You just purchased a brand new, blue racing bike that glistens in the sunlight. It’s so beautiful, and you can’t wait to jump on and take it for a ride. Finally, on a bright, sunny day, you hop on the bike for the first time. With an excited energy, you shoot forward, speeding down the road at a rapid rate. Then, something completely unexpected happens: the wheels lock up, and despite peddling and peddling and peddling as hard as you possibly can, the bike stops moving. You look down to find that your tires are stuck in a rut and refuse to move. Your legs grow tired, you work up a sweat, and you want to quit despite all of your original strides and efforts.
This situation illustrates how I’m currently feeling about all of the goals I set for myself in January. I started off beautifully, and pushed through January with valiant strides. Then, February rolled around, and my progress halted. I told myself March was going to be the month to start fresh again, but now we’re halfway through and I have yet to begin.
The hardest things to accomplish in life, in my opinion, are those that we simply promise ourselves that we’re going to do. When we make promises to others, we tend to keep those promises (or at least feel terrible when we fail to do so). You hear all the time this idea about “loving yourself before you can love others.” But what on earth does that even mean? Beyond just “loving ourselves,” I think we need to learn to keep promises to ourselves and stop being our own worst enemy. So, how do we do that?
1. Get to the bottom of your self-sabotage.
Any time you break a promise to yourself, you’re becoming your own enemy. So why do we even do that? Why, with all of the challenges and difficulties that we face outside of ourselves each day, would we want to sabotage our own efforts? Sometimes, this is a really deep answer that can take years to unveil. Often, however, it’s just simply realizing what you’re doing to yourself.
Write down, using pen and paper, the things you want to accomplish that you’re currently self-sabotaging. Make a promise to yourself that you’re going to start doing those things. But, be careful that you do it in a way that you can logistically tackle; don’t all of the sudden add things that are going to take up 5 hours of every day. Focus on small changes. For instance, instead of “I’m going to lose 10 pounds in 3 weeks, read 10 books, meet up with 10 different friends, and start a masters program,” break it up into smaller chunks. Start with something simple, like “I’m going to intentionally make 3 choices each day that affect my health and well-being in a positive way.” On a great day, this may look like a 4-mile run and eating all vegetables and lean protein. On other days, this may mean just a 10-minute walk, 2 cups of coffee instead of 3, and passing up dessert because you had Orange Chicken for lunch. The point is, you’re consciously making better choices and fulfilling a promise that you made to yourself.
2. Utilize a habit tracker.
Sometimes, we break promises to ourselves simply because we haven’t put in the efforts to create a habit. The power of habit is extremely significant. Often, the reasons you’re self-sabotaging stem from bad habits that you’ve created over the years. All it takes is building new ones. Experts suggest that it takes about 21 days straight of doing something in order for it to become a habit. Whatever you’re trying to stick to, make sure you take no breaks for at least 21 days to build it effectively as a habit.
You can use a paper print-out, write it out yourself, or use a phone app, such as “Streak.”
You can also recruit an accountability partner to check in with you regularly and ask you how your habit building is going. Sometimes, when we can’t keep promises to ourselves, others can motivate us to keep a promise to them!
3. Find ways to love what you’re doing.
Until I see noticeable results, I absolutely hate working out. I hate the thought of it and I hate the process. As I see myself growing stronger, I begin to hate it less. However, I am not the kind of person who would ever say, “Oh my gosh, I just LOVE exercising! It’s so much fun!”
If you don’t love the habit itself, find something about it that you do love. For instance, you may hate to work out, but you know that when you go to the gym, you get 45 minutes of time by yourself to watch an episode of your favorite show while you do cardio. If you can’t look forward to the task, find a way to make it more enjoyable. Science also tells us that we enjoy something, we get more out of it, even when it comes to exercise.
4. Utilize time management strategies.
Recently, I wrote a post on Time Blocking. If you feel like you’re pedaling without moving, particularly when it comes to work or household tasks, it may be because you’re not utilizing your time wisely. Try out Time Blocking to see if simply becoming better organized throughout the day can help you make good, forward progress.
5. Make sure you know and believe in the reason for doing the habits you want to build.
For me, if I’m making a promise to myself to exercise and eat better, the reason just can’t be as simple as wanting to lose a few pounds. It has to be deeper and more meaningful than that. Consider something like this: “I want to exercise [set amount] and eat more lean protein and vegetables and fewer carbs and sugars. I want to do this because it’s going to give me more energy to do the things I love. It’s also going to allow me to feel better about the way I’m treating my body, and will build my confidence to accomplish the other major goals that I have set for my life.”
Make sure you write out a reason for all of the promises you make to yourself. Post them somewhere that you will see them each and every day.
It’s so important that we become reliable to our own selves. Not only will we accomplish more than we ever thought possible, but it will build our confidence and grow our relationships with others. It’s not too late to keep pushing forward with the goals you set in January. Take some time even today to sit down and utilize these strategies to make a plan. Before you know it, you’ll be pushing your bike wheels out of those ruts and will be flying forward once again!