The Power of Promises – How to Never Let Yourself Down Again

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Has someone ever really let you down?  Made a solemn promise and broken it?

career coaching, career change, new career, find work you love

Broken promises?

How did it feel?  Pretty horrible I suspect…

What about the other way around?  Have you ever broken a promise to someone else?

We typically try with all our might to stick to our word, to follow through, to do as we say we will.

Promises are serious and there are strong feelings when they are made and broken.

We place a lot of value on being honest and having personal integrity.

What about a different question – “have you ever broken a promise to yourself and let yourself down?”

I know I have, more often than I’d care to remember. I can’t count how many times I was ready to change “tomorrow”. Somehow it seems much easier to duck out on these personal promises.

The kind of promises we make include:

• “I promise to take better care of myself- I’ll get back into exercising tomorrow”
• “I promise to spend more time with my loved ones”
• “I promise to have a better balance and stop working so much”
• “I promise to start being smarter with my money after the next pay day”
• “I promise I’ll start my new job search next week”

More often than not, we don’t live up to these personal commitments – we screw ourself over.

Learning to look yourself in the eye

If you had a friend who constantly made promises and let you down, what would you think of them? What value would you place on their promises to change? How long would you tolerate their behaviour?

Sometimes we treat ourselves much worse than we treat others.

When you break promises to yourself, you send yourself a powerful message that  you are not important.  You also go against your values around being honest and acting with integrity.

It gets really hard to look yourself in the eye if you keep bombing out on commitments to yourself.

The good news is that learning to keep promises to yourself has huge value for boosting self-confidence, productivity and happiness.

Learning to be accountable means you start to trust yourself. Each and every commitment you keep to yourself builds your self-esteem and faith in your ability to deliver. You learn to consistently do what you say you will.

Developing this sense of integrity will start to radiate into your relationships with the wider world. When you trust yourself, others will trust you more. You’ll find it easier to be honest with the world and call things as you see them.

Finally, you’ll be more productive and focused as you follow through on your most important commitments.

Over to you – Making and keeping promises

If you’d like to start keeping promises to yourself, start today. I started out making one promise per day and sticking to it about a month ago. Some key lessons I’ve learned are:

1. Make promises you can keep – be realistic in your daily commitment
2. Make it your number 1 priority – don’t let anything get in the way
3. Be specific – make your promise clear – I will go for a 30 minute run today
4. Write down your promise – keep it somewhere visible at home and at work
5. Chart your success – keep track of your daily success on a star chart somewhere you see regularly
6. Reward success – how will you celebrate keeping a week of promises?

I’ve found a huge boost in my personal well-being, confidence and happiness comes from keeping personal promises – I hope you’ll find the same.

Please leave a comment and share how you keep promises to yourself.

Brilliant Ideas

Ralph J-P at Potential2Success on how to keep promises to yourself

Steven Covey on keeping promises and New Year’s Resolutions

Photo credit : (Flickr Creative Commons)

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How to Kick your Bad Habit for Good

Reading Time: 3 minutes and 12 seconds

Career change, new career, work that matters, work that you love, happiness

Good habits

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Are you ready to shake off your bad habits for good?

The final part of the mental spring clean is all about habits.  Bad habits can cost us a huge amount of happiness, time, self-esteem and money.  Good habits can make our life joyful, peaceful and successful.

Habits are our subconscious behaviour patterns that we act out, often without thinking.

Habits develop as a way for us to deal with the immense complexity of everyday living. They are mental shortcuts that we adopt to make our life simpler.

For example, almost everyone develops a habit of locking their house on the way out. We perform this complex task several times on most days without even thinking.  I’ve had a few OCD moments where I thought I’d left the front door open, yet on returning it was locked.  That habit is pretty much ingrained.

To end the Spring Clean with a bang, I’m challenging myself and you too.

You’ll stop one of your bad habits, or create a new virtuous one.

I’d love to get 100 of us to experiment and make a lasting life change, so please do leave a comment and take part.

The first step is to understand our habits:

  • Think about the bad habits you have.  Which one has the most serious impact on your life?  How much is this habit costing you?
  • Now, think about what habits you’d like to bring into your life.  Which new habit would have the biggest impact on your happiness and success?
  • Now pick one of these habits, either bad or good, and set a goal to remove it from your life, or create it over the next month.

I’ve selected wasting time surfing the internet as my bad habit and I want to stamp it out for good.

We’ll use a powerful 5 step model for change. I’ll use my challenge as the example:

Step 1: Contemplation. We have to understand the benefits of making the change, and deal with any negatives.

Some of the key questions to answer at this stage are:

  • What is your motivation for wanting to change / create this habit?
  • What are some of the benefits of changing?
  • What may be holding you back from changing?

