Two weeks ago, I made a pinky-promise with a friend at work. She and I had each just started a new work-out regimen, and we were facing the weeks of being sore and tired and not seeing results as quickly as the contestants on reality shows. Those weeks can be so demoralizing; it’s so easy to say, “Well, I did some stuff yesterday. Today I’ll give it a miss.” But I didn’t want to do that. I’ve been in shape before, and I knew that I could do it again – I just needed the motivation to get through those first six weeks. I just needed a way to stick with it until it gets easier.
Since my coworker felt the same about her regimen, she was happy to enter into an agreement in which we would each do daily whatever our individual regimen told us to do (barring illness or injury). We have insufficient funds to attach any kind monetary punishment – or inducement – to our agreement, so we decided to proceed on the honour system, and to reward our efforts in six weeks with a posh-coffee-drink. We sealed the deal with a pinky-promise. We promised.
I diligently kept my promise, motivated each morning and evening by the fact that I had told a third party I would do something. I was sore, but of course I survived that. I was tired, but I’ve been tired before. It was like other attempts at getting in shape, except that, even in just two weeks, I have actually been getting in shape. I’ve been ecstatic as my clothes started fitting better, and my muscles began doing things they used to do long ago. It’s been easier to get up early, and to keep the energy going for the after-work sessions. This promise thing was actually working, way better than I had anticipated it would.
So why was I feeling so down?
At first, I thought it was just the off-shoot of being tired and sore. I thought it might be some branch of laziness that resented my motivation, or some out-of-shape demon that didn’t want to be exorcised (get it? Exorcise/exercise … never mind). Then I thought about other possibilities – has it been difficult at work? No. troubles with any relationships? No. Feeling overwhelmed or sick? Not at all. In fact, life has never been better. So what was going on?
I finally realized that I was not “down”. I was “serious”.
This pinky-promise thing was a word I had given to a third party, and, for whatever reason, my mind and body were taking it far more seriously than promises I’ve made to myself. When I promise myself, well, it’s just easy to make excuses, to tell myself that it’s too hard, to think that I’m “nurturing” myself by giving myself repeated breaks and easements. When I promise myself, I think I’m not letting anyone down if I break that promise. When I promise someone else, though, I don’t do that. I do the thing I said I would do – all that hard work.
I’ve been feeling serious, not because anything was wrong at all, but because I was actually taking it seriously.
And the only sad thing about that is, why didn’t I ever make this pinky-promise to myself? Why wasn’t I important enough to me to keep the promises I made to me? Maybe my friend and I can make another agreement – to see ourselves the way we see others, to think we’re as important as others are. That would be an excellent six-week goal.
I’ll start right now.