18 June 2012
How good is your word?
by Fran Creffield
Do you keep your promises? Are you trustworthy and reliable? Maybe the answer is yes when you deal with other people but how good is your word when it comes to yourself?
We all make promises to ourselves each and every day – I will work harder, be less irritable, lose weight, exercise more – the list goes on. For the most part these are random thoughts which pass through our minds on a daily basis – quickly forgotten and rarely acted upon. Things which come up every day begin to feel important and pressing and before long we will feel as though we should take action. These things may be important in terms of our health but they could be anything that is stopping us from living life in the way we want to but it is unlikely that we will take any action until we make a firm promise to ourselves to do so.
The trouble with promises to ourselves is that they are all too easy to break. Each time they are broken our self-confidence is eroded and it becomes harder to find the motivation to try again. Here are some ways to help ensure that when your thoughts turn into firm commitments, and you are determined and motivated to make the changes you desire, you will have the best possible chance of succeeding.
What do you want to change? What benefit is it going to have on your life if you succeed? Answering these questions is the important first step in ensuring you stay on track – we are more likely to be able to keep promises that are important and which will have a strong impact on other areas of our life e.g. losing weight will not just have health benefits but could also mean that you feel more confident, mean that you would be more comfortable partaking in leisure activities, would go on more dates and would boost your self esteem. Whatever your goal is, really look at why it is important and what the benefits will be. Writing this down can help clarify the thoughts and will also make you feel clearer about the course of action you want to take.
Small changes = big impact
If you have a history of starting things and never following through then it is probably time to set your sights a bit lower and practice making smaller changes for a short period of time e.g. getting up 10 minutes earlier every day for 3 weeks. The more of these small goals you set yourself, and achieve, the more confident you will become about making the bigger changes later on. If it helps you can break it down into a daily promise – doing one thing each day that will help you achieve your ultimate goal.
Say what you mean and mean what you say
There is something very powerful about the spoken word. When we tell a friend what we are going to do, and why we are going to do it, we are solidifying the promise in our own minds as well as enlisting the help and support of our friend. As you talk it through you are likely to become clearer about why it is important to you and your friend might be able to suggest ways they could help you to help you achieve your goal.
Telling a friend about your plans also helps to reaffirm the commitment to yourself because you won’t want to have to tell them that you failed. You may even find that your commitment to change inspires them to do the same and then you can be a source of support to each other.
We are generally more motivated by feelings of success than by feelings of failure so make sure that the promises you make to yourself are measurable and achievable. ‘I am going to be a nicer person’ isn’t specific enough to motivate you because it will be hard to know when you have achieved it. ‘I will volunteer 6 hours of my time to a local charity during the next 3 weeks’ is much more specific and no doubt volunteering will help you feel like a nicer person.
Every parent knows that the promise of a reward helps children do things that they might find difficult to do otherwise and adults really are no different. Once you have made a clear and committed promise to yourself plan some nice way that you are going to reward yourself once you have fulfilled your promise.
Keeping promises to yourself is an important step in living the life you want and as your confidence grows so will your ability to make the changes necessary to live a fulfilling and happy life.