When we make promises we expect to keep them. That’s not just blind optimism, though most often we fail at promises we make to ourselves, rather than others, whom we disappoint less regularly. It’s an expression of hope springing eternal, even if it’s unsubstantiated, even contradicted, by experience.
This week’s reading has instructions on valuing pledges made to HaShem. You know the kind: If you do/fix/make x y or z situation, I promise to be/do/act more or less _______ing. I promise.
Generally these vows are made in circumstances of need–even desperation–acute or perceived. But there you are. Sworn. Pledged. Ostensibly committed. Some part of you has grabbed the wheel and given it a hard turn in the right direction. (P.S. And this time I mean it. I really do.)
I’m reading a great book on breaking through creative blocks and overcoming resistance: The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield. As he says, it’s good for anyone who’s ever said they want to be more creative, start a new health regimen, cure an addiction, or tighten their abs. Read it. Please contact me immediately if it doesn’t mirror your own dance; I want to know your secret.
When you make a pledge you’re supposed to want to keep it. And then do so. This reading details how the loopholes are calculated: what it’ll cost to weasel out of your promise. Many are measured in market value with a 20% markup, though many of us would happily pay double to escape following through on what we’re not quite ready for. Please wait. We’ll start next Monday. Really. Trust us.
I recently organized an event. It was only a qualified success. But I tried. Planned. Did all the right stuff. Why? I had a vision. I was pledged. I had a passion. I made a commitment. I wanted to follow through, and I did.
So what’s the difference between that and say, starting and failing with a diet? What are we willing to put our energy behind, and what do we just give lip service? If we only give lip service over and over again, but never invoke energy, what’s the message? Would having to pay a hefty fine change your behavior? What stops you from following through on your promises?
Often life intrudes. Energies and events get in the way, whether they’re entrepreneurial surges or bouts of insomnia, planting your garden, falling in love, or caring for ailing parents. When they do, what happens to your vows? Do you hit the pause button? Or use them to help get you through the hard and busy times?
I think Pressfield is right: the more important what we’re trying to embrace and accomplish is to us, the more resistance we will encounter. There’s no enemy stronger, cleverer, or more persistent than the obstructions resistance can conjure. So be careful about what you pledge, because each time you do, the cost of not following through goes up. Like yo-yo dieting, you can make a problem worse by not actually dealing with it.
If you want to avoid the costs of delay and avoidance, your first pledge should be to overcoming resistance. If you want help with something, start by asking for that.