I Believe…I Promise…I Expect
Here’s an exercise that yields huge returns. It’s much more challenging than you might think, and can be used with virtually any age group, demographic, or area of focus. I developed it when my children were very young and I was looking to clarify my approach to parenting in an effort to stay focused and maintain my sanity.
The instructions are deceivingly simple. Pick an area of focus, a role, or aspect of your life. Once you select your lens, write with a few concise sentences that sum up the essence of your “platform”, starting with I believe, I promise, and I expect. Your statements should be general enough to capture your unique culture, mission, or approach, while specific enough to serve as a guide for future actions and decision making.
I have used this exercise in a number of settings and contexts including coaching, strategic planning, group facilitation, and mediation. Based on my experiences I would offer the following observations for each category of reflection:
It’s helpful to anchor this statement to the role on which you are focusing. In other words, if you are completing this exercise as a parent, you should craft a statement about what you believe to be the core responsibilities of parents or conversely what you believe society needs in terms of its citizens or communities. If you are completing this through the lens of leadership, consider the final “product” of your efforts in terms of the bigger world or context. By framing your core beliefs around the highest level of outcomes that are relevant to your frame, you will create the most expansive space for creating movement and maximizing your impact.
This is a big one as it speaks to core commitments, which shouldn’t move or shift regardless of changes in context or the twists and turns of life. I strongly feel that we need more commitments from individuals, organizations, and institutions- commitments that we can count on no matter what. Your own promises should come directly from your beliefs and should be broad enough to serve as anchors while allowing for varied solutions and goals. In this way your promises should not limit you, but instead guide you in your decision making while ensuring ongoing alignment at all times.
This one is my favorite but it’s often the hardest to adopt. Here’s the idea: while it’s great to commit to others through your promises, you also need to define the parameters of your engagement. Specifically, what are your core expectations for the individuals with whom you interact in your respective role? Like promises, expectations should also be tied to your core beliefs and should never waver, serving as a vehicle to ensure the stability of your beliefs while also enabling you to fulfill your promise to others – and yourself.
Although this exercise takes time and necessitates deep reflection and soul searching, I find that it is well worth the investment and yields multiple returns. When I developed it for myself it was based on a very clear notion that I continue to share with my children today,
…..I don’t want you to waste any of your life trying to figure me out. I want you to know exactly who I am and what I stand for, so that you can use your time and energy to figure yourself out, to recognize and cultivate your gifts, and begin to impact the world. The sooner you are able to do this, the sooner you will experience the magic that comes with fulfilling your promise.
I hope you all find this exercise useful. Let me know if you have any questions or need any help!