Keeping Promises to Yourself

What’s your track record on keeping promises to yourself? Most of us work hard to keep the promises we make.  Solemn promises such as wedding vows or professional oaths, or commitments to professional standards of conduct are high-level promises — to ourselves and to others.  Our word becomes a commitment.

When I make a promise to my husband I’ll do all I can to keep the promise.  I regard a promise to a grandchild as a sacred trust.  I keep promises made to my friends.  If neighbours request help such as accepting a courier delivery or moving empty garbage containers from the curb on collection day, I do it.

However, my track record on keeping promises to myself is not always as good. Too often I make a compromise or procrastinate on taking action to meet a commitment to myself. While I seldom blow off a commitment to someone else, I find that keeping promises to myself is often challenging.

Keeping Promises Photo by Camille Villanueva on Unsplash
Keeping Promises Photo by Camille Villanueva on Unsplash

Why so Difficult?

Why do I hesitate to disappoint others, yet postpone or procrastinate or violate promises to myself?

How ironic that the promises most difficult to keep are those I make to myself! Whether it’s getting to bed earlier, spending more time writing, putting in the time for piano practice, or finishing a hobby project, it’s easier to defer on commitments made to oneself.

I promise myself to manage my time more effectively so that I can accomplish retirement goals.  I promise that I will let go of negative thoughts and judgements of other people. I visualize changes to bad habits.

Yet, I often stop doing something important to me if my husband asks for help or if someone in my family needs something. I also succumb to social influences such as ‘join us for coffee’ or ‘come for a drink’ when I’ve made an internal commitment to myself.

Sometimes it comes down to self-discipline and self-control.  It’s hard to resist a slice of homemade chocolate hazelnut cheesecake after a book club meeting. Impulses plus hesitancy to hurt the feelings of the hostess take over.

Promises Kept

To be fair, I keep most promises made to myself.  Over the years, I’ve developed positive self-discipline in terms of nutrition, health, and regular exercise. I’m devoted to writing in my journal, keeping up with blog posts, and making progress on hobby projects.

I keep promises to myself that involve important decisions. Trusting myself to fulfill important promises forms part of my identity.

Author Gretchen Rubin, who has written extensively about happiness and habits, developed a personality quiz about tendencies that help in understanding how each of us makes and keeps commitments.  I’ve taken the quiz several times and find that I’m an ‘upholder’ which means that I respond to outer expectations but I also respond to inner obligations.  I accomplish most of what I set out to do except when I’m too expansive with plans for the time available.

I share some ‘obliger’ tendencies which explain why I’m also good at keeping commitments to others. If you are interested in determining your personal tendency, you can take Rubin’s quiz at

What helps in Keeping Promises to Yourself

Keeping promises to oneself begins with trusting yourself.  You know what you want from life and you can be realistic about the promises you make.

Recognize the limitations of time and energy. There are certain days of the week when the schedule of activities won’t allow an extra minute for writing or playing the piano.

Many people find that recording a commitment is helpful.  We usually note the date and time of a commitment made to another.  What about deciding when you will act on a promise you make to yourself by scheduling time for it?

Focus on progress made. Small steps lead to the accomplishment of bigger goals.  For example, my regular practise at the piano leads to the capacity to play a few tunes that actually sound like music. Some people find keeping a progress journal keeps them on track with managing promises.

There are times when keeping promises to yourself comes easily.  When we fail, the lessons we learn help us to acknowledge shortcomings.  We learn not to judge ourselves too harshly. Delivering on promises made to others and, to ourselves becomes part of our personal integrity.  We focus on how to make and keep promises that are meaningful and lead us to happiness and fulfillment in the retirement journey.

Thanks for reading my post.  I’m interested in your comments about how you make and keep promises.


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