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Keeping promises to yourself

In travels, and in life in general, we meet the concept of following through on what we promised. In our decisions around promises we tend to be either ‘away from something motivated‘ or ‘towards something motivated‘. This simply means that we either make decisions to keep our promises to avoid sanctions (afraid to get a deduction of points on your essay for handing it in too late or being afraid of upsetting someone if you don’t deliver your end of the deal) or to gain pleasure or inspiration (feeling good within from having followed through on something).

Most people would claim to have a little bit of both, and even if most of us do, if you look closely you’ll tend to favour one way over the other. I used to be very ‘away from’ driven to meet external deadlines and commitments, but over time I have managed to find more internal inspiration to strive towards keeping the things that I promise. Both promises to others and to myself.

This leads me to my second point. A large majority of people are better at keeping promises to others than promises to themselves. Many people have a calendar full of meetings and events with other people, but don’t put the same effort in the things they need to do for themselves.

A good friend of mine used to start with the best of intentions and plan pockets of time every week for things he wanted to do for himself (exercise, study & relax), but as invitations and requests came in from others, the time he had originally planned to have for himself slowly disappeared. Unconsciously he was making promises to others more important than promises and time for himself and in doing so he was driven by ‘away from’ motivation (wanting to avoid disappointing others). I have certainly done this in my life too (as I think many of us do!), but there are ways around it.

The key is to remember that the unconscious mind is always eavesdropping. If you don’t keep promises you made to yourself, you are effectively and unconsciously telling yourself that it’s ok to break promises. Because the unconscious mind makes no difference if the promises are for you or others. To train this muscle you need to start only making promises that you can keep. Sounds hard? It’s actually not. For example: if someone asks you to come and do something for them and you know that you don’t have time, is it best to say ‘I’ll try and make it’ or say ‘I can’t make it on Sunday, but I can make it next weekend’? Only make promises that are realistic and sustainable!

Because if you really think about it – if you don’t keep promises you make to yourself (to follow dreams, develop and grow or whatever they may be) how are you keeping promises made to others? And what does that tell you that you’re worth? Own your time and honour your promises, both to other and yourself!