We are all thinking about them right now.
(Which is American for ‘now’, you know, just like the American for ‘What!?’ is ‘Wait. What!?’ And a new one I have noted is they never just call anyone in the NYPD/LAPD/Hawaii 5-0 world. They ‘Reach out’. Said no cop. Ever. I digress Moving on.)
We are all moving close to a New Year, when we consider making some promises. They are promises to do something we know we should. They are promises to behave at a higher standard than we have been doing. But they are promises that are doomed.
They are doomed because they are promises to ourselves and they are doomed because they are promises to ourselves. Subtle distinction.
(I read today that the ‘b’ in subtle really gets it. I liked that one.)
The distinction is hard to explain in separate clauses, but in essence the reason they fail is down to the fact that the person making them is also the only person to whom the person making them is accountable. (You might want to read that over a couple of times.)
In other words, if I fail to come through on the promise, the only person who has to forgive me is, well, me. And I can be very forgiving where I am concerned.
You see the challenge?
Unless we make ourselves accountable to ‘someone’ out there, there is a tendency to fail.
My own greatest successes have probably been the result of making a commitment either to somebody else, or to myself but where there would be a negative effect on someone else if I failed. In other words, I succeed only when there is direct or indirect accountability to somebody else.
But we all have difficulty keeping promises to ourselves, where only we suffer the consequence of failure.
The answer? I’m not sure, but I think two potential solutions come to mind.
The first is to make the promise more public than usual – outside the family, maybe where a failure would result in absolute embarrassment and humiliation. The workplace, perhaps! (The internet works IF your readers interact. Hint hint.) Create the external pressure – perhaps as part of a team – to make yourself and others accountable for the promises you make to yourselves.
The other – perhaps less certain, certainly less public but perhaps more suitable to those who don’t have a team to turn to, or a family that can help – is to write a journal.
First of all, say what you want and why you want it. Then, check to see if the answers to those two headings really are the right answers – remember, the wrong goals create feeble commitment and divert you emotionally and psychologically from the ‘better’ goals.
Then ask yourself – am I truly committed to the result I seek? Am I willing to pay the price, this time? What exactly IS that price?
Once you have truly looked deep inside yourself and answered the questions honestly, then and only then should you commit to the Resolution. And you support yourself by chronicling the experience by writing down daily what you did, what you ‘didn’t’, why you did/didn’t, and what your feelings are about all that happened. Detail the conversations you have with yourself and others about how it’s going, what needs doing, and whatever else comes to mind in terms of the events that are enabling or obstructing your progress.
Look. Don’t make New Year Resolutions that you know, in your heart, you aren’t willing or able to achieve. Find the ones that really, viscerally matter to you and only commit to those. Even if there are only a couple. Then work daily to their achievement. And write about it.
Make sure you pay your IOU – to U.