The Art of Not Making Promises- How to experience a rare and exquisite sense of freedom.
There’s an odd new sensation sweeping over me this past week. It’s been creeping towards me for a few months. I’ve sensed it’s presence. But now, it’s officially here.
I’ll tell you what it is in a minute, but first, let me explain.
When I first came to the little beach town in Central Mexico where I now live, I was on a 5 week vacation. I called it a ‘sabbatical’ because by that point, I’d decided to pause as many of my business activities as possible to do a much needed inner deep-dive…and I was also feverishly obsessed with Human Design and wanted the time to study it without interruption.
I bought a yoga pass at the local yoga retreat (where I now teach) and attended classes most days. There, I met a woman who inspired me. She was a yoga teacher. I loved her classes. She had a rare sense of freedom about her.
She had a type of time-freedom that seemed impossibly amazing to me. The effect of this exuded off of her and enveloped me.
She had come to this beach 6 years earlier to teach yoga, and then met her very own Mexican-surf-guru/boyfriend and started surfing. Now she’s an incredible surfer.
Her hair is untamed and sun-tinted, her skin is perpetually tanned. She doesn’t wear a bra. She is a wild-child. When she’s not teaching yoga, she’s surfing.
Her name is Natalie and here’s a picture of her and I when we first met a few years ago : )
At the time, I was feeling ‘over-it’ with delivering my workshops, courses and coaching.
And yet, I still had promises that I’d made to clients that I needed to deliver on.
So. Many. Promises.
I had people enrolled in group programs that included monthly calls and sessions.
I had course content to create and deliver.
I had my 3-day Discover your Genius workshop to deliver at several different locations and dates.
And I was holding the energy/responsibility of having dozens of people within the process of my programs.
And that was just what I had to deliver to clients…
Then there was the infrastructure that I’d built in order to be able to market, sell and deliver on these promises.
And that infrastructure was a series of promises in itself.
I had an Online Business Manager to pay a few thousand dollars a month.
I had an Infusionsoft subscription that was $400/month.
I was subscribed to what seemed like dozens of technology gizmos that all had a seemingly innocuous monthly fee that all added up to a burdensome monthly promise.
I was enrolled in more programs than I could count. Would I ever even attend them?
And with all of these promises linking my energies up to so many other people and things, like tendrils of attachment , I was desperately trying to carve out the time and space to learn how to BE myself.
I was trying to devote my energy and attention to the one or two things that actually seemed liked REAL uses of my time. Things that I actually wanted to do.
At the time, the only thing that I wanted to do was to study human design and to devote myself to following the instructions of my Human Design with 100% faithfulness. That was what mattered to me.
And that’s what I did. I minimized my activities as much as I could, continued to deliver on my past promises and devoted myself to my Human Design process.
Human Design Taught me something profound about Promises.
This is very likely, very relevant to you.
So I encourage you to sit up and pay attention.
In Human Design one of the 9 Centres is called the Will centre. It’s also called the Ego and the Heart. But for today, I’ll be calling it the Will Centre since I’m placing emphasis on the idea of ‘promises’.
Here’s a photo of the Will/Ego/Heart, to show you can see where it is in the chart.
In your chart it will either be coloured in, which means that the centre is Defined. Or it will be left blank, which means that it is Undefined. (if you’d like to look up your chart for free and check if your Will is Defined or Undefined, go to this website: https://www.humandesignamerica.com)
Your relationship to ‘will-power’ will be strongly influenced by whether this centre is defined or undefined.
Will Power is Defined here as The ability to promise your energy to the future.
The Defined Will Centre
A Defined Will Centre means that you have a defined and reliable sense of will-power. You are a person who can truly make promises and then, keep them.
Someone with a defined Will centre can authentically promise their energy to the future. They can say: “I will send you this email by tomorrow.” And then, not flake out. They’ll actually send you that email.
The trick for the person with the Defined Will is to make sure that they are making the right, authentic, promises. The Will Centre is a powerful motor. It’s linked to the heart organ, and for these people, making the wrong promises is actually physically unhealthy for their heart. It hurts them.
And even worse for them, is when they make a promise that they don’t keep.
The heart/will likes to work in spurts and then rest. It can out-put tremendous results in short periods of time, willfully. People with the defined will are willful. It’s incredible. I can feel it.
These people get the best deals, and can strong-arm others into giving them what they want. They have a magic power over others.
And that is because only 30% of people have this centre defined.