In my case, I will free up an hour or two a day for the things I really want to do, be more productive and feel happier.  I’m held by from change by pure inbred habit.

Step 2: Preparation. This is where we make our plan for successfully introducing the new habit.  Good preparation is vital to success and some of the key things to do include:

  • Find someone to hold us accountable. I will happily hold you accountable – please just ask.
  • Research as much as you can about the habit you want to change – I’ve spent time researching time management techniques and how to beat an internet habit.
  • Create a clear plan for change and design a process for monitoring and rewarding progress. I will reward myself every day that I’m successful by using the time I’ve freed up to read for 20 minutes.
  • Design contingency plans for “falling off the wagon” and prepare yourself for this happening.

These first two steps may take a few days to a week to complete properly.

Step 3: Taking action. This is where the rubber hits the road. Ingraining a new habit can take several months to achieve and will almost inevitably involve ups and downs along the path.

This step will need you to reward your success and forgive yourself for slip-ups.  Be kind and fair to yourself.

Step 4: Maintenance. Once you’ve taken action successfully, you’ll start to see the fruits of your labour.

The key to maintenance is to find ways to avoid being tempted to relapse.  I might try turning off my wireless network during the mornings to take away any temptation to surf.

Step 5: Relapse. Old habits die hard.  Relapse is a normal and inevitable part of changing a habit. The key to moving through a relapse is to understand the reason for falling down, and to work out the best way to avoid a repeat.

Remembering that almost everyone who has successfully made a change has been through this process can be helpful in forgiving yourself. Once you’ve understood the relapse, it is best to go back to the preparation phase and “get back on the horse”.

Over to you

We all have bad habits we’d like to kick or good ones we have been meaning to introduce.  Please play along at home and pick one to take on over the next month.

Please leave me a comment and let me know what habit you are working on and what difference it will make to your life.

That concludes the Mental Spring Clean!  We’ve looked at Changing the Story we tell the world, the Games we play and how to win them, Beating the Gremlins in our head and changing habits.  I hope you’ve dusted down your attic and found some old gems.

Next up on Less Ordinary Living: Why Work Matters.

Photo credit: Kevindooley on Flickr Creative Commons

Secret Games We Play and How to Win Them

Reading Time: 2 minutes and 37 seconds

Part 2 of the mental spring clean – click here to subscribe and get every instalment delivered fresh to your inbox

We all have a deep-seated craving for attention.

career coaching, career counseling, find work you love

Games People Play

Research shows that children who are not given regular attention are much more likely to suffer disease and depression.

Psychiatrist Eric Berne, author of Games People Play, looked at how we interact with the people around us.  He concluded that humans need “stroking” through regular attention to avoid emotional deprivation.

We need validation from others to bolster our sense of self.

Every time we interact with other people, we undertake a transaction. The simple act of saying “good morning” or “how are you” to a colleague or neighbour gives both participants a nice stroke.  We feel noticed, validated, part of a bigger whole.

We all become experts at getting strokes from others.  One way to do this is to learn games. Games are a set pattern of behaviour that we use to get attention from the world around us.  When we play games, we get noticed.

Games often serve a dual purpose, helping to confirm our story about the world.  The games we play reinforce our beliefs about our place in the bigger picture.

There are two main types of game – negative and positive.

Negative games

Many games we play seek negative attention (hey some attention is better than none). Here is a common game called “Kick Me” to demonstrate:

How it is played: The player adopts a social manner that is extremely defensive and paranoid. This is the equivalent of putting up a sign saying “Please don’t kick me”

What happens: The temptation to kick this person is too great and the world queues up to take turns.

The pay-off: The player gets stroked – however this is through plenty of negative attention.

The side-effect: The player’s story that the world is out to get me is reinforced. Every time they are kicked, the story gets stronger.

Our need for attention is so strong that we’d rather be kicked by the world than be ignored. We can play some crazy games with really negative outcomes.  Often these negative games can feel like a doom loop.  These negative games reduce our confidence and enjoyment of life.

As part of my mental spring-cleaning, I’m looking for games I play that seek negative attention.  Looking back on the past, I think I may have played “Kick me” on occasion, particularly in work interactions with people more senior than me.   That game is well and truly consigned to the dustbin of history!

Positive games

Another side to the mental spring-cleaning is to look for games that seek positive attention and reinforce positive stories about the world.

These games tend to have an amazing pay-off for all players – yet sometimes we forget to play them.

Here is the game “Happy to Help” to demonstrate:

How it is played: The player is constantly helpful and positive to the world around them.

What happens: People are grateful for the player’s help and admire their attitude.

