A Promise is a Promise

A promise is a promise until the promise is broken. 

How many times do we make a promise to ourselves only to break the promise shortly after? 

We are perennial liars who make up mundane excuses to cover up our own lies.  We tell ourselves BS because it is the only way we can rationalize to ourselves that we aren’t deceitful people.

We make promises to ourselves with the best of intentions.  “It’s New Years, this is the year I promise to stay committed.”  “I’ll commit to getting more sleep starting next week.” “I’ll watch TV tonight and promise to study tomorrow.”  My BS radar beeps at me even as I write this paragraph.  As I speak these words, I realize that these aren’t just words on a sheet of paper, these are personal experiences.   

Why is it that we break so many promises we make to ourselves? 

Right from the time we make the promise, we only imagine what success would look like.  How great we would look and feel, how much we would be admired, or how rich we would become.  We wrongly believe that the current inspirational feeling will last far into the future. 

The positivity movement gives us advice such as “Think Positive” or “Visualize Success” but how will thinking positive help us when things begin to really slip?  How will visualizing success help us when things really start to go wrong?

Here’s the bottom line, if we spend too much time fantasizing about achieving our goals, then we don’t spend enough time imagining ourselves facing adversity.

To increase our chances of success, we must imagine ourselves staring down the worst possible conditions. Sleep deprived, starved, stressed, emotionally drained, and under time-pressure.  In these conditions, can we still imagine success? Regardless of our answer, this type of visualization is our best predictor of the future.

We can use this type of visualization to question ourselves before making a promise.  If we see ourselves failing, what part of the promise did we struggle to keep?  Is it the wrong promise to make? Are we really committed to this promise?

We can also use this type of visualization to help us prepare for adversity.  How can we best be prepared to face the worst of conditions?  What will we do when we must face tough choices? What type of support do we need to ensure success?

Let’s get tactical here.  Before committing to a promise, first imagine ourselves facing the worst possible scenario.  Next, visualize the same scenario but this time, imagine ourselves intervening with a solution. Rinse and repeat. 

This type of mental preparation helps us make the right promises and teaches us how to defend against breaking promises.