The Undefined Will Centre
Most of us are hopelessly lacking consistent willpower. We are Undefined in this centre. Which means that we don’t have an authentic, consistent mechanism to promise our energy to the future.
We might say “I will send you that email tomorrow.” And we will really mean it at the time.
But then, tomorrow comes and we get invited to go to a water-park with our neighbour and their kids. Or maybe we ended up waking up with a headache, and spending the day nurturing ourselves with netflix and tea. Or maybe we got distracted by answering calls, and had a social butterfly day.
Whatever it was, our energy is swept up in that activity for the day.
It’s only 2 days later that we remember in an “Oh Sh*t!” moment… “I forgot to send that email!”
Then a wave of shame and guilt washes over us, we feel bad and rush to the computer or our phone to send that email apologetically. We did it again!
At this point, we decide: “I need to be better at delivering on my promises!” “I’ve got to work on being a woman of my word.” Insert Tony Robbins catch-phrases about what it takes to be successful here….like “my word is law.”
But this is the trap of the Undefined Ego. And it is perhaps THE strongest conditioning influence.
The point isn’t that you should get better at keeping your promises. The point is, making and keeping promises isn’t an authentic, defined, part of your nature. And you should get better at not making promises in the first place.
The Undefined Will centre relates to our Ego self. Because the ‘ego’ is undefined, those with this centre undefined have an innate sense that they aren’t good enough. They don’t have a defined sense of the value of themselves. They aren’t really all that ‘egoic’. This leaves them often feeling unworthy and inferior.
Because of this, making a promise is a momentary relief. It gives them a temporary feeling that they are good/worthy. It gives them a hit of self-importance and value. It’s impressive to say to someone “I will send you that email.” “I will get you X result.” “I will deliver a great program to you.” “I will write a book.” “I will stop eating sugar.”
It only takes a moment for these words to roll off the tongue. But the energetic contract just begins then. You’ve now promised your energy to the future, in a way that is contrary to your nature and doesn’t make sense for you.
From here, one of two things will happen. You’ll keep your promise, or you won’t. Let’s look at both possibilities:
Possibility #1: You keep your promise.
Many leaders with undefined will are quite masterful at keeping their promises. And this is because they’ve devoted a tremendous amount of attention, discipline and even systems to being able to do something that is actually contrary to their nature.
They learned how to do it. They took courses. They consulted their colleagues. They worked at it. It’s Nurture and not nature that allows them to keep their promises so well.
In the process, they have bound and tied their life-force and entangled themselves in a mess of bondage. But hey, they are setting a shining example of what we all think it looks like to be successful. They definitely deserve a prize for keeping that Sh*t going! Bless them.
For most of us with that undefined Will, in order to keep that promise, since it was unnatural in the first place, we’ll need to summon energy resources from other places in our design that would otherwise be used for more authentic purposes.
For example, when I tell someone that I’ll send them that email, I’ll often summon the power of my open Root Centre to just get it done really fast so that it’s over and done with.
But sometimes, I just can’t do it. I have no real energy for it. I can tell that to ‘try’ to keep my promise is forcing it and inauthentic. It’s not natural.
And that’s when the other thing can happen:
Possibility #2: You don’t keep your promise
You just don’t do the thing you said you would do, or you don’t do it on time, or in the way that you said you would.
This option upsets people. (Especially people that have the Defined Will…this really gets their goat. They simply don’t understand why you don’t do what you said you would do.)
And, it upsets you. Not fulfilling on the promises that you made in the way that you said you would is going to pour salt onto the not-good-enough wound of the Undefined Ego.
You’ll feel ‘bad’. And because you feel that you are bad for not keeping your promise, you’ll be tempted to try to prove that you are good with more promises or by over-delivering on the promise that you made.
You’ll want to make up for it.
It’s a vicious Cycle.
Promise that should never have been made —>
Forgetting or neglecting the promise that should never have been made —>
Feeling bad about neglecting the promise —>
Making up for it with new promises or over-compensation —>
To truly understand what this centre is, and how much of an influence it is on the daily life and decision-making of you and most people you know, I recommend taking the time to watch this video (towards the bottom of the page, titled: THE WILL/EGO/HEART CENTRE) about it when you have a moment of downtime: https://humandesignfreeschool.com/topic/willegoheart-centre/
The trickiest thing about the Undefined Will is that when you are around someone with a defined Will you will actually be under pressure to make promises. That’s how the undefined centres work. They amplify the energies of those who have the same centre defined.
