How to Make and Keep Agreements with Yourself

January 25, 2021

Making and keeping agreements with yourself is an essential life-skill. After all, if you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust, who ya goin’ to call? Spoiler alert: it has nothing to do with discipline.

The difficulty is we are not a single self, but a collection of selves: the outward-facing public-self, the inner private-self, the irritated-self, the loving-self, the scoundrel-self, the hopeless-self, the proud-self, and so on. Each self has its own physiology, psychology, desires, and fears, which represent different expressions of the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of our triune brain. 

Learning how to align your selves to cooperate synergistically is the key to a pleasure-able life. Take, for example, breaking an old habit: You’ve dug yourself into a hole and now want to climb out. Depending on how deep the hole is, it can be tricky, especially when the sides are slicked with pleasure. 

Here are some useful tips and techniques: 

  • Build consensus among your selves rather than bullying with discipline. 
  • Get clear on where you’re headed. Muddled, half-hearted attempts are worse than no attempt at all because they disintegrate and weaken us.
  • Write down your goals clearly and concisely.
  • If it’s a difficult decision, take your selves on a long walk, preferably outdoors in nature, giving voice to the pros and cons, concerns, hopes, and fears of each self. I recommend speaking out loud with feeling to objectively acknowledge each distinct self. Don’t worry, we all hear voices.
  • Discuss your hesitation and conflicts with close friends for perspective and advice. 
  • Once you have buy-in and are clear about your destination, figure out the best way to get there. 
  • Like rock climbing a crack or chimney, getting out of a hole requires leveraging opposing forces as you work your way up the sides. In other words, it requires balancing your desire and surrender (the Sixth Immutable Law of Pleasure).
  • Baby-steps—small micro-goals that can be easily achieved each day—can be very powerful. For example, to give up coffee, you might start with simply becoming more aware each time you reach for a cup; drinking your coffee with both hands like a sacred elixir; extending the interval between cups; drinking only half a cup, or diluting the concentration. 
  • However, sooner or later, once you get to the top of the hole, you’ll have to take a leap of faith to give up the habit for good. 
  • Sometimes it can be interesting to jump with all you’ve got from the start, get a handhold at the top, and pull yourself out. 
  • Most importantly, be kind and respectful to your selves. 

With practice and patience, you will become your own most reliable, trusted ally at which point making and keeping agreements with yourself will become easier and life will be a whole lot more fun.

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