Every day we make small promises to ourselves. Life is better when you can keep at least some of them. Especially the first.
The first thing I did today was break a promise to myself.
Last night before I went to bed I set my alarm for 7:00 AM, so I could wake up early, stretch, and go for a walk around the neighborhood before starting my day. (That was the promise.)
But today when the alarm sounded, I switched it off and fell back asleep till 9:00 AM.
Even though I still had time, I decided to not stretch or go for a walk. (One broken promise led to other broken promises.)
Suddenly it’s 10AM and I haven’t done a handful of things I told myself I’d do.
I feel guilty. I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything. I have a negative outlook on the rest of the day.
All of this because I broke the first promise of the day.
Everyone does this, of course.
We all break small promises to ourselves, even if we don’t see them as “promises.” We say we’re going to do something…and then we don’t do it.
And if we make and break promises with ourselves, it’s easy to see how often we make and break promises with other people, which leads to shaken self-confidence and crappy relationships.
Other promises I’ve made and broken to myself or others, just this week:
- I’m going to work out this afternoon
- I’m going to meditate for 10 minutes
- I’m going to practice playing my harmonica
- I’m going to call Mike
- I’m not going to be distracted at dinner with Richelle
- I’m going to read for 30 minutes
- I’m not going to check email first thing in the morning.
They all seem like small things. That’s why it’s easy for us to rationalize. It’s just one day. It’s only 10 minutes. I’ll call him back later. I’ll give her my full attention tomorrow evening.
But this stuff snowballs. It compounds. And pretty soon you’re breaking small promises left and right and wondering why you feel shitty or ineffective or bored or overwhelmed.
At times like this — when I become aware that I broke a promise to myself — I try to turn things around.
I do one thing that I said I was going to do. I try to get some momentum in the other direction. (Which is why I’m writing this right now.)
Because the good things will compound, too. Keeping the first promise of the day will snowball into keeping other promises.
You want to start every day with a tally in the “win” column.
If you’re like me, that will be a constant struggle. It’s human nature.
But on the days where you keep that first promise — and at least some of the promises that follow — you’ll lie in bed at night and think about all the good stuff and all the good people in your life.
You’ll fall asleep feeling optimistic and like everything is right in the world. And you’ll want to do it all over again the next day.