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It’s officially 2021, a new calendar year.  This transition means a lot of different things to different people.  For me, it’s a moment to pause and reflect, think about the importance of realistic and attainable goal setting.  This is something I talk a lot about in my parent workshops and coaching, goal setting is an extremely important life skill, but the way you set goals is equally important.  When I read I Promise by LeBron James and illustrated by Nina Mata I knew this would be a great book to start a new year with.

Goals and Promises

In my family we talk about making promises and the importance of making promises you can keep.  For example, “I promise to do my best” versus ”I promise I won’t do that again.”  If you make promises you can’t keep, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and devaluing the meaning.  Goals aren’t effective if you can’t achieve them.  Just like learning to a new skill, you need to start small and slowly build, with each success you make the next goal more achievable.  There’s another secret to successful goal setting and achievement – accountability.

Promises are a lot like goals.  They can be small, medium, really big or everything in between.  As you teach a child about setting goals and making promises, it’s important to understand the importance of this life skill and the way you use language to support your intentions.  Promises are built on trust.  Trust is rooted in reliability, responsibility, empathy and love. 

Steps for Powerful Promises:

  1. Don’t make promises you can’t keep
  2. Don’t use the word promise for things you don’t mean (or can’t control)
  3. Use the word promise with intent

Example:  I promise to be home by 6:30. You can’t actually make that promise because there are a lot of factors that could come into play.  Instead, I will do my best to be home by 6:30 OR I’m planning to be home by 6:30.

Establish Precedent:  I promise to play a board game with you this afternoon.  If you make this promise, it’s really important you follow through because you are establishing a relationship around this important word.  You are also showing you can be trusted.

Reflect on the Importance: When saying to a child – I want you to promise to try your best today.  This is meaningless if you have not honoured the word promise, and very powerful if you have. NOTE: This also means your expectation of trying your best is authentic and not one demanding of perfection.

LeBron James & I Promise Program

LeBron James is a extremely successful NBA basketball player that has committed himself to developing a movement around “I Promise”.  Throughout this book, LeBron uses the word promise to motivate and build in accountability.  When you make a promise, you will follow through because you have said you would, and what you say matters.  In order for this to work, the word promise must hold value.  The “I Promise” movement is built on the idea that “I promise to be the best version of me.”  LeBron supports this by doing his part in the movement and engaging kids is committing to doing things that are challenging.

Picture Book: I Promise by LeBron James and Illustrated by Nina Mata

When I read a book like this, I do not expect children to make all the promises we read about.  Instead I get them to reflect on starting with a small promise.  What is something they can commit to, share with me (or their parent) and be held accountable for.  Start small and build to greater promises.  This is the foundation of goal setting and dream building!