So for example, if you are standing next to someone who has the Will Centre Defined, and you have it Undefined, you will be under pressure to make promises while you are in contact with their aura.
I experienced this all the time in a past business partnership/friendship with someone who had the Will Centre Defined. When she and I were together I would feel “Yes, Let’s do this! We can do this. We will do this.” And then, the very next day even, there would be ZERO authentic energy there to actually do the thing.
So, left unchecked. You are actually under pressure on a regular basis to make promises that have very little to do with you and what you should actually be doing with your time and energy.
And when you make those promises, you’ve now bound up your life-force in doing things that could be completely off-track from your source of aliveness and your zone of Genius.
This is a major problem.
Now. Hopefully at this point, I’ve been able to convey to you how easy it is to make a promise that’s not authentic for you, and also how unhealthy this is on your body, mind and spirit.
But what’s the solution?
Am I suggesting that you no longer make any plans or promises? And if I am, how on earth are you supposed to win a livelihood or run a business without promising anything to anyone?
This is where the Art of Not Making Promises comes into play.
It’s an art form that I’ve been learning for the past several years.
A life of few promises is a beautiful thing.
And it’s the thing that I just realized this week has slowly crept up on me….
It took me 2 years, two entire full years, to extricate myself from all of the promises that I’d made that I didn’t actually want to keep.
Last week, I just sent a woman a $5000 refund for a Coach Training that I sold, and then delayed and finally decided that I don’t have the energy to deliver. She was the only person who had signed up.
Sending her this money was such a relief. I released the tendrils of obligation to deliver a major promise to her. And with it, I set myself free.
Now, I just need to record a few more content videos for the Human Design for Leaders program, put up some content on my website and I’ll have delivered on everything I’ve promised my clients.
On the same vein, I have gone through every single expense in my business and eliminated all monthly payments that were burdening me. My business is lean. My expenses are low.
My business is a skeletal operation. I have the support I need, but nothing more. There’s no excess. No extra promises that I need to make every month than what’s actually necessary and sustainable.
I got rid of Infusionsoft. (I can’t tell you the relief I felt. Not only was it a financial burden, but I see now it was an energetic burden because it was too complicated.)
I got rid of my membership site.
I don’t do affiliate tracking so I don’t need a whole bunch of things that go with it. And I don’t send out affiliate emails on behalf of my colleagues.
I’ve only attended one workshop in the past 2 years.
I don’t like the look and feel of the highest converting softwares and gizmos so I save a lot in letting those go too.
My promises are very few. I have 3 full-time clients. And one part-time. My agreement with them is simple. And it’s something that either party can free themselves from at any moment because I only work with people on a monthly payment basis.
I did this on purpose…so that I never have to be in that position of having to deliver on something I said I would do but that is no longer authentic for me.
I love to do Human Design Readings, and those are an easy promise to keep that I always have energy for. It’s only a few powerful sessions and the client is set and on their way.
I teach yoga 3 times a week, and I love it. Again, an easy promise.
The things that are now occupying my time and energy are clean and clear. They have come about through a longer, more authentic decision-making process. And because they came about authentically, I do have the energy to do them.
And this is that odd feeling I was telling you about. It’s the space that exists in the absence of having promised my energy to the future. It’s a clear space that might otherwise be known as freedom.
It’s been interesting to note that in the space of having so few promises to keep, I’ve been tempted to launch a new group program. I mapped it all out. I tried to create the webinar that would launch it.
But underneath it was a niggling fear. A fear of freedom/space/nothingness. A fear of living as an untethered soul.
So, instead of launching a program, I’m enjoying the time and space. I’m salsa dancing. 7 classes a week! I’ve found an amazing little dance studio in the nearby small city with the most charismatic and funny hard-ass teacher. I commute there 5 days a week through the tropical beauty.
Who knows? Maybe I’m just afraid of responsibility. Maybe I will launch the group program. Maybe there’s something else I need to understand about this…
But for now, I’m enjoying this strange new world.
Keep your Future Clean
The other day, a beautiful man was walking the street in the hot sun, selling brooms made out of palm leaves. They were beautiful. I bought one and have put it on my shelf, like an altar. It’s a symbol of cleanliness.
It reminds me to keep my present moment, and therefore, my future clean and clear. My wish for myself is that I only agree to those things that are really aligned, and the right use of my energy. And that the words I speak, the actions I take are clean…creating a future free of debris, of excess, of messes.
May you too enjoy a clean future, based on your clear behaviour today.
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