Not long after my fortieth birthday this November, I wrote a personal contract with myself. I signed it to make it official, and Joe did the same as my witness. I’ve been referencing it every day since. This contract has served as a filter and a guide whenever I feel lost in a particular area of my life. It’s been so helpful to me that I wanted to share more about it with you all. Perhaps writing a personal contract with yourself is something you’ll feel pulled to do as we move toward the new year.
One thing I’ve noticed about myself is that the way I want my life to look is not always aligned with my habits and how I respond to emotions or situations. There’s a good reason for this—our subconscious mind is really powerful, and our intentional thoughts and actions don’t have the inherent strength of our subconscious. It’s frustrating to have the best of intentions and find yourself disappointed by decisions you make, over and over again. This frustration was one of the main reasons I wanted to write a contract with myself: to provide a strong sense of transparency that helps guide my everyday decisions in the direction I want my life to go.
Over the past six months, I’ve taken a hard look at the role I play in guiding my own life. I’ve been honest with myself about how I get in my way; I’ve realized it’s not only external factors that hold me back. This process of confrontation has built my self-esteem in a way I didn’t know was possible, and my personal contract was born out of it.
My personal contract is a reflection of all the things I want in life. It’s distilled down to clear priorities that remind me to build the habits that will lead me where I want to go. The kind of clarity it provides helps me make intentional choices throughout my day that are beneficial to the life I want to create. It helps me prioritize things I know will have a payoff and are worth pursuing.
I’ve always been gung-ho about personal development, but my commitment to various practices has ebbed and flowed over time. Writing a contract with myself has made personal development both sustainable and approachable. It’s very different than the black-and-white perfectionistic way of being in the world.
The contract is about creating an external version of me to reference whenever I’m feeling small or scared. It’s designed to build my confidence and my ability to do the things I want to do in life.
I wrote the contract at a time when I felt confident and believed in myself. The language in it is empowering. It’s about persevering and feeling capable, both when circumstances are good and when they’re less than ideal. It’s about reminding myself I can do hard, scary things AND deal with the discomfort that comes in the aftermath. The contract is about creating an external version of me to reference whenever I’m feeling small or scared. It’s designed to build my confidence and my ability to do the things I want to do in life.
My contract starts with a personal mission statement and an overview of the sections I’m including. Then it goes into *how* I will make things happen in different areas of my life. In each section, I include the intentions I’m setting for myself as well as some examples of how those intentions should play out in my everyday life. While I won’t share the entirety of the contract here, I will share a brief overview of each section below, to give you a sense of what my contract looks like.
A good contract provides clarity and ensures every involved party is getting what they want out of an agreement. In the case of a personal contract, it provides the perspective that you can handle what life throws your way, make informed choices, and live in an intention-based way. A personal contract offers the opposite of overwhelm. It instills in you the knowledge that you’re capable of chipping away at whatever obstacle comes before you.
A personal contract offers the opposite of overwhelm. It instills in you the knowledge that you’re capable of chipping away at whatever obstacle comes before you.
Get specific, both about the new areas of your life you want to cultivate and the areas you want to approach differently than you have before. Reflect on things that have gone wrong in the past and think through how you could tackle them differently in the future, so you have a strong reference point for scenarios you may encounter again. After all, we all know life is hard sometimes. What’s in between the life you want and where you are now is a whole lot of things you don’t want to do.
It’s also important that the contract is not wishful thinking; that it isn’t a blindly optimistic hope for your future. Mine is optimistic about the long term and pessimistic about the short term. It is also achievable. It includes things I know I can do. It’s not a source of shame or pressure to measure up (see worthiness clause above).
In the seven weeks I’ve used the contract to plan my days and weeks, I have been able to get more specific about certain things within it. Don’t be afraid to refine and change things as you learn more about a situation or even yourself.
BY Kate Arends - December 27, 2023
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.