Under-Promise and Over-Deliver
A phrase I often heard others say while working in business and education was “under-promise and over-deliver.” This meant to make a commitment but promise the minimum you know you can do. Then, deliver more than you promise. This could mean beating a deadline rather than just meeting it. It could mean making an introduction rather than just providing contact information. It definitely meant setting lower goals when projecting outcomes.
I could never fully get on board with this idea. I always felt like under-promising was holding back and selling myself short, maybe not challenging myself enough. It went against the notion of “if you shoot for the moon, you’ll at least land among the stars.”
Of course, I needed to be aware of what I could do before making commitments and to be realistic in what I promised, but I also felt like stepping out in faith by promising excellence above and beyond average was also important.
In all of this, I learned the hard lesson that plans change. Life happens. Circumstances flip. An emergency arises requiring a rearranging of priorities. Maybe resources change or disappear. For whatever reason, you can’t do what you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it, and you can’t deliver on your promises.
Change of Plans
Paul talks about changing his plans in 2 Corinthians 1:15-24. He also addresses making and keeping commitments in light of deciding to change his plans. Here’s the short of it:
- He initially wanted to bless the Corinthians by stopping to see them twice, both to and from Macedonia.
- He changed his mind because the Corinthians apparently failed to follow his 1 Corinthians advice.
Paul said he changed his plans out of consideration for the Corinthians to spare them a rebuke and give them a second chance to follow his advice. He prefaces this by stressing the importance of not being “like people of the world who say yes when they really mean no” (v 18).
Instead, says Paul, follow Jesus’ example as He “never waivers between yes and no” (v 19). In other words, make commitments — promises — and keep them. Let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no. (Matthew 5:37)
Paul’s example shows that others not keeping commitments or making needed changes sometimes alters our plans. Regardless of what others do or don’t do, though, my focus should lie with doing what I say I’m going to do when I say I’m going to do it if at all possible as well as with promising to always do whatever I’m doing to the best of my ability.