I hate to be the one to break it to you, but New Year’s Eve is just about on your doorstep. For some that means just flipping another calendar page. But for many it means making New Year’s resolutions. This year I challenge you to not make resolutions, but to instead make some promises. What’s the difference, you ask? Let me explain.
When Alex Sheen was 27 years old, his father died of lung cancer. In the days after, Alex spent a lot of time thinking about why his father had meant so much to him and had influenced his life in such positive ways. What he kept coming back to him was one thought–his dad always kept his promises.
Through his whole life Alex’s father had been a man who kept promises. He was on time to events. He paid his bills on time. He spent time with his children. He was a man who lived by promises.
The more Alex thought about it, the more he realized that a lot of the problems that occurred in his own life, came about from promises he hadn’t kept. From not working out regularly to not paying bills on time, there were many parts of his life that could be improved, if he’d only keep his own promises to himself. At his father’s funeral he passed out the first of what would become hundreds of thousands of cards that simply read “Because I Said I Would.”
He challenged the people who came to mourn his father’s death to do themselves a favor and emulate his father, by making a promise and keeping it. It could be a promise to themselves, or a promise to someone else. The only thing that mattered was that the promise was kept.
Within weeks Alex had formed the nonprofit called Because I Said I Would. When the requests for cards came flowing in from the newly formed Facebook page, Alex knew he was on to something. In the past year his organization has grown quickly. He is now sending out cards to people in 48 different countries worldwide.
The cards are small, so they fit in a wallet and can be carried around as a constant reminder. They are printed with no color because, as Alex says, “Promises are black and white.” You can make a promise to someone you love and hand them the card. When you’ve fulfilled your promise, they can give it back to you. Or you can just make a promise to yourself and post it on a bulletin board or stick it on your fridge. They are small, easy to fill out, hard to forget.
And they are not resolutions. In this New Year’s week of making resolutions, Alex’s cards fit in nicely. But a resolution is something too easy to just give up on, as the month of January passes. Alex’s cards are a promise. Promises that don’t expire when motivation runs low. Promises are something that hang out there until they are honored.
And promises aren’t just about losing weight or giving up smoking, as many resolutions so often are. Promises run much wider than that. A promise can be made to a child, letting them know you’ll be there to read to them, every night as they go to bed. Or it can be a nod to a spouse, that there will be less criticizing and more encouraging in the months to come. My promise will be to myself and my husband, that I will work hard on improving our credit score, that took a major hit in the complicated cross country move we recently made. I’ll post my card on the bulletin board next to my desk, and I’ll honor it–every single day.
You can request cards of your own (and feel free to make a small donation to cover the cost of the free cards Alex will so willingly send you) at this website. Or you can print your own cards. You can also show up to one of the live events that will be taking place this New Year’s Eve. I’ll be at the one happening at Evergreen Lake, in my quaint little town of Evergreen, Colorado.
And if you really want to inspire yourself and others, think about buying a t-shirt or a wrist band. It’s hard to forget about your own promises, when you’re walking around with the words “Because I Said I Would” printed across your chest or wrapped around your arm.
I also encourage you to take a few minutes out of your busy day to watch this short TED talk that Alex gave last year. At the nine minute mark you’ll hear the story about how he found the courage to quit his job and work at his organization full time, with a twist you won’t soon forget.
As Alex tweeted just a few days ago, “The New Year’s Resolution is Dead. Want to make it real? Make it a promise.”