Do you understand the difference between contracts and covenants?
People living a successful life are making commitments, creating contracts between themselves and other people – whether in their personal or professional lives.
People living a significant life understand the power of covenants.
It’s possible. But you have to understand the weight of a covenant versus a contract or commitment.
During my travels as a motivational coach I have the opportunity to talk about this with people from all walks of life…
Are you making commitments…or covenants?
The Webster Dictionary defines “commitment” as:
An agreement or pledge to do something in the future…the state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled.
A commitment, then, is a two-way contract between two or more parties predicated on performance. It’s born out of suspicion and usually bound by a written agreement of requirements.
Sadly, the requirements of a contract often represent a minimum standard in relationships.
In a commitment contract, the parties don’t trust each other. Consequently, they set limits to their own responsibility with a document of, “If you do this, I will do that.”
Accountability is important, but a commitment contract bears no feeling, emotional attachment, or moral obligation to perform.
Let’s consider a covenant, the higher law realized by significant individuals, as a solemn binding promise to do something in the present.
A covenant is a one-way promise between two or more parties, predicated on principles and bound by sacrifice – an unwritten conviction that,
I will do this regardless if you do that.
Max De Pree, retired CEO of Herman Miller, spoke of a covenant between an organization and an individual in contrast to the traditional contractual commitment: “An honest day’s pay in exchange for an honest day’s work.”
Contracts are a small part of a relationship. A complete relationship needs a covenant relationship, which rests on a shared commitment to core values, to ideas, to issues, and to goals.
To transcend success and walk the path toward significance, we must forge as many covenant relationships as possible, paying attention to the burning spirit behind our connections rather than limiting ourselves to a strict, pragmatic, egocentric, letter-of-the-law notion of our own responsibilities.
Let us embrace covenant service, defined as an act of trading something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.
It’s the baseball batter willingly bunting the ball that puts himself out but allows his teammate to advance as the base runner.
The entrepreneur trading sleep for finishing the task.
It’s giving a day off work to a colleague for finishing the job on time.
Ultimately, it is giving something more than is required.
As significant individuals know – as any real winners in life know – making a covenant to live the principles of integrity, virtue, and fidelity sustains a much higher standard of performance than signing the dotted line on a physical contract.
Ultimately, we are the ones who benefit most from this enhanced responsibility and performance.
Make commitments that transcend duty and lead a life of significance
Successful people obey the preparatory principle of commitment.
Significant individuals at all levels live the advanced, highest Law of Covenant, and they perform covenant service.
The best way to find ourselves is to lose ourselves in the service of others.
Service transforms the servant and the served. Whoever renders service to many puts himself in line for greatness – great wealth, great return, great satisfaction, a great reputation, and great love.
As Rabindranath Tagore said,
I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.
Four Suggested Action Steps to Learning Covenant Service
1. Make a sign
It will read:
WHAT DID YOU DO FOR SOMEONE ELSE TODAY?
Showcase it in a visible place, such as on your refrigerator door or bathroom mirror.
2. Begin with the “low-hanging fruit”
Look for little things you can do in your own home with your family…cleaning, cooking, lifting, pushing, doing dishes, tutoring, driving, listening.
Do something more every day for a week. Don’t underestimate the power of taking care of the little things. It gives your loved ones time and space to explore their “big things”.
3. Organize a reporting system
I suggest using Sunday dinner, but it can be any morning, afternoon, or evening during your week. The important thing is to make it a ritual and encourage your loved ones to make room for it.
Allow each family member to share what he or she did each day that week. Listen intently. Be present. And put your ego in check if they direct criticism at you.
4. Expand your sphere of influence
Expand the areas, venues, and circles of influence in which you exercise service before self.
This is the tip of the iceberg:
- Do something for someone else at work
- Help in the neighborhood
- Volunteer at your children’s school
- Reach out to the children’s cancer ward in a hospital
- Share your time at a retirement home or rehabilitation center
- Join a service club: Rotary, Kiwanis, Optimists, or Elks
- Pick a charity and share your time, talents, and energy
You probably won’t have anyone thank you for your individual efforts. But that’s the point of covenant service.
Would you like to learn more about living a life of significance? Are you ready to engage your services in the pursuit of something beyond yourself?
Contact me, and we’ll embark on the journey together.
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