Promises. Easy to make, but harder to keep. Especially when they’re to yourself.
It doesn’t sound that hard, right? You make a promise to yourself… and you keep it. Is there anything more to it than that?
For anyone who has made promises to themselves and not kept them, you know it can be a struggle. And often, the things that trip you up and halt your success aren’t obvious.
But, keeping the promises you make to yourself is a powerful tool to help you reach your writing goals and boost your self-worth.
As we speed toward the second half of the year, this is the perfect time to discover the secret recipe to help you keep the most important promises of all — the ones to yourself.
Armed with this knowledge, you can review your goals and use your promises to stay on track with what you want in your writer’s life.
Why are the promises you make to yourself so important?
When life’s demands come along, the promises you’ve made to yourself are often the first to fall by the wayside. You make excuses or pretend they aren’t important.
But, this shouldn’t be the case. A promise to yourself is as important as any of the others you make.
Making and keeping a promise is a test of your integrity.
Integrity is doing the right thing in all circumstances, even when no one’s watching. In that light, promises to yourself are the ultimate test of your integrity. They’re a measure of the value you place on your word and commitments.
The easiest way to understand why your promises are essential is to think about how you feel when someone breaks a promise they made to you.
Disappointed, hurt, and betrayed. You probably had to process a painful message — that you weren’t important enough to keep a promise to.
You send the same powerful and painful message every time you don’t keep a commitment to yourself.
By not keeping a promise to yourself, you:
- Go against your values of being honest and acting with integrity.
- Compromise your trust in yourself to keep your word and follow through.
- Diminish your self-worth and importance.
You can reverse the negative toll of unkept promises
When you keep the commitments you make to yourself, you reverse these negative effects.
Knowing you can rely on yourself to keep your promises feels great.
And, when you start keeping those promises, that’s when you’ll start seeing big changes in your progress toward your goals.
You’ll create a self-perpetuating cycle of success. Keeping your promises to yourself leads to accomplishment, which encourages you to keep more of your promises to yourself. The possibilities become endless.
Instead of going against your values and integrity, you create perfect alignment between your words, intentions, and actions. This lets you work with strength and persistence.
You’ll also find it easier to identify potential problems and weaknesses within yourself and your situation. In turn, it becomes easier to overcome things like resistance and procrastination.
Developing integrity toward yourself also spreads to the world around you. As you trust yourself more, others will trust you, and you’ll create positive conditions to support you in achieving your goals.
Making your own promises a priority helps you decide what’s important. Your productivity increases, because it’s easier to eliminate distractions and improve your focus.
Instead of distrusting yourself, you build your faith and confidence. You become happier, as you know you have the power and ability to make your life better.
Why do you break your promises?
There’s a surprising reason we don’t keep our own promises (besides not valuing ourselves).
You may think telling others about your commitment will help you to keep your promise to yourself. It’s counterintuitive, but it turns out this is often where the problem lies.
Telling others about your intention to do something feels as good as actually doing it. Which reduces your motivation to take additional action and may be why you don’t get things done.
Self-Completion Theory (Robert Wicklund and Richard Gollwitzer, 1982) explains this peculiarity of human behavior. When people have goals relating to their identity and how they see themselves, they take part in activities to prove they’re what and whom they believe they are. For example, a good parent, an artist, or a writer.
Research reveals our sense of identity completeness — proving who we say we are — increases when we have an audience. Just stating your intention helps to fulfill your sense of identity. And often, that’s enough to leave you feeling satisfied… at least temporarily. So you take no further action, and your goals fall to the wayside.
How do you guarantee you’ll become a promise keeper?
The secret sauce recipe for you to succeed requires three things:
- Realize promises to yourself are important and worthy.
- Make your promises for the right reasons.
- Have a plan when you make your promise and be purposeful in your accountability.
You become a victim of self-completion’s pitfalls when you don’t make promises for the right reasons. Make promises to yourself because you find them valuable and you can see how following through will transform your life and make it better. Don’t make promises just because you feel like you should.
Here’s an example…
If you say you want to write every day, ask yourself your reasons for wanting to do this. Is it because this is what writers do, so you think it’s the right thing to do? Or, do you genuinely want to use this method to improve your writing? If it’s the second reason, you’re more likely to keep your commitment.
Next, get specific about how you want this commitment to help you. What aspect of your writing do you want to improve — headlines, storytelling, grammar? This helps refine your focus.
Once you understand your promise’s value and what you specifically hope to gain from it, you can develop an action plan and decide how and when you’ll go about it.
Make sure you’re clear on what the payoff is and how it contributes to your overall goals.
Now, it’s time to put this recipe into action. Use the steps below as a roadmap to move forward:
Make your promises for the right reasons.
Write each promise down. If you don’t, it’s easy to convince yourself you never really made the promise in the first place. Writing it down seals your commitment.
Use your promise to take small, but meaningful, steps.
Plan how you will fulfill this promise. Schedule time to work on it, make sure you have the resources you need, set reminders, and know what you’ll do in each session.
Make it clear and measurable. Know what you’re committing to and how it will help you reach your goals and change your life.
Revisit your promise regularly. You can use a tracking sheet to chart your progress or write about it regularly in your journal. When you do, you can anticipate and work out problems quickly, so you stay on track.
Accountability. After learning about how self-completion sabotages your promise keeping, it’s normal to think the best way to keep your promise is to avoid telling anyone about it.
If you’re wondering whether you should tell others, the answer is still yes. Choose people you trust. Share your commitment and the details of your plan with them, and then ask them to check your progress regularly and keep you accountable for what you’ve promised.
Enjoy and repeat. Once you’ve fulfilled your promise, bask in the satisfaction of having kept it, and repeat these steps. Before long, you’ll find you’re nailing your goals, changing your life, and creating a cycle of success.
It’s rewarding to change your behavior in ways that improve your life. It feels even better to know you can rely on yourself to be your own promise keeper.
There’s just over half of the year left to complete the goals you’ve set for 2019. But it’s not too late. Decide on small, but meaningful, actions you can take to help you reach your goals. Promise yourself (in a meaningful way) you’ll stick to them. When you do, the life and career you’ve dreamed of and planned for will become a reality.
What strategies do you use to help you keep your promises, and how do they help you? Share them in the comments section below. We’d love to hear about them.