity to follow through then the result is the same; a broken promise. When considering if you can take something on ask yourself if you really can do this. If the answer is ‘no’, then honour that ‘no’ as importantly as you would a commitment to saying ‘yes’, or consider trading out something else. We only have so much capacity, and if we don’t respect that then it won’t be our choice about what we do and don’t do, our exhaustion will make the choice for us.

So be discerning in your choices, respect your capacity and when you do commit - act in the present to ensure you honour the promise you made for the future.

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