It’s very easy to make a big promise to yourself.
I will get my finances in order.
I will eat better and lose some weight.
I will improve my marriage.
I will give up drinking.
Most of the time, it’s easy to maintain this promise to ourselves. When that promise is front and center in our minds, we can make the right choice over and over again.
It’s much, much harder to carry through on that promise over a longer period of time. In the day-to-day routine of a busy life, it’s very easy to drop the ball. You might spend a little more than you should. You might eat an unhealthy lunch with a coworker. You might get unnecessarily upset with your spouse. You might drink a little more than you should.
The moments of our lives when our defenses are low are the moments when we fail to follow through.
How do you make it through those moments when defenses are low? Here are three strategies that consistently work for me.
First, make the path of least resistance as hard as possible. If you’re trying to give up drinking, get rid of all of the alcohol in your home. If you’re trying to break a pattern of spending too much money, toss out your credit cards and delete your card numbers from online sites.
It is easiest to make a mistake when the means of making that mistake are right there at hand. Remove the things you need to break your pledge from your home and you’ll find it’s much easier to keep up with your promises to yourself.
Second, withdraw from friendships or relationships where you’re consistently pushed to break your pledge. If you have friends who are significant drinkers, focus on building up friendships with your non-drinking friends. If you have friends who shop constantly, focus on other friendships for a while.
You don’t have to completely exit those relationships, but when your normal social routine involves breaking your pledge to yourself, you have to disrupt that social routine. The most effective way to do that is to seek out different friends.
Finally, tell your other friends about your pledge and ask for their help. A good friend will reinforce the pledge you’re making to yourself by checking on you, complimenting your progress, and steering you away from potential mistakes.
While it’s also useful to have a “buddy” who is going through this process as well, all of your friends can be very useful in terms of keeping you on the desired path to positive change.
I’ve used all of these techniques to help me keep my spending pledges to myself. Without them, the process would have been much more challenging and might have even resulted in a failure to achieve the financial successes of the past several years.