Keeping Commitments to Yourself

broken commitmentLast week, I received a call from a former client (let’s call him Vince), inviting me to lunch. When we sat down, I asked him how he’d been doing in the year or so since we last worked together.

Vince told me, “I’ve been doing well, but I’ve got some challenges. In particular, there are some activities I know I must do in order to achieve my goals, but I’m just not doing them. I’m hoping you can help me push through my own resistance…to myself!”

Vince told me about three specific business-building activities he’d been avoiding. They were simple things, but they were outside his comfort zone. He was convinced that if he were to do these activities on a regular basis, he would see substantial growth in his business and income. What he said next, really struck me…

“I’ve tried to get myself to do these things,” Vince said. “I know they’re essential to my growth. But I can’t make myself. I’m impeccable with my promises to my clients and others—when I tell someone I’ll do something, I do it. But it’s so much easier to break promises to myself.”

Vince isn’t alone. In 14 years of coaching, I’ve seen this over and over again. People who would never break a commitment to a client, a family member, or friend, have a hard time keeping commitments to themselves. Anyone who has ever resolved to lose weight, exercise more, or change any kind of habit, knows what I’m talking about.

So why is this—why do people so often fall down when it comes to keeping their commitments to themselves? I believe there are two reasons:

  • First, the commitments we make to ourselves frequently involve changing some kind of habit, whether it be adding a new habit or getting rid of an old one. We all run our lives by habits, and changing habits is tough.
  • Secondly, it’s easier to break a promise to ourselves, because our accountability is “self-contained.” When we break a promise to ourselves, we may feel we let ourselves down. We can also procrastinate or rationalize our behavior. But when we break a promise to someone else, we let two people down: the other person and ourselves. Plus, we may feel embarrassed and judged or branded as a flake or untrustworthy. What we think about ourselves privately is one thing, but most people dread being seen negatively by others.

So back to my client, Vince. Over lunch, he proposed a 60-day accountability challenge: he would commit to his three activities on a regular basis for the next two months and report to me by text message on a daily basis. And should he fail to keep to his word, he would suffer some penalties. Let’s just say Vince put his money where his mouth was. So far, so good—he’s been texting me every day and keeping to his commitments.

When it comes to making commitments or taking action, it can really help to have an accountability system or partner to keep you to your word. Some people think that they should be able to will themselves to do anything they want and that anything else is a sign of weakness. I look at it differently: We humans are wired to cooperate and draw strength and support from each other. When we make a commitment to someone else, it strengthens our resolve, not to mention the chances that we’ll keep to our word. So, in my book, finding an accountability partner is a sign of strength.

Part of the value coaching provides is having a regular accountability relationship. Every day, I coach people to do the things they wouldn’t do on their own. And guess what? 95 percent of the time, they do what they promise. Such is the power of accountability.

There are 4 essential activities every professional must focus on in order to break through to a greater level of success and income. To find out more, visit and sign up my free report, The Business Breakthrough Primer.