When it comes to keeping promises or commitments how good are you? Do you often keep your promises to your clients, friends, family, and organizations you’re involved in? How about the promises to yourself?
I am great about keeping my word to others. One of my core values is integrity. To me that means doing what I say I’m going to do and making sure I do the right thing even when nobody is watching. Integrity is about honoring your word and creating a reputation for being honest and trustworthy. Integrity is being someone other can always count on.
However, I have been inconsistent (and often terrible) about keeping the promises or commitments that I make to myself. For example, I said for over 3 years that I wanted to get back to running. I blocked off a recurring time to run on my calendar twice a week. However, when someone else or my business needed my attention and time I would move it, ignore it, or simply delete it. The running time simply never happened.
So why does this happen? Why do you say you want to do things and then you don’t do them? When did it become okay for everyone else to demand your time to the point you no longer can do the things you want? The quick answer is because you let it. You say yes to too much, you don’t say no often enough, and you haven’t established or enforced boundaries on your time.
Now I want you to go deeper. Why is that true? What stories are you telling yourself and beliefs are you holding as truth? Often it’s because we are devaluing ourselves. We don’t believe we are worthy or important or deserving. We believe that everyone else is more important. So instead of doing the hard work of writing new stories and forming new beliefs, we make excuses that keep reinforcing the status quo.
The excuses sound like:
- “I’ll make time when my business gets to xx level.”
- “I only see my kids on the weekends, so I can’t take 30 minutes to workout.”
- “I want to satisfy my clients so I’m going to commit to this super aggressive timeline (even though it infringes on everything else).”
Some of the promises we make to ourselves are don’t exactly sound like promises. Instead we make these promises in the form of “shoulds.” I should go to the gym. I should read more. I should start being more patient at work and get less aggravated at those who bother me. I should keep life in perspective instead of allowing stress and anxiety overwhelm me.
“Shoulding” is one of the most common ways we experience the shame and betrayal of not living up to our ideal picture of ourselves. It seems harmless enough, but over time, it can take a toll on our self-acceptance and our ability to believe in ourselves.
Think back to a time when you were stood up by someone. You may have felt sad, hurt, unimportant, and disappointed in the person who canceled on you. The same is true when you stand yourself up. You feel these same emotions, whether you recognize it or not, about yourself. As a result, you start to view yourself as unreliable, flaky, and believe the story that you aren’t important and worthy of this time for you. Eventually, you start to view every goal or commitment you make to yourself as optional.
A friend will consider you flaky and unreliable if you ditch her a few times. Repeatedly canceling plans last minute will eventually get you kicked off the invite list. If these behaviors are unacceptable towards others, then why are they not taken into consideration when we blow off the commitments we’ve made to ourselves? How would things change if you viewed promises to yourself on the same level as commitments made to another?
Broken promises steal your confidence and your energy. Fulfilling a promise to yourself feels good. A steady streak of wins boosts confidence. The opposite does the same. Losses erode confidence. People who don’t fulfill promises to themselves eventually wear down. Continual unfulfilled commitments is deflating. At some point your mind begins to believe there’s no point in trying, so you stop trying. You become physically and emotionally exhausted. Once you allow defeat to get into your mind, mustering the energy to do anything new or different becomes just too hard.
Ladies, you particularly have a tendency to fall into the trap of caring about everyone else so much that there’s no energy left over for your own self-care. We promise the world to others and deliver on those commitments. But when its time to keep promises to ourselves, we’re exhausted and don’t have the energy to make it happen. Here’s your hard truth: neglecting your own needs and being a martyr isn’t noble; it’s emotional suicide for YOU. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will hit a wall and not be useful to anyone. Which is why keeping promises to yourself is so important.
Stop acting like you aren’t as important as other people in your life or like taking care of yourself is a luxury that can wait. Treat you like the wonderful, amazing person that you are and value the commitments you made to yourself. This will boost your self-confidence and lead you towards the life you want to live. It’s time to pour into who you are and what you need. When you do, your family and friends will benefit too!
