I used to be the type to make plans late at night (often after a couple of drinks) while hanging out with friends, to meet and do something the next day that I'd wake up to absolutely NO desire to do. Then I'd spend a few hours hating myself for committing to plans and trying to figure out if and how I could get out of them. Eventually I'd either back out at the last minute, or show up unenthused and with a dull sense of resentment.
Pretty shitty, huh? Luckily I grew out of that tendency, with only minor blips here and there. I try not to make plans after 9pm (or my second drink) anymore, but if I do, I show up (happily).
Here's another habit I've worked on that carries over to following through with commitments I make to others: I make and keep promises to myself. And I've doubled down on this practice in the past couple of years and months. Just this summer alone I've done a running streak (currently on day 75!), two virtual races, the NYC Subway Challenge (running 245 miles from Memorial Day to Labor Day), and finished my first full round of living by the Yamas & Niyamas and blogging about it--all without telling anyone about any of it. I didn't cheat, I didn't cut any corners or skip a day, but no one would know or care if I did because I'm the only one holding myself accountable.
So what's the point of putting in all the time and effort to these accomplishments if no one even knows about them?
Because making and keeping promises to ourselves is paramount in life and to the development of self-respect. When you can trust and rely on yourself, you build confidence. If you keep breaking promises to yourself, in the form of not finishing commitments, not achieving goals, not following through on anything--big or small--it diminishes your self-worth and erodes the possibility of success on the next idea or goal.
There's nothing wrong with a little external accountability and motivation (that's primarily how I make money as a coach!), but it should only be a small part of your drive and overall why.
Our current age of social media puts too much emphasis on external reinforcement and accolades. Some people are doing things just to post about it: traveling somewhere, running a race, volunteering, going to gym, etc., just to claim they did it to their audience. News flash: very few people in that audience actually give a shit what you did. And wanting or expecting them to will only diminish your contentment.
We all struggle with internal motivation, especially right around the middle of our endeavor, whatever it is. How do we keep ourselves going if there's no outside pressure to do so? The same way we get better at doing anything else: practice. You can practice following through on minor commitments to yourself every day. Challenge yourself with something that is small but holds temptation not to follow through on, like not hitting snooze in the morning, not eating dessert, doing 20 minutes of daily exercise, meditating for 10 minutes, not swearing or looking at Instagram. Winning small challenges like these every day builds confidence and trust with yourself, so that when the stakes are higher--like finishing a 100+ day run streak, or some other major behavioral change, you can rely heavily on yourself to carry you through, and use those outside accountability factors for an extra boost only when you need it. It's crucial to switch this reliance because the external motivators won't always be there, but you will be. And in the end, no one will care that you didn't follow through on something more than you will.
It feels SO good to keep a promise to oneself. It builds strength to be able to keep the next one and the next one. Imagine if you built up so much self-reliance and self-love that you were the most important person to maintain respect for?
That's integrity. And a topic for another post.