The pay-off: People respond with positive attention and praise for the player’s actions.

The side-effect: The player’s story that the world is full of positive wonderful people is reinforced.

I love this game and play it as much as possible.  It can be played with everyone you meet and costs nothing. This game feeds the need for attention in a hugely positive way.  It brings us the stroking we need and makes the world a better place.

Other positive games include “Gratitude”, “People are amazing”, “We can do it” and “You’re the best”.

Choosing to play positive games and kicking out negative ones increases self-confidence, happiness and success in life….

Over to you

As you continue your mental spring clean, ask yourself:

  • What do you do to seek attention from others?
  • What happens as a result?
  • What kind of attention do you get?
  • What are the side effects?

Figure out the games you are playing and the positive and negative consequences.  Try to stop playing the games that you don’t enjoy and play more of the ones that feel good.


Eric Byrne’s website

Wikipedia links to Games People Play and Transactional Analysis

Games People Play – the classic performed by Jerry Lee Lewis

Photo by Miss Turner

Spring Clean your Mind

Reading time: 2 minutes and 49 seconds

Career coaching, career counseling, find work you love, do what you love

Spring Clean your Mind

A five part series to find clarity, focus and the energy to be your extraordinary.  Click here to subscribe and have every post delivered fresh to your inbox!

Spring is in the air!  Nature is waking up.  The earth is blooming with fresh buds, blossom on the trees, a whiff of hope in the air.

Spring is a time of renewal, new life, new possibilities, new hope, new beginnings, fresh thinking.  It’s a time to emerge from the shadows of hibernation, shake off the lethargy and face the future with joy.

An important tradition at this time of year is spring cleaning.  This is the ritual of cleaning house, sprucing up our dwelling, clearing away the clutter.  We cast off the baggage we’ve picked up over the winter.

This year, I’m planning to take the opportunity to spring clean my mind.  I want to sort through some of the dusty old boxes I’ve been storing in my mental attic.  I’m pretty sure that there are some hidden treasures I can polish up and enjoy.  I also know that there is a lot of junk up there that I no longer want to hump around with me.

My Mental Spring Clean will cover four areas:


We all spend a huge amount of time and energy creating stories about our identity.  We tell the outside world all about ourselves – what we do, our social status, how we interact with others, our expectations from the world around us.

We also tell ourselves stories about who we think we are.  I know that one story I was telling myself was that I had to do everything myself because there is no-one out there who would want to collaborate with me.  Since I recognized this story and started to change it, I’ve found that suddenly people are starting to want to get involved with my projects.  A simple change of story and led to a big difference.

Our stories are usually based on some simple facts, however we choose how to weave these facts together.  We also have the choice of which facts to select in creating the story.  Understanding the power of our personal narrative and how we communicate it can hugely change our lives for the better.  Change our story and we change our life.


The psychiatrist Eric Byrne wrote the seminal book Games People Play in 1964.  He identified the human need for attention and the need to fill the unstructured void of time.  Byrne identified that human interaction is based on conversations and analyzed these transactions in more detail.

He found that almost everyone plays games to get attention from others.  Often we don’t realize what we are doing.  Some of the games Byrne talks about include “See what you made me do”, “Ain’t it awful”, “If it weren’t for them” and “Stupid”.  Any of these sound familiar to you?

I know that I’ve spent most of my life playing “Just good enough”.  In this game, I try just hard enough to get the result I want without standing out from the crowd by being the best.  It is a game to keep me safe from unwanted attention, yet it also stops me from taking risks, really going for it, or feeling fulfilled.

In this mental spring clean, we can assess the games we are playing, figure out which ones are helpful and which ones are holding us back.

Gremlins / The voice in my head

This one is an old chestnut.  I have that horrible voice in my head that tells me;  “you’re not good enough, you can’t do that”, “who would listen to someone like you anyway”, “get over yourself, you’re no-one”.

These gremlins are powerful forces.  Typically we created them in our childhood to protect us from a situation that would have been detrimental.  Perhaps to overcome a fear of being embarrassed, we created a gremlin that stopped us answering questions in class.  The gremlin was there to keep us safe.

Often, this voice in our head has long since stopped being useful.  It stops us from taking action and being our best self with the old warnings.  In this mental spring clean, we’ll look at how to gracefully retire some of these gremlins and free ourselves to be whatever we want to be.


As children, we sponge up huge amounts from the world around us.  We learn routines about how to live our lives.  We pick up habits about how to behave from our parents, peers and everyone we meet.

Habits can be extremely positive, like a regular exercise routine, the process we use to keep ourselves organised or taking 10 minutes each morning to plan our day.  They can also be unconstructive – procrastinating, avoiding using the telephone when we know we should, drinking to relieve stress.

