The world works by agreement. Even words, our basic form of communication, work only by agreement. A plate is only a plate because we all agree to call it by that name. We are able to communicate with words only because we agree on their meanings. Money exists only by agreement also. For example, if you saw a newspaper beside $20 bill on a park bench, the $20 bill is the one that will disappear fast. Both are pieces of paper with ink on them, but the difference between them is that we agree that one is more valuable. Society also functions by agreement, and our lives work only to the degree that we keep our agreements.
There is a high cost to not keeping our agreements. You will feel ineffective, experience psychological upset, interpersonal conflict, and social turmoil. When you break your promise to be faithful to your spouse, to show up after telling a friend you will help them move, to obey traffic laws, or pay our debts as we have agreed to, the results are less than desirable. Painful consequences and strained relationships indicate that something in your life is not working.
The opposite is true when you keep your agreements. You feel more effective, build psychological strength, and improve your self-esteem. Your relationships become more nurturing with mutual respect and support, and you feel more positive about your life. In other words, your life works.
The person you are now is the result of choices you have made in your life up until now. Your future will be determined by the choices and agreements you make from now on. Be careful in giving your word, and be sure you don’t make agreements that you cannot keep, or have no intention of keeping. You should keep your agreements as if your life depends on them, because in many ways, it does. Be clear about the difference between “I’ll try to do it,” and “I give you my word that I’ll do it.” Saying you will try gives you a convenient excuse for not following through with the agreement.
When you break an agreement you have made, examine your intention. A part of you wanted to keep the agreement, but since you did not keep your word, another part of you resisted it. Relationships are built on agreements. You are defined by the commitments you choose and the ones you avoid. Essentially, you are your word.
Photo credit: Corey Kubber