5 tactics for keeping your promises and pledges to yourself


We all have good intentions – the road to heaven is paved with them – but the times when we actually make the big, important, life-enhancing changes are when those intentions become promises.  Firm commitments to ourselves that we would no more break than if we had made the promise to someone we love.

The reality is that the promises we make to ourselves are infinitely easier to break than those we make to other people, although those promises are usually made because we want to create a better life for ourselves either by adding in something or taking something away that is no longer serving us. It can be frustrating and disheartening to keep breaking promises you make to yourself so here are 5 tactics to help you break the negative pattern.

1.      Test your reliability

Instead of going straight in and trying to tackle your biggest problems and then getting frustrated by your lack of success, practice making and keeping promises with small things eg. make your bed every day, don’t eat when driving, cut down to two cups of tea a day. Whatever small thing you can think of make a promise to yourself to do it for 21 days – this is how long it takes to develop a new habit or break an old one. Success in one or two small areas will give you confidence in yourself as a reliable trustworthy person and help prepare you for making bigger changes later on.

2.      Only make a promise when you really mean it

Most people feel bad if they break a sincere promise which they have made to themselves or someone else but may not feel so bad if it was a hollow or empty promise which they knew in their heart they didn’t really intend to fulfil. Whatever your intentions are it is better not to make a promise in the first place than to break it later because little by little broken promises will undermine your self confidence. A healthier approach is to take some time to think about how committed you really are whether it is going to the gym or meeting more matches  – only make a promise when you are sure you fully believe you can fulfil it.

3.      Keep it in the day

Another reason people fail to keep the promises they make it because they decide to do something ‘forever’ or three times every week. A much better approach is to renew your promise to yourself on a daily basis – this works particularly well when you are trying to give up a bad habit like smoking – it is much better to think ‘I promise not to smoke today (but I can tomorrow if I want to)’ than to try and quit for good because you will quickly begin to fee deprived and as though it is too big a task to fulfil so may give up trying altogether. One day without smoking will feel like an achievement and you will feel good about yourself and be more likely to want to repeat the process again the next day.

4.      Write it down

Committing your promise to paper serves two important functions: a) It clarifies exactly what it is you are promising to do. Try to write it down in one sentence eg. ‘I promise I am going to contact three matches a week for the next six weeks’. Seeing it written down on paper makes it more real than if it is just a vague idea in your head. Put it somewhere where you will see it every day and it is unlikely to slip your mind. b) It becomes a contract with yourself. As mentioned earlier most people are much better at keeping promises to other people and having your promise written down separates it from you and it becomes more like a promise to someone else. It is good to plan a small reward for yourself if you fulfil your promise

5.      Tell someone what you are trying to do

Having the support of someone is a good motivator when we are trying to make changes in our lives. Talk your promise through with a friend and tell them why it is important and what differences you hope to see as a result. This will help solidify the idea in your mind and you will be able to update your friend on your progress as you go along.

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