It’s 8pm. You’ve got back home after a long day of work. You’re too tired to get down to writing the 1,000 word a day you promised yourself you would do to get you closer to your dream of being a published writer. You put it off to tomorrow and reckon that one missed day won’t make a difference.
The next evening, it’s your best friend’s birthday party and you don’t get back home till after midnight. Another missed day. And soon there’s one more, and yet one more. That one missed day has now become a series of multiple missed days and now you can’t muster the motivation to get back to your writing.
Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Have you done this to yourself multiple times over, for big things and small?
It could well be that you’re putting off a promise to yourself because it’s a really inconsequential thing in the larger scheme of things. But for every time that you promise yourself to do something and you don’t – no matter how small a matter it seems – you’re letting yourself down and sending yourself a message that you’re not worthy of your own commitment.
I’ve been there, done that, and I still do that. Let myself down, that is. Renege on my own promises to myself. I’m learning to be better, but I still find myself reverting to old patterns. So trust me when I say that I know how it feels like to constantly let yourself down. To feel like you’re not valuable enough.
When you’ve had a lifetime of broken promises to yourself, it’s difficult to trust yourself to achieve the big things. In the last few months, as I have made a conscious attempt to start keeping my own promises to myself, I’ve realised the important of holding yourself accountable for very small things to begin with.
To build back that faith in yourself, it is essential to rewire your thinking and focus on creating small, micro wins consistently, and then gradually work your way towards your larger dreams and goals. You need to build that foundation of wins to start feeling like you can trust yourself with the bigger things.
5 Ideas for Doable Promises to Make to Yourself
I’ve got some suggestions for smaller-scale, achievable promises to make to yourself, so that you can get back into the habit of keeping your promises and learning to trust yourself again. Preface the following with “I promise to” and then read on.
1| Wake up when I say I will
If you’ve ever read a book or article on personal growth, chances are that almost all of them would have talked about the many benefits of waking up early. And they’re not wrong. I really do believe that waking up early and establishing a mindful morning routine can do wonders.
However, not everyone is a morning person. Instead of beating yourself up for not being able to create a habit of waking up early every morning, how about you flip the script and instead focus on waking up when you say you will. This will allow you to build your routine around a wake up time that feels more natural to you, instead of trying to match a certain #adulting expectation.
Now, why does this promise even matter? Think of it as the first promise you’re making yourself in the day. And how wonderful would it be to start off the day on a positive note, even if it is something as small as waking up at a particular time! This one small positive act can supercharge your day and helps you begin your day with a win already secured under your belt! Go you!
The key is to choose a wake up time that works for you. That wake up time can vary depending on the season of your life and could very well be dictated by practical necessities, but because you’re making the choice for yourself, you are putting yourself in control of the situation.
2| Do one thing every day that nourishes my body, mind and/or soul
This isn’t about losing whatever weight it is that you’re trying to lose. This is about taking a more holistic, gentler approach to your overall health & wellness.
If you’re a chronic promise breaker, especially when it comes to health and fitness related resolutions, you’re probably down to feeling like you’re doing not enough, or that there is something lacking about your willpower or motivation reserves.
I’ll encourage you to take a step back and try a slightly gentler approach with yourself. Pare down your efforts to the smallest act that you can do and make that your marker.
Can you do just one squat today?
Can you drink just one more glass of water than usual?
Can you give thanks for just one good thing in your life?
There, you’ve done something positive for your health. Yes, it can be that simple, especially if you’re trying to learn to trust your own word again.
I absolutely don’t mean to suggest that just one minute of exercise a day will be enough to make you perfectly healthy. You will need to scale up, and you will need to work consistently – physically, emotionally and mentally – to truly achieve great overall health.
But, by promising to do one thing everyday that nourishes your health – no matter how small it is – you can start building a sense of momentum, which can be the exact confidence boost that you need to sustain progressive efforts. Consistent effort will yield more long-lasting results in the long run rather than sporadic bursts of motivated action.
3| Seek more things that bring me joy
No, I am not advising you to buy all of the things, but rather, tune into those things that bring you joy.
It would seem that almost every one has a prescription for how others should lead their lives and what should bring them happiness. “You definitely HAVE to get married before you turn 30”. “Your closet NEEDS this latest “it” bag”. “You’re so good at art. You SHOULD totally monetize it”.
I am not here to tell you that this list is wrong, but rather, I want you to chase happiness and joy on your terms. I am here to tell you that you have the permission to live life on your own terms, and do the things that make you happy, even if that’s not what your parents/twice-removed great uncle/toxic ex-boyfriend think you should do.
The important thing here is to truly listen to yourself. What are the things that make you really happy? The more you know yourself, the more intentional your choices will be. Some days it could look like reading a book, other days it could look like doing a flow yoga sequence before bed, or it could even look like buying that damned “it” bag! :P
Do more of the things that bring you joy, and do it on your terms.
4| Start speaking more positively to myself
My therapist once did this exercise with me where she asked me to explore my inner voice more deeply, and among many other things, we touched upon the tone of this inner voice. I’d been going through a rough patch at that time, and I wasn’t surprised to realize that my inner voice was rather harsh, critical and a little scared as well.
When I thought about it, I realized that my inner voice was contributing even further to my overall not-so-great state of affairs by constantly pulling me down. Bit by bit, I’m learning to tamp that negative, scared voice and trying to replace it with a kinder and more uplifting one. It’s not the easiest thing, but for every day that I speak more kindly to myself, I can feel the positive impact of that in my attitude, my behaviour and my overall state of happiness.
All this to say, your inner voice matters. Think about it – if someone close to you, someone with who you spend a lot of time, was constantly talking negatively and being overtly critical and judgemental, would that not drain you out? Similarly, a constant negative inner voice is bound to impact your energy, your vibration, as well.
If you’ve lived with a harsh inner voice for a long time, it might be difficult to make a sudden, absolute flip to cheerful Susie state of being, but the key is to start becoming more mindful of that inner voice. You might have to deliberately distract yourself to happier, or perhaps even neutral, territory, but over time, you will see the shift happen.
Learning to speak positively to yourself with kindness and encouragement is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.
5| Reach out to others for help
A lot of us are stubborn when it comes to admitting that we need help because it asks us to acknowledge our own vulnerability. We’ve been taught to always stay strong, stay positive. But the truth is, some times we need that extra help, that extra push from someone else to hold ourselves accountable, to become strong again, to become whole again.
This isn’t about asking for help only when your life hits rock bottom, but really about letting people into your life, getting personal with people, and opening up to them.
We also tend to want our loved ones, our closest people, to be able to read our minds and offer their help before the need arises. We feel we should not have to ask for it. Our parents, our partners, our friends, they should be able to make out when we’re struggling over big things or small and step in by themselves. But we forget that what might be obvious to us, may not be all that very obvious to anyone else, even if they’re living with us and sharing our lives.
There is no shame in spelling it out that you need help and support, be it from your inner circle, your work colleagues, or even outside professionals. You would be doing yourself a massive favour, in fact! And for all you know, seeking help from someone else might even help you become more accountable with the promises you make to yourself.
Don’t give up on yourself, and don’t give up on your loved ones.
I’ve found these small, meaningful promises to be useful in my personal journey, and I hope they help you too. Keeping promises to yourself is a form of self love and self care, and the more you are able to do it, the more you will feel at peace with your inner self. The biggest learning for me has been to start with small, doable promises and then gradually scale up as you start growing in confidence in your own self again.
What else would you add to this list if doable promises to make to yourself? Let me know in the comments below – I am always eager to hear from you all!