The Hardest Promises to Keep

I don’t know about you, but I have a lifetime of breaking promises to myself. Of telling myself one thing and doing another. Of agreeing on a course of action only to face the unpleasantness and lack of novelty of follow-through and fizzle out.

Last summer, I was made aware of this while listening to a podcast by Rachel Hollis. She talked about how so many people are in the habit of starting and stopping things, about the lack of commitment to our own priorities, about how breaking promises to yourself makes you not trust yourself. And how no one would flake out on another person the way we often flake out on ourselves. That idea–of keeping promises to myself–was one I hadn’t really thought of before. I don’t know why.

Although I neither blame my parents or the Christian culture I was raised in, my life–the way I think and live– has been affected. Sometimes it’s been very positive, sometimes not. One of the “nots” would be this rather irksome saying my mother used to quote to me when I was a child: “Jesus first, Others second, and You always last. That spells JOY!” Sorry, Mom, but it ain’t necessarily so!

The whole concept of living to serve God and others is a noble one and I am not suggesting that now I have seen the light and only serve myself. I believe that a human who lives only for self winds up feeling empty and dissatisfied, lonely, and worthless. We all need to be investing part of ourselves in that which is greater than us, in that which may not serve us, but which will benefit others.

But in the past few years, I have begun to see how damaging the above concepts can be for women who think that God wants them to spend their entire lives putting aside their needs and/or desires, because someone else’s needs or wants must always come first. And as much as I hated to admit it, I had done a good deal of this as well. Until age 39 when I fell apart. My experience is not so unusual, really. As Brendon Burchard says, “Living incongruent to what you believe is the greatest form of unhappiness.”

So after I had my mid-life crisis, as it’s aptly called, I reassessed everything. I began to catch myself when I would say yes to something that I really didn’t want to do. I had to remind myself often of the Jen Hatmaker quote, “If it’s not a Hell, yes, it’s a No.” And this past year, I have begun to deal with my lack of consistency in many areas of my life and make myself do what I told myself I was going to do.

Commitment to myself is tough, but I know it is right! That means if I have time scheduled to write or work or exercise and one of my kids wants me to drive them last minute, or a friend wants to come over, I have to say no. It’s hard to disappoint people–I hate it!!! But I’ve had plenty of practice disappointing people in the past few years between leaving church, getting a divorce, getting remarried and living differently than I did before. (I am starting to warm up to the idea of writing more about this difficult season I’ve been in.)
If you have a habit of breaking promises to yourself, it’s going to be a process to turn things around. Begin with something small, but be on the lookout for places in your life where you constantly shove yourself aside to please others. You put things off, change your plans, let personal growth and wellness goals fall by the wayside because someone else is demanding. Again, I’m not saying live to please only you, but there has to be some place for you in this life. “Your one wild and precious life” as Mary Oliver says. I will leave you with her poem The Summer Day. Happy Monday, friends!

The Summer Day

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper I mean–

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand.

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life.

–Mary Oliver

How to Follow Through and Finish (What I’m Learning)

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Do you have one of those creative brains that goes at the speed of light? Are you constantly coming up with new ideas for yourself and everyone around you? A business idea, an exercise plan, a new hobby to start, an online course to take, a skill to learn, a project to tackle, another book to read, and on and on.

The books on my nightstand are a good example. I have at least a dozen started, plus a few on my Kindle. And I don’t just have books on my nightstand, they’re inside my nightstand and on top of my dresser in stacks. I’m never sure which is the right one to start or if I’ll wish I had that certain one right at my fingertips. Heaven forbid I have to actually go downstairs to the library to search for a book I’m thinking about; better to have all the books in my room and be able to start it the minute I think about it.

Because of my love of starting things, I have about three different courses started on Lynda.com (to be fair to myself I have finished about five this year) and a watercolor course from an Australian artist that I started in January and haven’t returned to since February.

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I am so close to finishing up my aromatherapy certification, but have a few loose ends to tie up and a bit more to study for the exam. Now would be a good time to sign up for a free four-day Aromatherapy summit next week, right? Um, no, but I did anyway.

Yeah, I love starting things, brainstorming new ideas, trying something new. I love dreaming about the possibility of whatever it is and the excitement that comes with starting. But I don’t admire other people who don’t follow through and I don’t admire myself for dragging my heels about finishing or dropping the ball on a project altogether.

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Follow through, follow through. These two words have been following me around for over month now, like a toddler at my heels, whining for attention. I took a good look at my life and wrote down all the places I need to finish something. Things I need to and actually want to finish! And I asked myself what was my problem? Why don’t I finish things?

Since I’d heard about John Acuff’s book Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, I decided to purchase the Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done and find out what he had to say on the topic. I wanted to learn about the causes and the solutions to this huge and common problem.

Here’s what he had to say: perfection causes most of us to quit before we start. If we can’t do it perfectly, we won’t even try. Sounds dumb, right? But it’s true! Like, if I can’t blog every single day of the week, with beautiful pictures and amazing content, I should just give up. But you know that sets us up for failure. Acuff recommends cutting your goal in half. This way the feeling of success of meeting a goal will spur you on to something else.

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Also, we get it into our heads that we have to do all the things. The truth is, if we are going to really focus on finishing one thing, something else might have to take a backseat for a while. Maybe I have to not vacuum as often, or get together with friends less often or miss watching the latest Netflix series if I want to finish up my aromatherapy certification soon.

He also talks about how the lie of having to do everything ourselves instead of asking for help delays the finish. Perhaps I would get the labels printed sooner for the new natural body care products I’m selling if I would accept Alan’s help rather than learning Photoshop now and doing it myself.

Learning what is holding me back and figuring out how to move forward is what I need to follow through and finish. The message and tips within this book were super helpful: I am already making progress on the stuff I was procrastinating over. In the past week, I was able to cross off three items off my Bullet Journal To-Do list. Finish is a short, funny, and super helpful read, so if you’re like me and have a tough time finishing, go get this book!

* This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through one of the links here, it benefits me in a very small way at no extra cost to you!