So what are some things you can do to ensure you are making yourself a priority and keeping your promises to yourself?
First, start viewing commitments to yourself with high importance. Apply the same rules that you would to showing up to a work meeting or plans with a good friend. In those instances, you keep your commitments, plan for and around them, and they have high priority on your schedule. This is true usually whether we want to do them or not. Think of the appointments with yourself in the same way, with the same importance.
Next, stop making so many promises to yourself. The changes or promises you try to make at once, the less likely that you’ll make any of those changes. If you make fewer promises to yourself, you can then focus on those commitments more intentionally. Making too many promises results in many broken or incomplete promises. So, be selective on what you promise to do.
Do a self-assessment on what you really, truly want for your life. What needs to change? What will bring you the most peace and joy? Make a list and then take some time to review it. What items rise to the top? Choose just one to work on; once you’ve made significant progress on your first promise, you can return to your list and start working on the next one. With that assessment also ask yourself why this promise is important to you and why now. Knowing what your promise is isn’t enough; you must be crystal-clear on WHY you want to keep this promise to yourself. If your why isn’t strong enough, you can easily stumble or give up when you encounter a challenge along the way.
Third, you need to know HOW to keep your promises to yourself. So many of us struggle with keeping promises to ourselves because we focus on the behaviors we want to change, but not on the actions we need to take to make the behavior change. You can promise yourself you will lose weight, but if you don’t change your habits and actions to actually make time every day for regular exercise and to eat healthier, you’ll fail.
Schedule it in, plan for and around it, block that time off, and show up for yourself. Consider this time sacred, and do it no matter what. Think of your promise like you would a SMART goal in your business. Make it realistic, specific, and actionable. Promises like “I’m going to make time for myself” or “I’m going to get in shape” don’t leave you knowing what to do. Instead try framing your commitment as “I am going to set aside 2 hours a week to go to the coffee shop to start writing my book” or “I will get up at 5:30am on Tuesdays and Thursdays to exercise”. By knowing exactly what you need to do, it will improve the likelihood that you will take those action steps and keep your promise.
While you’re considering the how of your plan, also consider what hurdles you will likely face along the way. How will you overcome those hurdles? The more prepared you are for the obstacles, the better you’ll be able to face them. Your past failures with trying to keep this promise (or others like it) weren’t really failures; they were lessons you can use now to help you move forward.
Finally, you have to believe that you’re worth it! Many times we break promises to ourselves because we don’t feel we’re worth it. We simply don’t value ourselves the same way we value others. Somewhere along the line, we decided that we weren’t worth it. Our confidence and sense of self-esteem is so low, we simply don’t feel we deserve the success, love, joy, abundance, or health that we dream about.
You need a plan for your self-talk. What can you tell yourself to encourage yourself along the way? How will you correct negative self-talk and self-criticism that only tears you down? The voice inside your mind is 100 percent under your control, so if it starts getting negative, bring it back in line with positive, encouraging supportive self-talk.
Expect to trip a little along the way; we all do. Every great change requires commitment and sacrifice, and there may be some moments where you’re not up for the challenge. When that happens, forgive yourself, dust yourself off, and get right back up again.
Getting help from others to support you and encourage you along the way can be the difference between success and failure. Make sure you have at least get one non-judgmental, caring accountability partner who will help you remember your why and be there for you during the ups and downs of your journey.
You are amazing! It’s up to you to treat yourself that way. Consider this a non-negotiable investment in yourself that will not only benefit you, but everyone you interact with! Taking time for yourself is not selfish, it is healthy, necessary and energy-giving. If you’re not sure where to start, think of a promise you’ve broken in the past, or something you’d like to do, and commit to getting started!
If you find you are struggling to prioritize what you need or can’t seem to keep the promises you make to yourself, set up some time for us to chat at www.empoweredleadershipcoach.com/schedule.
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