I promise to do my best

One of the most common ways for disagreement about whether a promise was kept or not is the inability to accurately measure whether it was fulfilled or not.

Promises are like goals.
Like SMART goals, SMART promises are more likely to be effective because they are measurable.

A common example of a immeasurable promise:

I promise to do my best.

Conceptually, this is benevolent, and perhaps the most common promise made. Because “doing my best” is tough to measure, it is also difficult to prove when it’s fulfilled and challenging to be held accountable to when it’s not. This promise therefore holds very little risk of failure, low tension, and makes it hard to learn from since we don’t know if and where we missed the mark.

Think of a situation where you did your best for someone.

Where did you experience the tension or effort in the action?

Could you objectively measure your action in that moment?

If you would have promised to follow through on something in advance of that action, what would that promise have looked like?

Immeasureable promises:

I will do my best to be there by 8AM.

I’ll try to finish my part of the project.

I’ll do my best to care about your needs.

Measureable promises:

I will be there at 8AM.

I will finish my part of the project by 6PM.

In moments when I’m triggered by an argument, I promise to take 90 seconds to reset my thoughts and refocus on both of us getting our needs met.

If we can improve the quality of our promises, the ones we make to others as well as ourselves, we will also see an improvement of quality in our relationships and life as we deepen our trust with those we care about.