I was inspired today by a story on the Morning Joe show on MSNBC.

After returning home from two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Sgt. Daniel Rodriguez felt completely lost. After fighting the Taliban at age 19, he was now back in a world that didn’t really know who he was. Without his rifle, separated from his military mission, he wasn’t sure what his purpose was anymore. As he tells the story in his new book Rise: A Soldier, A Dream, and A Promise Kept, Daniel was fortunate to have his eyes trained on a promise he had made to his brother-in-arms, Kevin; just two weeks before Kevin was killed right in front of him.

Daniel had promised Kevin, “if I live to return home I will pursue my dream of playing Division 1 college football”. Holding on to that battlefield promise made all the difference for Daniel as he struggled to get through the 1 1/2 years of PTSD and dark depression that followed his homecoming.

One morning Daniel awoke and said “I want more for myself. If I don’t live my life to maximize my potential then my friends who gave their lives have died in vain. I want to represent them in a proper way by doing something positive with my life”. Today, against all odds, Daniel is a proud member of the Clemson Tigers football team. He kept his promise and is now living a “life of positivity”.

A purpose without a promise made to someone is just wishful thinking.

An uplifting purpose offers clear direction for living our life. But it takes a big promise to someone to turn purpose into action. To make us accountable and keep us focused.

Sometime we avoid making promises to preserve our sense of freedom. Freedom from obligation. From having to follow through on commitments. But freedom without purpose, per Kris Kristofferson, is “just another word for nothing left to lose”.

Sometimes we avoid making promises that we don’t know how to keep. We give up on our dreams; stay in our comfort zone and lose a chance to develop courage. We live small.

As Daniel Rodriguez tells in his amazing life story, it is our promises that keep us on purpose in life. It is our promises — to ourselves, our spouses, our children, our co-workers and customers, to our friends, to our God — that help us navigate through life’s dark times and keep our ‘eyes on the prize’ of an exuberant life.

At work, we can have bold statements of our vision, mission and goals. But it’s the promises we make and the promises we keep that produce coordinated action and results

Take a promise inventory.

  1. Are your promises keeping you focused on what is really important to you?
  2. Are your promises big enough for you to attract the attention and support of others?
  3. Are your promises sufficient to give you “staying power” through setbacks?
  4. What old promises do you want to release or renegotiate to get back on track?
  5. What new promises do you want to make?

Promises are the bridge from yesterday’s dream to today’s reality.

Just ask Sgt. Daniel Rodriguez.