Promises to Keep / by AB Mann

Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

Virtue isn’t self sacrifice - giving all your money to charity, never drinking, always working. Blending self interest with civic mindedness keeps a person healthy and secure in their abilities as long as they balance their intrinsic needs with extrinsic aid. Consider Franklin’s establishment of the post office.

As a self-run printing shop in colonial Pennsylvania, Franklin’s publication only had so much reach with a limited number of people and inconsistent contact to neighboring towns. Without dedicated routes to other cities run by nationalized couriers, you couldn’t ensure anything you sent could make it.

I think many of Franklin’s had two modes of expression - internal and external virtue. Each has a component designed to make a person better for themselves and better to the world. Take resolve - resolve is really about keeping promises, being a person who does the things they say they’re going to do.

Promises are not just things we say we’re going to do for our boss or spouse but the things we say we’re going to accomplish for ourselves.

Things I will do for me

Another word for this is “determination”. Goal setting, yearly resolutions, even some times little things like getting up early require determination to accomplish. Franklin’s primary interest her was to constantly work towards his goals. Ideally we will set out to do things we really want to do rather than expending our time and energy in useless, fruitless endeavors.

My first edict for Resolve: 1. Complete the tasks you lay out for yourself in the day.

Things I will do for you.

Dependability is the external expression of Resolve. Being a reliable person in business and pleasure makes you a better person. We all want to be noble and honorable people and that is impossible if you can’t keep your word. This aspect may not be as goal driven but is the sort of thing that builds lasting relationships that support you through struggle.

Edict the second for Resolve: 2. Make promises you can keep and do your utmost to keep them.

Interdependence.

Resolve is the first virtue that builds off of previous virtues. Temperance, Silence, Order can stand on their own but Resolve requires a well-ordered life to fully fruit. It does not, however, make sense to develop it until you’ve experienced the previous.

Temperance, Silence, and Order are about self-control. You keep close watch on what food and drink you take. You carefully express yourself. You organize and plan your daily tasks and goals. These are meant to keep your mind clear and focused on today and tomorrow.

Resolve is the ability to do these things you lay out. And if you’re bad at ordering your life, building resolve is an ordeal if not entirely insurmountable. The struggles I had with order last week went hand in hand with resolve. Overestimating my own abilities for things I an do in a day, especially when large portions of my days are dedicated to people or problems mostly outside of my control, is a death sentence for my willpower.

So, what does that mean?

Plan better. I’ve come to realize that I have been poorly managing my time - I’m Order deficient. When I plan poorly my time, I am unable to accomplish what I lay out and am, thereby, breaking promises to myself and others. And I can’t have that.

This week I'll be looking carefully at the things I choose to do so that they are reasonable and balance well between work and play. I don’t think it reasonable that on, say, days where I’m leading hours of meetings to then say I’m going to produce well-research historical blog posts on Franklin’s flirtatious letter writing (holy cow). No, running meetings drains me and I may need to just read a book that evening. And that's ok if I plan for it.

The key here is that I’m not just withdrawing into nothingness. Rather, I am understanding where my energy has to go and taking care to own that and own my recovery.

If I’m planning poorly, I am not keeping promises to me or to you.