How to Keep Commitments to Ourselves

Group of active senior people doing yoga exercise in community center club.

It is easy to show up to appointments we make with other people. But I’ve noticed that most of us struggle with commitments to ourselves. If we say we’re going to exercise, meditate, write, journal, and work on a project, but then we don’t stick to that commitment, it can feel like we’re letting ourselves down.

We start to form the mental habit of letting ourselves off the hook. We don’t trust ourselves to stick to our own commitments if other people aren’t involved. This creates a belief that we aren’t as important to ourselves as other people are.

I’m not saying we’re terrible people for doing this, or even wrong. It’s just how it goes for most of us, and it’s good to notice.

So what can we do about this? How can we start to stick to commitments to ourselves? I’m going to lay out some things I’ve found to be important.

Take a Look—Without Judgment

Woman sitting in Easy Pose and meditating.

Before we try to shift anything, it’s important to really get curious about what’s there. We try to change things about ourselves from a place of judgment, wanting to get rid of what’s bad, rather than really trying to understand ourselves.

So start by noticing, when you don’t show up for yourself, what’s going on? What are you feeling in that moment? What are your thoughts? Instead of judging and turning away from all of this, can you turn toward it and try to really see yourself?

Could you start to accept these feelings and thoughts as a part of the amazing human being that you are? Could you let go of judgment and just be with the feelings and fears, and not need them to go away? From this place of acceptance and love, we can start to explore other possibilities.

5 Steps for Keeping Commitments to Ourselves

Relaxed handsome young man sitting and meditating on office chair.

So what can we try that’s different?

Here are some things I’ve found useful:

  1. Make a date with yourself. I have a Zen sewing teacher, who helps me with a sewing project that I often put off, over and over. He tells me to make a date with myself: put it on the calendar. And it works! I encourage you to be serious about this date, and not take it lightly.
  2. Ask yourself if you really want to. Zen teacher Norman Fischer says that the process of committing yourself to morning meditation starts the night before: ask yourself if you really want to do it. If you say yes, then ask again: “Are you sure?” If you say no, then take it off your calendar and sleep in. But if you really want to do it, then really commit yourself, because it’s important to you.
  3. Treat it as sacred. As I said, don’t treat it lightly. We often treat our commitments to ourselves as something that doesn’t matter, that can be pushed back without consequence. But what if this were a sacred appointment? Something elevated beyond the ordinary, that we treat as really important to us? Something that is a way to honor ourselves and our best intentions? Something that we’ll even enjoy!Buddha temple of meditation and relaxation on the beach in front of the ocean.
  4. Honor what shows up, and honor yourself. As you approach your date with yourself, you might feel resistance, fear, or uncertainty. A desire to put it off or treat it with less importance. Honor that. Turn toward it and let yourself feel it, like it’s an important feeling. But also honor yourself. Can you see that showing up for yourself is also important?
  5. Bring a sense of curiosity, play, and appreciation. This doesn’t have to be a white-knuckle experience, where you force yourself to do something you don’t want to do. It can be a place of curiosity, where you let yourself explore and play and learn. It can be a place of joy, appreciation for yourself, and the activity. Can you find out what that might be like for yourself?

I’d love to hear more about what you discover as you practice with all of this, and start to honor how important you are to yourself.

Reprinted with permission from Leo Babauta/Zen Habits. 
Leo Babauta

Zen Habits is about finding simplicity and mindfulness in the daily chaos of our lives. It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness. It has over a million readers.

My name is Leo Babauta. I live in Northern California with my wife and our two teenage kids (we have 4 adult kids, for a total of six!), where I eat vegan food, write, run, and read.

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