How to Make Promises to Yourself and Actually Keep Them
Broken promises suck, don’t they?
Promises are very casually tossed around in our culture today. Giving our word doesn’t feel binding anymore. I remember growing up learning how important my word was, even if the words “I promise” weren’t said. For a child that was a big deal! When I break a promise, I feel that for a long time. It’s a horrible feeling honestly. That feeling of disappointment is hard to shake. It’s hard to forgive yourself when you hurt someone else. Has someone ever broken their promise to you? Or worse yet, have you ever broken a promise you’ve made to someone else?
But what about when you break a promise to yourself? We give our word to ourselves too, even if you don’t realize it. All the little things that we plan to do in a day that gets shoved to the background when we decide to spend time with our family? When we’re stressed about something so we choose to ignore it and watch Netflix all afternoon, instead of getting it done. All the other things we had planned for the afternoon go with it. I know, I’ve been there many times.
With the new year, everyone is talking about setting goals and talking about how to keep them because we know it’s the hardest part. When I think of setting goals for myself, I think of them as promises I’m making to myself.
The big goals “I will make x amount of money this year in my business” and the little goals “I will drink 4 tumblers of water every day.” There are a lot of different goals that we can make, but they are only dreams unless we have a plan to accomplish them. When I write my dreams for the year, I then write smaller goals that will get me closer to those dreams. Then I write intentions that I can keep daily that will push me toward those dreams and goals every day.
When I create my to-do lists for the week, “I will call these 2 people today” or “I will write 2 blog posts Thursday.” those are like promises to me. When I don’t accomplish those things? What happens to my view of myself? I give the example a lot of ignoring what I have to do and watching Netflix all afternoon. But the truth? I don’t honestly watch Netflix that often! Funny enough I did today, but most of the time I procrastinate the things I really need to get done by doing other things that make me feel productive. Need to write some content that I’m not sure about? Well of course I can’t do that till my office is clean! When I take my dishes from my office to the kitchen, oh my! I definitely need to do the dishes right now! After that, I should probably throw in a load of laundry. At the end of the day, it feels like I’ve accomplished a lot, and I have. But not at the top of my priorities.
This is something that I am working on through being very intentional with my day. When I put together my schedule, I take the guesswork out of the things I need to do around the house. I have a chore chart that shows me what chores to do on what day, that way I don’t have to feel like I need to do everything as soon as I notice it. I know that it will happen someday this week so I don’t need to make a decision about whether or not I’m going to do it today. I either am or I’m not. Then, I pick certain priorities each day that have to be done then. I am learning what things go best on what day. For instance, Pastor calls shouldn’t be done on Mondays because they are rarely in the office. I don’t have to beat myself up over not getting those done Monday because I know they wouldn’t be effective anyway.
Choosing this way of putting my schedule together and prioritizing helps me keep promises to myself based on my productivity and the things I need to do. Because when I don’t finish even the little things it creates this subconscious disappointment in myself that I just can’t stand. It makes it harder and harder to start and finish things because I have the subconscious (or conscious) belief that I am someone who CAN’T get things done. That is far from the truth!
“But now that I have that mindset, how do I fix it?” You might be asking yourself.
Well, by keeping promises to yourself! “Obviously,” you say, “but how do I do that when I can’t motivate myself to get important things done?”
Start small. Start with something simple like, “I will eat lunch today!” or “I will do something with my hair that makes me feel beautiful! It doesn’t have to be huge, but as you start fulfilling these little promises to yourself that you are making consciously, you will start to retrain your brain to get that confidence back! Soon you’ll realize that you could do it the whole time, you just needed to believe in yourself!
This applies not just to productive, tangible “to-do list” type things. This also works for promises that you might make to yourself about taking care of yourself (toxic diet culture anyone?) or maybe in how you interact with your family. You might tell yourself that you’re going to stop yourself from yelling at your husband and kids that day, and then it happens so you give up the whole day. But you don’t have to! Start small here too. Maybe say, I am going to listen to music that makes me happy whenever I start feeling overwhelmed to keep me from getting upset. Or start with small increments of time like before 10 am you will refrain from yelling.
But the most important part of all of this is to praise yourself for little victories. No one ever changed their life for the better by talking negatively to themselves.
Read that again. Talking negatively to yourself will never bring good things to your life, so the way to keep promises to yourself is to be kind, encouraging, and gracious. Always. I believe in you.