Friday, June 08, 2007

Private Promises

How important is it to keep the promises you make to yourself? If you make the rules, does it matter if you break them as well? Is there any pay-off from keeping private promises, when no one else cares?

As a patchwork coffee quitter, I quit for weeks, sometimes months, then go back 'on it'. Coffee affects me wickedly, gets the brain jumping, the body buzzing, it tastes so goooood...but then there is the after-ache in the muscles and the inability to sleep at night.

So, after a week 'on' I promised myself I'd stop today. At 11am the argument in my head starts up...I'm tired, didn't sleep too good, am definitely going off it this weekend as I'm on retreat, can start tomorrow, one little one won't hurt' etc etc. Then - no, I promised myself. I won't, I said I wouldn't, will feel better if I don't etc etc.

Then at 12pm I feel a little more tired and a little hungry - about the amount hungry that a delicious french-vanilla-iced-coffee-with-a-splash-of-soy-milk-and-one-Splenda would fill nicely before lunch.....and then..... ahh bugger it...

So, post coffee (and a bit jittery) I'm not feeling a lot better although it tasted great. Every sip the true definition of guilty pleasure.

But now I'm annoyed at me for not fulfilling my own promise to myself. I let myself down. I'm guilty. I'm a little bit bad.

At the same time, I justify it - this is silly, stop beating myself up. I made the rule, I can break it. Right? How important is a little coffee anyway?

In the context of learning about my mind and the things that create long term happiness, I'm beginning to think that little promises kept actually do have a long term effect. Every promise kept is like a little pat on the shoulder - it instills confidence in my own willpower, my own ability to control my mind. When I not do fulfil a promise, it endorses an inability, a loss of self-control. Also it gathers the dust which becomes a cloudy premonition of the next time I promise myself something.

So, the remedy? (besides not drinking coffee...). Well, I thought I could make another rule to NOT do something, or I could make a rule to DO something. Something positive, like concentrating on finishing a piece of work, connecting to a friend I haven't thought about for a while, achieving a sense of flow sometime today. Snuffing out the negative with a positive. A positive that can be enacted NOW rather than waiting for the next coffee-nag to come knocking. steps, baby promises. If I can keep baby promises to myself, I anticipate a feeling of accomplishment rather than that niggling feeling of slight self-disappointment by the end of the day. And if I stuff up, I'll just make some more. Easier ones.


Anonymous said...

"When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad, and that is my religion."

Abraham Lincoln

CB said...

In this case "good" and "bad" are completely dependent on my point of view. Which you could argue is always the case, and that 'good' and 'bad' are just what we've been taught since childhood.
I'm not sure if this is right...if we innately know good or bad. I'm sure there is some science to prove it. Regardles, I think that when we THINK we are doing good (for ourselves or others) then there is a corresponding 'high' associated with it.