Monday, July 14, 2008

Promise Keeping

Chances are, if you have a deadline to meet at work, you'll do whatever you have to do to meet it. Stay late, come in early, and put lesser projects on the back burner because there are consequences to be paid if you don't come through. If you promised your child you'd be at the big game or opening night of the play, you would find a way to make it happen. But what about the promises you make to yourself? Do you take those as seriously?

Probably not. Maybe because there is not another person involved. There is no one else relying on us. We are willing to endure extra pressure, stress and inconvenience when we have to answer to someone else.

When other people are involved, there are consequences. If you didn't complete that work assignment, you could be reprimanded, written up or even fired. And, no parent wants to be the cause of that look of disappointment in their child's eyes. But what are the consequences when you don't come through for yourself? Often there are none.

With no consequences, it's easy to not follow-through. For a long time, I promised that I would get up early and work out. But I didn't. It was easier to sleep in. The payoff of exercise was not immediate but the extra half hour of sleep sure was!

A lot of time, the things we promise ourselves aren't the fun things. I mean, look at the first three letters of diet. And doesn't exercise sound a lot like exorcism? Handling finances? Stopping smoking? None of these things has an immediate payoff.

So what can we do? We have to create a payoff. For me, it was a simple as writing down 'Exercise' in my planner. I'm crazy about my planner! If I write it down, I have to do it. I hate getting to the end of the day and not having everything on my list crossed off. And crossing exercise off my list felt good.

Another option that works for me when it comes to things I need to do but aren't crazy about is my kitchen timer. I set it for 15 minutes or 30 at the most. I'm not crazy about cleaning but I like the results. So when I really need to clean, I set my timer for 30 minutes. I can do just about anything for a half hour. At the end of a half hour, I give myself the option to stop or I can set the timer for the original time or less and keep going. Breaking it down into manageable chunks of time really helps when it comes to completing unpleasant tasks.

Whether it's exercise, saving money, smoking, losing weight or even finding a job, the results are usually immediate. So you have to find some way to create a payoff in the short term. Using a list, giving yourself a small reward, working with a friend who can act as an accountability partner are all ways of getting you over that first big hurdle.

Once you clear that first one, you will begin to see results - you'll start losing weight or inches, you'll start feeling better without the cigarette or you may see your savings begin to grow. When you see the results, the payoff, it's easier to stay motivated and stay the course.

But it all starts with finding a way to make those promises to yourself mean as much to you as the promises you make to everyone else.

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