The most important promises to keep are the promises we make to ourselves.
I said this the other day to another cyclist regarding the monthly goals we set for ourselves. It was late and I was tired. It was one of those things you just kind of say without thinking about.
But for some reason, this comment stuck with me and I continued to think about it. I wondered, is it more important to keep promises to yourself or to others? I mean, you can’t keep promises to others if you can’t keep promises you make to yourself. Right?
Upholders – Follow through on both inner and outer expectations.
Questioners – Meet their inner expectations but often resist outer expectations.
Obligers – Have trouble sticking to inner expectations but often follow through on outer expectations.
Rebels – Resist both inner and outer expectations.
You probably identified your tendency by reading through the list. But to be sure, you might want to check out this quiz.
It seems my idea that you can’t keep promises to others unless you keep promises to yourself mostly applies to Upholders. And it shouldn’t surprise you that I just so happen to be an Upholder (and an occasional Questioner). Upholders, according to Rubin, are one of the smallest groups. Most people are Obligers.
While it’s relatively easy for me to keep promises to myself, it’s much more difficult for others. I know because I married an Obliger. My husband, Jer, goes above and beyond to meet everyone’s expectations at work, yet struggles to get up thirty minutes early to do yoga.
To be fair, Jer is ten times more disciplined than he was ten years ago. But I still see his frustration on the occasions he doesn’t follow through. This helps validate my idea that the most important promises to keep are the promises we make to ourselves.
How We Benefit from Keeping Promises
Improve your Confidence and Self-Worth
Confidence and Self-Worth are different things. According to Psychology Today, confidence is believing you have the ability to succeed. For example, I’m confident I can ride my bike 100 miles.
Self-worth takes into account how we feel about ourselves and the manner in which we interact with the world around us. For example, I value myself because I feel proud of having the discipline to stick with the sport of cycling long enough to have the endurance to ride long distances. I also value the integrity of my actions in living the active lifestyle I advocate for.
See the difference? Confidence is about your ability and self-worth is about how you perceive your value as a person.
When we keep promises to ourselves, we increase our confidence by proving that we’ll follow through on what we say. As we make progress toward our goals, our confidence in our ability to meet those goals improves.
Similarly, making progress toward our goals improves our self-worth. By following through on promises you many find value in your discipline and other virtues. You might take pride in living authentically and leading by example. As your sense of value grows, you’ll treat yourself with more respect. This respect carries over to how you treat others, which continues to nurture your self-worth.
I don’t intend to oversimplify a complicated subject that most of us have struggled with. These are simply examples of how keeping promises to ourselves help improve our confidence and self-worth.
Feel Happier and More Content
As Jer and I made the journey to adulthood together, we made a lot of changes to create the life we have today. We set goals, made promises to ourselves, and each other. It was in achieving these goals, that we found a great deal of joy. The connection is so significant, I wrote a whole blog post about it. You can check it out here.
Give Your Best to Others
I mention this a lot, especially to the parents I have the honor of working with. We cannot serve others well – unless we are serving from a full cup.
In order to be the best mother, employee, and spouse, we must ensure that our basic needs are being fulfilled daily. For me, this includes seven to eight hours of sleep, daily exercise, nutritious meals, meditations and reflection, and time to connect with my spouse. To do these things, I must keep the promises I make to myself.
I’ve heard a lot of people, especially moms, say that they feel guilty setting aside time for themselves. But I assure you that you’ll be a better parent, spouse, and employee when you do. When you’re healthy, well rested, and full of energy, you can bring more to those you serve. When you’re stressed, tired, and burned out, not only do you feel it but so do those around you.
Consider getting up an hour earlier and dedicating the first and last hour of your day to your wellness. In the Mama Says Namaste Podcast, family and relationship coach, Ashley talks about this very thing. She shares how 7 PM to 7 AM are mommy and daddy time. This is one of the best ideas I’ve heard.
Lead by Example
You can’t expect your spouse, children, and employees to keep the promises they make to themselves if you don’t keep your promises. We can’t force others to follow through on the promises they make. But we can create a culture where it’s fun and something we do together.
For example, improving our physical fitness is a promise both my husband and I have made to ourselves. We’ve made it part of our family culture by making hikes and bike rides a fun way to connect and spend time together.
When you keep promises to yourself, those you love will likely follow.
How to Keep Your Promises
As I mentioned, it’s easier for some people to keep the promises make to themselves. If keeping promises isn’t easy for you, don’t make it harder by making your promises too big.
If you want to run a marathon, that’s fantastic. But if you go from not running to a 5k, you probably won’t want to run again for a few years. (<- Personal Experience! 😀 ) Instead, start small. Maybe four laps around the block, alternating a walk, then a run. Once you’re comfortable there, move up in small increments.
Seek Out an Accountability Partner
If you’re an Obliger, listen up! Remember how I said that Jer can meet everyone’s expectations at work but struggles to stick a morning yoga routine? The reason is that at work, he has people who depend on him and hold him accountable.
He can use this concept to help him follow through on the promises he makes to himself. For example, he could find a friend who’s trying to create a similar morning routine and they could text each other some sort of proof when they’re finished.
I wrote an in-depth piece on creating accountability partnerships. You can find it here.
It’s human nature to want to please others. But for Obligers, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed, trying to meet the expectations of everyone around you. When you’re overwhelmed by the expectations of others, it’s more difficult to follow through on the promises you make to yourself.
I get sucked into obliging sometimes too. Each time I get sucked (or manipulated) into doing something I don’t want to do, I feel resentment toward that person or situation. And that’s not a fun feeling to have.
This is why it’s so important to learn to say no. If something doesn’t serve you and your family’s mission, say no. If it doesn’t fall in your zone of genius, say no. If the answer isn’t hell yeah, say no. I love this post from Seth Godin On Saying No.
Along with saying no, it’s important to learn to set healthy boundaries with your family, friends, and co-workers. I always thought we had good boundaries because we don’t participate other people’s crazy, drama, and negativity. We’re also quite strict about allowing bad behavior in our home.
Thanks to Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, I realized that letting everyone do and say whatever they want and not responding, does not mean we have boundaries. Both Jer and I have been so good at turning the other cheek that things have gotten out of hand. We both need to learn to set better boundaries.
If you can relate to anything I just said, check out the book, Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud. I was surprised to find a biblical message in the book but have come to embrace it. It makes sense because so many of our issues with boundaries have to do with guilt and feeling like a bad person. I’m enjoying the book and I think you will too.
Celebrate Your Accomplishments
When we do something that’s good for us, like get up early every morning for a month to do yoga, we need to celebrate that stuff! It’s easy for us to compliment someone else’s accomplishments while sweeping our own under the rug.
When you make a promise to yourself, decide how you will reward yourself before you begin. It will help keep you motivated. Celebrating your accomplishments will help improve your confidence and self-worth and inspire you to try it again. You can learn more about celebrating your accomplishments here.
Hire a Coach
Last but not least, consider hiring a coach. A coach can offer accountability and help you see the missing pieces. Consider a coach who has actually done what you’re setting out to do. They’ll help guide you to do it better, cheaper, and faster than you could on your own. Most importantly, you increase your chances of success by having skin in the game.
Here’s a little secret for you. If you’re reading this around the time it was published, there’s a deal waiting for you. I ran a special last summer with half off all my packages. I have been so busy with other projects I haven’t had a chance to change them back. I’ll honor that pricing for any request generated from that page.
Keeping the promises we make to ourselves is easier for some people than others. But we all benefit equally. No matter where you are now, the tips I share can help you train yourself to be the best promise keeper around.