The Power of Vows

The Power of Vows
Prior to reading The Vow-Powered Life: A Simple Method for Living with Purpose by Jan Chozen Bays I had often thought about the concept of vows, but I called them “declarations” or “promises.” Case in point, two family members, one on my side of the family and one on my husband’s vowed back when they were young men that they would live to be over 100 years old and they are both healthy and happy octogenarians today. Let’s call them Uncle Frank and Uncle Jake.

Back in the late 1970s when Uncle Frank was in his 40s (about the same age I am now) he would hold court at family barbecues telling tall tales about his amazing life feats and jokes about how he was not going to die from an illness or a natural cause, rather he was going to get shot by a lover’s jealous husband when he was 100 year old. To prove his claim to longevity, Uncle Frank would open his hand and show his audience that his “life line” extended beyond his palm onto his wrist. As for my husband’s Uncle Jake, he vowed that he would be the longest living person in his family. The record is 98. Long before he was even half this age, at his family gatherings, Uncle Jake would laugh boisterously, brag about his life accomplishments and declare: “I am going to outlive you all…”

In The Vow-Powered Life, Chozen Bays talks about the different kinds of vows and why we make them. There are “Inherited Vows” that are based on the priorities of parents, teachers, mentors and are passed down. There are “Inspired Vows” that can actually spread to thousands of others and around the world. “The effect of one person’s inspired vow can multiply manyfold, by inspiring other people,” writes Chozen Bays. “Kasim Reed was inspired by Martin Luther King, who was inspired by Gandhi.”

Then there are “Reactive Vows.” In the 1950s when they were in their 20s, both Uncle Frank and Uncle Jake lost not only their parents, but also most of their aunts, uncles and some older siblings and cousins to a variety of illnesses and accidents. I believe this is why they swore they would make it to 100. Uncle Jake even told me once that he retired from his job earlier than expected not because he wanted to stop working, but because no family member had ever lived or worked long enough to draw a pension and that he wanted to be the first.

I have known Uncle Frank my entire life and I met Uncle Jake about 25 years ago. When I was much younger, I felt their boasts and promises to live to 100 were manifestations of annoyingly grandiose personalities and not to be taken seriously. I thought it was all basically hot air meant only to entertain at parties. But over the last 10 years as both Frank and Jake continue to walk, drive and remain active while their contemporaries have either passed on or are confined to wheelchairs, I have begun to believe they actually did talk their longevity into existence. They made vows and repeated them again and again to anyone who would listen.

“The research reveals that humans are goal-making beings, and vows are good for our health,” writes Chozen Bays. “Well-being includes a sense of purpose, a feeling of satisfaction within your life, and a conviction that your life has meaning, no matter what challenges you are currently facing.”

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article next week.

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