Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution that didn’t stick? Or did you vow to make a change in your life but lost the motivation to keep up the hard work? We’ve ALL done it. What is it about breaking promises to ourselves? It’s so easy to do, and feels so bad.
What it comes down to is a breakdown in our integrity. Even when the promise is made to ourselves, when we don’t keep it, our integrity suffers. And that, my coach kindly pointed out, is a big energy suck. I know this is true because when I do keep a promise to myself (I follow through on a plan, I check something off of my to do list, I reach a goal), I feel energized and ahhhhmazing. And when I don’t (I skip yoga because I lost track of time at work, I don’t meditate like I said I wanted to) I feel down. Imagine how good it would feel to keep your promises to yourself. Imagine the ease, peace, and energy you’d feel!
This is something that I’m still working on. I’ve gotten better at keeping promises to myself, but I’m not perfect either. It can often feel easier to keep promises to other people than to myself. And I know that it’s just as important to keep my own as it is to keep those I made to others. In my journey of intentionally keeping my own promises, I’ve found a few ways to keep up the good work. So I’m saying Hurray for Four Ways to Keep Promises to Yourself.
1. Love on yourself
The first step toward keeping promises to yourself is to act from a place of love. Hating on yourself is not helpful. Saying things like “ugh, I messed up again, I’m such an idiot!” or “I don’t know why I’m bothering. I’ll never reach my goal” or “Whatever, I’ll just do that thing for myself later. Another person/task/thing is more important” is not very loving. And is pretty counterproductive when it comes to following through on your to-do’s, long term goals, and check lists for success. Instead, keep asking “What does love require of me?” This is a question that I ask myself all the time. In fact it’s one of my mantras up in my office. When I ask this, I usually get very wise, helpful answers. Sometimes the answers look something like this:
- Stop being so hard on yourself. You’re doing your best!
- Forgive yourself for the misunderstanding that you have to have reached this goal already.
- Stick with it and be patient.
- Make yourself a priority. You need to take care of you first.
- This hard work is worth it because you are worth it.
- You are your most important client and loved one.
- What you do for yourself matters. And will positively affect others, too.
- Keep your focus on the big “Why” of what you’re doing
If you slow down and ask yourself what the most loving thing is to do, you’ll often hear things like this, too. Sometimes, in the name of good intentions, I push myself too hard or too far. Or I set myself up for failure with very high expectations. Or I chastise myself for making a mistake, or not being perfect. Sound familiar? Take a loving look at your goals, your promises, and your actions and layer them with a dose of love, compassion, and understanding. Make sure any resolutions, goals, or promises you’re making to yourself are made with love in mind. Start there before moving forward with any goal or promise.
2. Break ’em down & be specific
Next, take a loving action and break down those big goals! Vague and large promises like “I’m going to lose 50 pounds”, or “I’m going to love my body” can feel overwhelming. Breaking them down into specific, small, manageable tasks is far easier. For example, if you want to start eating healthier, some specific goals may be:
- Find 3-4 websites with healthy cooking options. Ask friends, use google to search, and compare.
- Choose three new healthy recipes to try
- Buy the ingredients for the new recipes
- Cook the new recipes
- Commit to replacing three of my typical meals with healthy meals
- Make adjustments to the recipes – portion, ingredients, sides – to suit my tastes
The idea here is to get specific so you know exactly what your next step is, and to get small so that the step is manageable and not overwhelming. You can say hurray for keeping the promise of finding three new recipes to try, which will also encourage you to keep going. From there you can create bigger goals, like buying a recipe book or replacing 10 meals a week with healthier versions. Keep revising your goals. Keep keeping those promises. Keep taking baby steps toward your big, beautiful goal.
3. Schedule it in
Once you have your small, specific promises written out, actually schedule them into your calendar! I use a few scheduling systems and my regular old Google calendar is my favorite. If it’s not in my Google calendar, it doesn’t get done. (PS: I like to use Asana for work tasks and lists or assigning tasks to my team). I literally schedule in things like yoga, bubble baths, lunch time, or meditation. This works for me for a few reasons:
- Seeing it in my calendar helps me make it a priority. Just like keeping an appointment with a client or the doctor, I make sure to show up for it.
- I can decide if I have real time to do that task or not. Sometimes I think I’ll have enough time to cook healthy meals, but in my calendar, I have four things to do at that time already!
- I can set a notification to pop up and remind me to keep my promise!
- I can create a buffer time for tasks. For example, I always leave a 30 minute window between my last work meeting and yoga class. That way I have enough time to intentionally wrap up tasks, gather my bag, and get out the door.
Using our example above, it’s wise to schedule in time for each and every task. Pick a day and a time to devote to each promise. That means set aside an hour to research websites, then another to choose the three recipes to try. I love scheduling grocery shopping for Saturdays and then meal prep time on Sundays. Write it in your planner, stick to it, and do it – always keeping in mind that the loving thing to do is to make this a priority.
4. Set yourself up for success
The above steps are all great for getting started with keeping promises to yourself. And, there are quite a few more ways to set yourself up for success. You need to get to know yourself and be honest. What will help the most? Here are a few examples that I’ve found to work best:
- Use the buddy system. Schedule a workout with a friend, or meet up for lunch at a healthy spot with the shared intention to eat nourishing foods. Keep each other on track.
- Do not buy or put unhealthy food in the pantry. Just skip purchasing it all together and you’ll feel less tempted to overdo it on a late night binge.
- Wear your workout clothes to the office. I love to make it as easy as possible to go from work to working out!
- Set a reminder. You can set an alarm on your phone, a notification on your calendar, or even a sticky note in your car!
- Take a class. If you want to learn a new language, cook healthier meals, or start working out, taking a class can help you stay on track. I purposefully attend classes for yoga because they start and end at a certain time, and having the teacher guide me always helps me push further than I would on my own.
- Make your meals for the whole week on Sunday. Meal prepping has been HUGE for me. I make larger portions of healthy meals and freeze them. That way when I’m running late to the office, I can just grab one and thaw it out for lunch instead of ordering take out or reaching for whatever snacks are in the vending machine.
- Track your progress. Reminding yourself of your mini milestones, and showing gratitude for your progress is a great way to be your own cheerleader and to keep up the momentum! Keep a journal or daily tracker in a spreadsheet.
- Make smart supporting choices. If your promise is to get up early and meditate, make a smart choice about the night before. Or if it’s cut back on your liquor intake, make a choice to meet up with friends at a juice cafe instead of a bar. Every little decision can support your promises!
These specific ideas may not apply to your personal promise, but I hope they can give you a few ideas. You know yourself best, and can make the smart decision to set yourself up for success!
Your turn: What promises have you made and not kept? What can you revisit? What new promises can you make using the advice above? How does it feel when you follow through on your own promises? Where are you struggling and where do you say hurray? Leave a comment here or share with me on social media, @hurraykimmay. Here to help you say hurray inside, outside, and underneath!
PS: Photos by Kaitlyn Perry for WeWork Creator Magazine. No airbrushing or editing my body and face – ever! Whatcha see is whatcha get. xo