New Year is traditionally a time for promises to yourself – known as resolutions. It is also traditional that these don’t last very long. But we shouldn’t short-change ourselves like this. If you made a lunch date with someone, would you show up? Of course. Yet when we make commitments to ourselves, we are often much less reliable. Shouldn’t we be as reliable to ourselves?

Breaking Promises: Transactional Analysis

I don’t think we deliberately break these personal promises. It’s more a case that we don’t make them properly in the first place. We make half-promises instead, afraid of making stronger ones that we will then break and feel bad about. All this leaves us with a nagging pain that we ‘should’ be more committed to ourselves, but at the same time not sure how to do this.

Looking at this from a TA perspective, our ‘Controlling Parent’ part wants us to take full control over our life and our ‘Child’ part, worried that it will be overwhelmed, refuses to make any commitments whatsoever.

The solution to this inner battle is to make one simple date with our Child.

  • Take a look in your diary this week and block our 45 minutes to do some exercise, a walk, a swim, whatever you choose.
  • Then ask the Child part if it is ‘ok’ with that date.
  • Suggest that you will happily reschedule this in the event of an emergency or if you really are not in a fit state – that will keep the Parent happy.

Your child will feel better, too, knowing there is a way out and it won’t be bulldozed by the Controlling Parent regardless of how it feels.

Learning to manage your Child is like becoming its own ideal parent: setting goals, but allowing some degree of personal freedom in the event of a genuine emergency.

Bizarrely, once the Child feels there is a choice and that the goal is positive, it will usually happily agree. By understanding your needs and creating a method to renegotiate these promises when needed, you will learn how to listen to opposing views within yourself.

This can give you a substantial boost in your energy in itself.

Keeping Promises: The Key Elements

Highly productive (and often incredibly busy) people find time to look after themselves. Strangely, it is usually people who are not that busy who claim they don’t have enough time to do this.

It’s helpful to think of four dimensions to vitality:

  • Physical (exercise, rest and diet)
  • Mental (reading, learning and intellectual stimulation)
  • Emotional (loving, social and ‘treats’)
  • ‘Evolutional’, sometimes called Spiritual (meditation, retreats, time in nature etc.).

Let these form part of your weekly planning process and plan these activities with the same rigour you would in planning your main activities. Ideally you should spend two hours a week on each of these four dimensions. It is particularly important to spend the full two hours on the dimension you like least, the one you previously always seemed to ‘avoid’.

The Inner Dialogue

There are various ways in which people can talk themselves out of practices like this. Watch out for them in your own internal dialogue.

  • ‘I don’t deserve this.’ This expresses itself especially strongly when working with our most pleasurable dimension. You do deserve it!
  • ‘This isn’t doing any good’. The best response to this is to commit to the method for a fixed time, minimum three weeks. Then decide if it works or not.
  • ‘I haven’t got time.’ This is usually a euphemism for ‘I choose other things in preference to this kind of stuff’. Reframe by considering that you are actually maintaining your most valuable asset: yourself.
  • ‘I don’t like this.’ Find a more pleasurable way of practicing.

I call this Proactive Happiness. It means taking positive action to bring about a state of wellbeing on many levels.

Have a great 2017!

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