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In my years as a business coach I’ve seen some common themes in my work with business owners. One is a sense of urgency that prompts them to hastily sign up for various coaching and marketing programs, but the programs somehow never seem to produce the promised results.

The reasons given include that the business owner was too busy to attend the sessions, dropped out, or simply failed to get whatever value the sessions were supposed to deliver. It happens more than you think; that the sense of urgency slips away. Or it was a response to the crisis of the moment seeking an instant solution. Or the businessperson just couldn’t sustain the motivation to stick with the program.

One of the sayings that my mother repeated often was, “Finish what you start.” She applied that to sewing projects, school assignments, etc. At the time, I didn’t appreciate her wisdom, but since then I’ve benefitted from it over the years.

When you don’t finish what you start, something is lost. Completion is part of the creative cycle, and when that part is cast aside or forgotten, there is a loss. When you freely skip over your commitments to yourself and your business, there is a price to pay. And it is common that business owners who don’t keep promises to themselves regularly break promises to others too.

Several years ago, I listened to a webinar with Stephen Covey about his book, The Speed of Trust. I’ve never forgotten his statement that if we can’t trust ourselves to keep our word to ourselves, then how can we possibly expect others to trust us to keep our word to them? Trust starts with us.

He then gave the example of promising oneself to go for a walk in the morning, and then turning off the alarm and sleeping late, making it impossible to keep our word and go for that walk. We then feel guilty for the rest of the day. Promise broken.

Covey gave several other examples in the webinar, and it was a wake-up call for me as I recognized that I often set aside time to work on some project, but then gave the time away by agreeing to some other commitment. My work always got pushed aside.

So I resolved to stop breaking my promises to myself. And I found that spilled over into my business and allowed me to clean up some messes that were making my life harder than it needed to be. Promises are a serious matter!

One thing that is important to keep in mind is your definition of “promise”. Consider whether others have broken their promises to you and how that affected you or made you feel. We place a lot of value on honesty and integrity, values that arise in our hearts and minds. Are you honest with yourself? Can you count on keeping your promises to yourself? Tough love with ourselves can make a big difference in how we go about our business – and our lives. It determines how we follow through on the promises we make to ourselves, to our clients and customers, and to all those who depend on us.

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