To some extent, we are what we do, and these habits become a large part of our identity.  We can understand more about how habits form, identify which habits to change and apply some of the rules of change to create positive new habits.

Get Cleaning

This Mental Spring Clean will look at each area in more detail and give practical advice on how to change for the better.  I’m planning to use the journey to create a mind that feels shiny, fresh and new  – ready to face the renewal of spring.  Please join me and enjoy some mental sorting, dusting, cleaning and polishing.  Let the Mental Spring Clean begin.

How to Keep Going

Reading time: 3 minutes and 23 seconds

career change, career coaching, find work you love, do what you love, find your passion, find your vocation

Keep Climbing Life's Mountain

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You catch yourself staring out of the window daydreaming.

What challenges are you thinking about?  Finding work that feels worthwhile?  A happier life?  An exciting project?  A big life change?  Finding love?  Getting fit?  More balance? Turning your passion into a living?

Daydreaming means Thinking Big about the future – then we need to take actions to make that dream a reality.  Getting going is tough, keeping up the momentum is even tougher.  I’m sharing six powerful ways to keep going once you commit to a big project and make your dream into a reality.

Eighteen months ago I was daydreaming about making a living working for myself as a professional career coach.  The vision was exciting.  When the dream became a reality, everything changed.

Suddenly I was faced with a big mountain to climb.  I felt a combination of intense excitement mixed with deep nausea.  I was climbing my own Mount Everest – what an amazing undertaking.  Looking up at the top, I saw the sun glinting on the mountain top, a beautiful peaceful place.  I knew that I had to get there.

Getting started wasn’t easy, and in the end I just had to cross my fingers toes and everything else and just go for it.   As several of you pointed out, the challenge is how to keep going.

Once the novelty wore off, I sometimes found myself slogging through the foothills.  After weeks of hard work, the peak only appeared a little closer, and my starting point teasingly close.  The temptation to call in the rescue team and go home teased me.  No harm, no foul.

I’ve learned a lot about how to keep going during the last 18 months. It has been a steep ascent, with some rocky patches.  Yet there have been some breathtaking vistas and milestones that have kept me striding slowly forward one step at a time.  On reflection, here are six big lessons I’ve learned about how to take on any or challenge and keep going:

  1. Keep the dream alive – I’ve kept that glinting ray of light at the top of the mountain burning bright in my mind.  My motivation is to make a living helping others find satisfaction, peace and happiness through meaningful work.  When the going gets tough, remembering this re-energizes me and keeps me going.
  2. Break up the journey – when I started out, the mountain looked huge.  I set up some intermediary targets along the way.  Creating this blog was one of the legs on my journey.  These camps on the mountain provide short-term objectives – to make it to the next station.  Breaking up my dream into achievable chunks makes it seem realistic.
  3. Get support – no one in their right mind would climb a huge mountain alone.  I’ve assembled a great support team of supporters, mentors, advisers, collaborators to help me on the climb.  They carry my pack for me when the going gets tough, share their oxygen when the air is thin, give me a pep talk when I’m despairing.  Without this team, I know I’d have no chance.
  4. Stop and enjoy the view – at first I often saw the climb as an endless trudge without end.  I felt tired and drained.  I’ve learned that to stay motivated I need to enjoy every step of the journey.  I try to do things that I love as much as possible (still have to do the admin though!).  I regularly stop and enjoy the view along the way – looking back on what how far I’ve come and reflecting on how the world has changed already.  Enjoying the climb makes it worth continuing.
  5. Prepare for setbacks – Setbacks are inevitable on the climb.  I’ve had my fair share of challenges – workshops with no attendees, prospects who aren’t interested.  Now I think ahead to try and see what pitfalls may be ahead and try to plot my path to avoid these.  I also have learned to prepare myself mentally for these moments and to find the good or opportunity in them.  The setbacks don’t stop me in my tracks and bring the doubt that they used to.  I can reflect, find the lesson and move on up the hill.
  6. Be flexible – there are many routes to reach the top of most mountains and they may be more or less difficult depending on the conditions.  I’ve realised that doggedly following the planned path doesn’t always work.  I’m more flexible and open to different directions as long as they keep me moving toward the summit.

So where am I on the mountain now?  I’ve helped lots of people to find work that they love and am making a living doing work I love.  The summit of the mountain is much closer than base camp now.

After all the climbing I’ve done so far, I’m starting to become a life mountaineer.  I’ve got through many days when I didn’t know if I could keep going.  I know that I’ll reach the summit now.

Are you a life mountaineer?  How do you keep going?  What motivates you to climb your mountain?  How do you maintain progress when the going gets tough?