Have you ever broken a promise? Probably.
We make weekend plans with our friends, and then cancel last minute because it’s easier to curl up at home with Netflix and a bowl of popcorn.
We tell our partners we’ll love them forever, until we catch them downtown walking hand-in-hand with someone else, and then we don’t anymore.
But the worst promises we break are the ones we make to ourselves:
– “I’m going to start eating better and going to the gym”
– “I’m going to quit smoking and drink less”
– “I’m going to practice more and finally share my passion with the world”
– “I’m going to spend less time at work and more time with family”
– “I’m going to quit my job and start my own business”
I think in all of us there is a split between the person who’s life we are living – the version of ourselves the world sees and experiences – and the person we are working toward becoming; the person you aspire to be, who has all of your strengths and none of your flaws, and who has finally conquered your demons.
We live out a constant battle internally between our old self and our new self because of our deeply ingrained patterns, experiences, and beliefs. It’s an easy slip back into old habits, and change requires vigilance and frank self-reflection. You have to be able to call yourself on your own bullshit, and that isn’t easy.
It doesn’t help that friends and family often frame and colour us with their ideas about who we are: or, more accurately, who we have been for them historically. The people who love you the most can present your greatest challenge when making big changes for yourself. They know you one way, and anything you do that falls outside of their expectations is going to cause them discomfort. Nobody likes being uncomfortable.
If you make yourself a promise, you will be fighting not only your own tendency toward stasis, but also against the expectations of others who would rather you be predictable than better.
The market would not be so flooded with personal trainers and self-help gurus if we were all strong and determined enough to follow through on our best plans and intentions. Human beings are weak and habit-driven, so practice a little patience and forgiveness with yourself too.
You don’t have to change everything all at once. Make small changes, daily. Ask yourself every morning when you wake up, “How can I be a little better today?”
- Can I eat a little better? (Eat one extra serving of vegetables)
- Can I exercise a little more? (Go for a 10 minute walk. Do 10 push ups)
- Can I write a little more? (Try 500 words on whatever subject you want)
- Can I spend a little more time with friends and family? (Make and eat a meal together)
There are limitless ways to make incremental change in whatever part of your life needs changing. All these small changes add up over time, and each of them will bring you closer to the person you hope to become.
The promises we make to ourselves are the ones that shape us most. Who you’ve been only matters as a point of reference: one of many small dots on a map you chart for yourself by the decisions you make every day to be better than you were the day before.