Is this a familiar scenario? You follow up on every obligation to your boss, or your board chair, or your spouse. But when you vow to do something for yourself, it keeps moving to the bottom of the list.

Promises to others are easy to keep. You want to help. They’re relying on you. You see and feel the disappointment on their faces when you don’t deliver. That’s true whether it’s a work obligation or a promise to your family.

But when you make a promise to yourself, somehow it doesn’t happen. That promise to make time to plan the future stays just that – a promise. That vow to take an hour a week to keep up on best practices in board governance falls by the wayside. Somehow these promises keep being put off. We’ll get to them “when I have time.”

After all, it’s not going to affect anyone else. Or is it?

You may think you’re only disappointing yourself, but what about everyone who relies on you to be at your best? What about all the people whom your newly gained knowledge or deep thinking will help?

That time you spend on self-discovery or professional development are obligations to others, as well as to yourself. It is part of the fabric of our world that what we do for ourselves affects those around us.

Of course, we can resolve to make obligations to our own self-improvement as high a priority as obligations to others. But if this resolution is like most others, by February it will be broken.

Instead, make a more fundamental resolution. Resolve to find the system that will lead you to making that time for self-improvement.

People go where systems lead them.  Great baseball players know that merely resolving to randomize their pitches doesn’t work. But giving themselves a trigger – like pitching a curve ball every time they glance up and see a ‘3’ on the scoreboard clock – they’ve created a system to randomize the pitches.

People go where systems lead them. By creating a system that works for you, you’re creating a condition for success.

  • It may be finding an accountability partner; finding someone whom you respect who will hold you accountable for the promises you make to yourself.
  • It may be finding a trigger that prompts you to take time whenever that trigger occurs – like immediately following a regularly scheduled call.
  • It may be scheduling, far in advance, a series of half-day trips.

Instead of resolving to improve yourself, resolve to create that system that will lead to that self-improvement.

Happy New Year!  May we all go from strength to strength in 2017!

Photo credit: By Desde mes de diciembre – Canal 1 Posadas Misiones, Public Domain,