We’ve all heard the myth that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Or that you’ve got to do something 21 times for it to become a habit for you. In reality, that’s just the minimum amount of time it takes for something new to stick for people. It’s a guideline, not an absolute.
Regardless of the psychology behind it, it’s hard breaking old habits and starting new ones. It’s a challenge figuring out where to start, but what if there was one habit you could start today that would make it easier for you? There’s one suggestion that’ll make it easier to positively shape any habit you’re looking to start or change.
While not exactly a magic bullet, it’s one thing that’ll create a great foundation for developing and sustaining good habits both in life and work.
Keep the Promises You Make to Yourself
“Making promises” is a pretty ‘woo woo’ idea for a tech guy like me, so I tend to call them commitments instead. So, I “keep the commitments I make to myself.” No matter what you call it when you commit or make that promise, you’ve got to do your best to meet it.
- When I commit to spending time with my family, I do it.
- When I commit to meet a project deadline, I meet it.
- When I commit to walking the dog every day, I go.
When I make a commitment or promise to myself about anything personal or professional, I stick to it. Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated to do the activity, but if I don’t follow through, I know it’ll bother me later. It’s the follow-through that helps build my confidence and leads to success in the future. Keeping your commitments changes your perspective on how you achieve your goals and teaches you two crucial things.
1. It Teaches You to Make Realistic Commitments
Holding yourself accountable to a commitment or promise teaches you how to make achievable or realistic promises. We struggle to reach out goals when we’re too ambitious with them. (Think of all those fitness goals we make every New Year’s Day and how they fall apart after a month.)
An ambitious goal might take us too long to do, so we stress about not having the time to reach it. Or we might spread ourselves too thin and try to do too much in service of that commitment. Which also leads to more stress.
Instead, when you hold yourself accountable to a realistic goal, you’ll learn how to make a more efficient To-Do list. You’ll understand what tasks it takes you to finish and what you can realistically do every day to work towards it. A side benefit is that you’ll learn how to create more balance between work and life because you’re not overdoing it on any one goal, task, or activity.
2. It Teaches You to Trust Yourself
People who set goals but never reach them are continually setting themselves up for failure. They’re creating a negative habit that reinforces the idea that they’ll never finish anything they start. Their minds have already sabotaged their goal with doubts and negative thoughts, making it harder for them to ever achieve positive outcomes.
Keeping your commitments teaches you that you can rely on yourself no matter what. You’re giving yourself positive reinforcement with each To-Do item you finish and each goal or commitment you achieve. You start to trust yourself more in any situation and know that when you set a goal, you’ll get there every time.
Plus, the people in your life will also see that they can rely on you more often. When you say you’ll do something and then do it, every time, they’ll know they can count on you all the time. Whether that’s at home or work, those around you will trust you to do what you say you’ll do.
Creating a good foundation for your habits ensures that you’ll sustain them long-term. That applies to good and bad habits, unfortunately. By keeping the promises you make to yourself, you’ll set yourself up for success every time.
You’ll achieve more of your goals, which gives you more belief in yourself, which helps you reach more commitments, and on and on. You’re essentially creating a positive feedback loop for yourself and those around you. Use this tip to create a more positive work and personal life, and help you reach all of your goals.