Thursday, January 27, 2005

Are you an impulse-promiser?

"Time gets away from me! I have to live up to all my commitments – and the list keeps getting longer." That's how "Robert" began a recent conversation with me.

You’re heard of impulse buyers – they walk out of the mall with boots (although they haven’t seen snow in years), books (they need more shelves to hold volumes they haven’t read yet), or a kitchen gadget (because someday they really will learn to cook).

But I meet many more folks who are impulse promisers. Robert, for instance, offered complimentary seminars to promote his business. He always ran out of time – so he’d promise a bonus seminar, also complimentary.

Now he was in real trouble. The seminar
participants hadn’t expected a bonus. They were delighted with Robert’s information-packed offering. But once he promised more they expected him to deliver. And when he realized he had overscheduled, they became angry and disappointed.

Were these participants rational? Maybe not.
Human? Definitely.

And, like most generous people, Robert had trouble saying no. Would he speak to his neighbor’s lunch group, even though they were not really in his target market and he had appointments booked tighly all afternoon? Would he contribute to a colleague’s special project? Yes, yes … and forever yes.

Here’s an exercise I designed for impulse-promisers like Robert.

What amount of money would you be comfortable spending impulsively during a single visit to a store? Ten dollars? One hundred? If you’re an NBA superstar, maybe ten thousand.

Call this amount Giveaway.

And how much would you want to think about before you commit to spending? For instance, most people would ponder their budgets before buying a brand-new car or a house in a certain price range.

Call this amount Investment.

Most people offer promises the way they
impulse-buy. So before you promise to do something – hold a free class, serve on a committee, speak to your friend’s club, attend an extra meeting – recognize that you're offering an Investment, although it feels like a Giveaway.

Make promises the way you make thoughtful investments. Ask for more time. Know what you can offer before you’re faced with a choice. ("One hour a week? No way. One hour a year? Maybe.")

Impulse-promisers can say, "I need to check my calendar" the way they’d say, "I need to review my finances" before committing to a new sports car or a new house. They'll be surprised how much time they've been spending. As Robert said, "I feel I’ve gained two hours a day!"

P.S. Before you feel guilty, nearly everybody has been an impulse-buyer and an impulse-promiser at least once. You can get better.

And that’s a real promise!
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If you’d like to review your own pattern of promises, I offer consultations on an hourly or programmatic basis.
http://www.cathygoodwin.com/coaching.html or reply to this ezine and we’ll set up a time to talk.
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