Keep the promises you make to yourself
For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying something new. I’ve been waking up at the exact time I said I would when I set my alarm the night before. I have not swiped my finger across my phone screen only to roll over and snuggle into my sheets, assuring myself that because getting out of bed feels so difficult I must desperately need the sleep. This is logic I’ve used for years, despite the fact that I generally sleep around 8 solid hours every night.
Instead, I wake up, I start my day and I begin to accomplish the tasks I told myself I wanted to accomplish. Not only is waking up early a habit I’m slowly growing accustomed to, it’s one I’m starting to enjoy, or at least not loathe like I used to when my first utterance in the morning was an exasperated “WHY?”
The most refreshing aspect of waking up early is not the action itself, but the fact that by pulling off my sheets when I hear my ringtone I am keeping the promise I made to myself.
It had become so routine for me to tell myself I would do something, plan with good intentions for it to happen, then act as though some external force—and not my own excuses—steered me away from productivity when I didn’t follow through.
At one point, I used to block out entire sections of my day in order to get things done in anticipation of my own failure to wake up on time and tackle my to-do list in the morning. Well, no more.
I’m realizing now that keeping your own promises is a rather simple equation. You either do it and appreciate your own loyalty and willpower as a result. Or you don’t, and you feel lazy or disappointed or regretful.
There are only these two options (and potentially a very small corner of grey territory that operates as an occasional exception to the rule). After making thousands of minor and major decisions over the course of my life, it’s clear that when I choose to honor the promises I make to myself I choose to honor my intelligence, my ambition and my self-esteem.
Following through with these promises always leaves me feeling fulfilled and accomplished (even if all I do is successfully shave my legs). Knowing this, why would I ever deliberately choose the alternative?
Resist the urge to judge
My mom always plays the devil’s advocate. If my family gossips, complains or condemns someone’s behavior, my mom is the first person to defend whatever we’re discussing.
She says things like, “Well, maybe being selfish is what was shown to her at a young age and it’s the only way she knows how to deal with problems.” Or, “how do you know it’s stupid? That’s just your opinion and they probably love it.” Or, “don’t jump to conclusions. I’m sure there’s a lot of good to it.”
Sometimes this tendency of hers drives me batty. Sometimes all I want is validation of my opinion (however wrong or rude) and to indulge in a snarky vent session with a confidante who won’t question me.
But instead I get something better: I get my mom and her relentless optimism.
Her stellar model of compassion and non-judgment keeps me constantly in check. When I want to toss aside someone’s better qualities in favor of using the worst ones to shape my view of him or her, my mom’s perpetual willingness to look beyond the surface shit is a whisper in my ear to be better.
What would happen to us and to the world if we refrained from judgment? If we went about our days without making assumptions about someone’s character based on a two-sentence exchange, would we become more open-minded? Would we learn to forgive more easily? Would we develop relationships with new types of people? Would we rekindle relationships with old ones?
Maybe, maybe not. But it can’t hurt to find out.
I’d love to know: what do you think of these ideas? What promises do you make to yourself that you find hard to keep? Are you ever quick to judge a person or situation?