Have you ever made a promise to yourself, then failed to follow through?
How many times do we do this to ourselves? We take on a challenge and lay out a plan. It goes off course, we feel bad, let it go, and move on to the next thing.
Another thing I have noticed is how much stronger my determination is when I do something for others. I show up no matter what, but if I am doing it for myself, I’m quick to let it go.
Those were my takeaways from the article, Reboot, Rewind, Restart.
Too often, I don’t work toward my goals or keep the promises I make to myself.
My goal is to age well. I promise to
Drink more water
Get out more often
Be less self-critical
But I don’t!
Studies show that keeping promises holds a lot of emotional value. When you break those agreements, there's a decline in trust. Author Scott H. Young says, "Breaking promises to yourself has the same costs as breaking it to other people. Except that the person you trust less is you." Oh! Oh!
Young also says
Maybe we break our promises because it doesn’t feel like it has a cost. If I break a promise to you, you’ll be mad at me and trust me less. If I break a promise to myself, nobody gets mad.
However, not trusting myself makes it difficult to make decisions, trust my instincts, meet my needs, and make the most of opportunities. This lack of trust can lead to anger, self-doubt, and fear.
The Psychology Today website says
Our histories are replete with broken promises to ourselves and others. We say we will do one thing and veer in the opposite direction. We say we want something, and yet we act in ways that will keep us from achieving it. Can we trust ourselves to work in our own best interests? All the evidence sounds a resounding “no” because we are unreliable and untrustworthy.
Why Do We Break Promises to Ourselves?
The short answer is because we’re human. The long answer involves a psychological mix of emotions, thoughts, and programming that makes us who we are.
Opposing desires, feelings, beliefs, and ideas create internal conflicts and struggles. Those clashing forces tend to fight each other inside the brain.
As it turns out, the promises we make to ourselves are the most important ones we can make. Broken trust with the self can be the result.
Getting Back On Track
I’m experimenting with a four-step process for keeping promises to myself.
The first step is Acceptance - knowing that I cannot change the past, but can change the future. People have to acknowledge a problem before they can fix it.
The second step is Forgiveness: Even if it were something I could have prevented, it’s OK to forgive. Controlling my thought process will help with this stage.
Thinking of each “mistake” as a learning experience is essential. Reminding myself that I did my best given the tools and knowledge I had at the time helps me forgive myself and move forward.
Letting Go: Releasing negative feelings benefits my physical and emotional health. Taking control by deciding to move on is a positive step in your healing journey - and it’s a choice.
Moving On: My motivation is to get on with life. There are practical ways to do this. Here are a few:
Think of specific and measurable goals. Instead of promising to “exercise,” commit to “I will set aside 15 minutes a day to stretch out and walk 5000 steps.”
Make sure you have the resources and skills to fulfill this promise is important. If it’s not possible, you may set yourself up for failure. Start small!
If you habitually break promises to yourself, start with something doable but slightly challenging. For example, walk two times a week instead of committing to run a marathon right away!
In My Case
As part of achieving my goal to age well, it seems essential that I trust myself. Here’s how I plan to begin.
Accept that I haven’t kept promises to myself for years, know I can’t change the past, but I can make different choices starting now.
Forgive me for breaking pledges to myself.
Let go of the anger, self-doubt, and distrust attached to the broken pledges.
Move On - As an old song says: “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” I can start by
Breaking my commitments into small, manageable steps. Instead of promising to lose 25 pounds, planning to lose a pound a week until reaching my goal.
Keeping in mind what is now true. I am an 83-year-old widow, I live by myself, and there are normal physical changes that occur.
Using the SMART goal setting approach.
If you look at my promises, maybe they should say:
Drink five glasses of water daily
Do yoga exercises for 15 minutes in the morning and walking one mile each day.
Every evening, write down all the worries to get them out of my mind.
Go somewhere on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
Treat me as I would treat my best friend.
With dedication, I can do a better job.
Articles I liked this week.
Seeing Your Moment and Living with Intention. “Today is your action day. You cannot take action in the past or in the future - only in Today.”
The Container Exercise - When you use the containment method, you tell yourself, “This feeling is valid and important, but I can’t work through it now. I’ll get back to it tonight when I’m not busy.” At 8 PM, I’ll take the time I need to process the feelings. “You honor your responsibilities and emotions by giving each your full attention at the appropriate time.”
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Excellent, as always, Janet. Well researched, personal and empathetic. Thanks so much.