Author – Dr. Neeta Pant

don’t ever promise more than you can deliver,

but always deliver more than you promise

~ Lou Holtz

We all have been taught to keep our commitments and not to break our promises.  We  even go out of our ways to make sure we don’t let someone down, but we end up breaking promises to most often is… SELF? Isn’t it?  Ironical, but true!!!

We break promises to ourself every day; these promise can be as simple as saying, “I’m going to start exercising from coming week-end but when week-end does not see the light, we immediately make another ‘promise’ for another time in the month for exercise.   We find a way to rationalize our faults/misses and postponing

positive behavior for some undefined tomorrow.

Promises made to self are often the first to go when things get busy and tough.  Do we realise that breaking promises to self is damaging; it hurts self-belief.   Keeping promises holds a lot of emotional value and when we break those self-agreements, there’s a decline of self-trust as per psychological studies.

Author Scott H. Young says, “Breaking promises to yourself has the same costs as breaking it to other people. Except the person you trust less is YOU.”

THE CONSEQUENCES OF BREAKING PROMISES TO YOURSELF
  1. Losing The Chance – 

A promise we made to ourselves has the purpose of improvement for self in some way. Be it to run in the mornings, making time to read, having ME time, or going to Spa. There’s a reason why we make the promise, whether it’s for health, peace, or pure happiness!  We lose the chance for self- improvement if we are breaking such promises.

  • Buying Disappointments-

Don’t we feel sad, unimportant, and disappointed in the person who cancelled on us or if we were stood up by someone.  We acknowledge these emotions or not, we can’t deny their existence. Unconsciously, we start to view ourselves as unreliable, untrustworthy and believe that we aren’t important and worthy of this time for ourselves.  Someday, we start to view every goal or commitment we make for our improvement as optional, unconsciously.

  • Cognitive Dissonance

Studies show that when people’s actions and beliefs don’t get aligned, they usually change their beliefs to match/suit their actions. We slowly but surely tell ourselves, we don’t matter and don’t deserve the time we’ve tried to set aside.

  • Building Momentum – 

When we make those promises, we build momentum.  As we break those promises, we lead ourselves to the path of inertia, one of the main negative consequences of continued broken promises.

  • Losing Credibility

Breaking promises lead to losing  credibility with self.   We break our promises so many times, we can start to doubt ourselves. Even if our intentions to change are good and pure, it can be difficult to change because we lose credibility with ourselves.

  • Letting Ourselves Down –

We are teaching ourselves that it’s okay to let ourself down.  Trusting and believing in self is important.   Learning to keep promises to self will add integrity to every part of our life and help strengthen relationships with self and others .

  • Adding On To Debt – 

We’ve broken so many promises to ourself that we no longer even try to make them anymore.  We get stuck and the more stuck we are, the harder it is to get unstuck.  Most people look up at the ‘debt’ they’d have to make up for to start building momentum and they just say “forget it.”  Most of us look at the past and just beat ourselves up about it. This does nothing more than re-affirm our identity as someone who doesn’t follow through with their goals.

4 SIMPLE REASONS WHY DO WE KEEP BREAKING PROMISES TO OURSELVES –
  1. There’s no urgency; usually, the stakes aren’t high enough. 
  2. There are no immediate consequences; other than the time wasted, which we assume we have plenty of.
  3. We often want to start or stop doing ten things, if one out of them get slipped, rest of them automatically come to a stand-still.
  4. We see promises made to self a bit different because there’s no one else on the other end of the promise than us.

Question here is now how can we move beyond superficial promises that never see the light of day???

10 POWERFUL TECHNIQUES TO KEEP OUR PROMISES TO OURSELVES  –
  1. Write Down The Promises

This solidifies our desire for the results and makes the promises hold more weight.  Keep promises written where one can see them regularly. Review them a couple of times each day.  Be specific, realistic and sincere about your promises to self.

  • Make Yourself Accountable – 

The problem with making promises only in our mind is there’s no trail, no accountability, no consequence when we fail to follow through.  We must find a safe person and let him/her know of our promise.  We can also ask them to keep us accountable by tracking how it’s going periodically.

  • Make Them Visible –

Keep promises where we can see them.  It could be on sticky-note on our mirror so that we see it every morning and nigh. It can be on our smartphone or laptop background, so that we will see it each and every time we turn on our phone or laptop.   Ensure that our goals are always visible as visibility leads to action.

  • Make Them Easy To Keep

Promising reading 100 pages a day or spending 3 hours in the Gym is not realistic at the beginning.   So keep it easy initially, may be 10 pages a day or 45 minutes at the Gym. 

  • Keep A Progress Journal –

A journal is a great way to review progress.  We can reflect on our wins and our shortcomings.   Daily is the best way to check on our promises.

  • Keep Them Realistic –

Commit to less, don’t overschedule!  Be hyper-realistic and rational about where we can accept more.   Commit only if we’re 90% sure we can meet it.   That may mean reducing the size of our goal or commitment so it’s more realistic;  or, it may even mean not committing in the first place if it’s not achievable.

  • Do Not Over-Commit

Keeping  promises is tough! If one feels one regularly bites off more than one can chew, one is not alone. Agreeing to less with regular follow through, will help us cultivate a healthy & realistic sense of self-respect, trust, and confidence.  Remember, when we say NO to a new promise, we’ll be saying YES to investing in existing promises.

  • Honour And Mean Self-Promises – 

Before we make a promise to ourselves, ask if we mean it and listen intently to the answer.   Deep down, we know if we’re serious about our promises.   Listen to the answer we receive and respect it.   If we’re not going to honour the promise, let’s not make it.  

  • Accept The Discomfort – 

We don’t keep promises because keeping them is more uncomfortable than not doing it.  In case of discomfort, we must challenge ourselves to work through it.   Dealing with discomfort is among the most valuable skills we can build.

  1. Plan It Well –

Schedule the promise in, plan for it, and around it. We must find time and block that off in our daily routines.  This time should be treated as sacred, and the task must be achieved, no matter what.   Plan to fulfil promise like we’d plan for any other set of plans, commitment, meetings, or official tasks etc.  

Our relationship with ourselves is precious – we must not undervalue it!   We need to take self-promises as seriously as the obligations we take on for others; more so, even. While we don’t want to break the promises we make to ourselves, we might not look at it through the lens of integrity. But, over time, if we fail to keep the promises we make to ourselves, we can set our life in a direction that’s hard to come back from. The damage we do to our relationship with ourselves affects every part of our life.

Just remember, there’s no competition. Focus on making small promises we know we can keep. The more we prove to ourselves that we are as good as our word, the more confident we’ll feel.

To be responsible, keep your promises to others.

To be successful, keep your promises to yourself

~ Marie Forleo

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