The Art of Winning Blog

Thursday, November 1, 2012

How to Keep Your Promises



Four Stages of Keeping a Promise to Yourself

Review notes from October 2012 Ninja Philosophy

A promise to yourself is a real goal that you have committed to in your own heart. It is not a mere desire (you are not committed), a promise for someone else (you don’t own it), or a forced promise (you are only doing it to avoid being punished). A promise to yourself is something you want for yourself.

The process of bringing that promise to stable fruition is…
  1. Ignorance (unconscious incompetence). You know what you want, but you have no idea how to do it or pursue it. You need to faith and belief in yourself to continue, and it is basically up to luck for you to progress. You have to keep throwing yourself at the problem looking for something that might work.
  2. Vision (conscious incompetence). You know how to accomplish the goal, but you can’t implement the plan. You know what to do, but you can’t do it. This is the emotional low point of the process, marked by frustration and sometimes anger. Convert that emotional energy into motivation. You need allies and teachers to make progress, people who can help you through the growth process.
  3. Skill (conscious competence). You can do it. You can bring yourself to it and make progress. This is the emotional highpoint of the process, because it feels good to conquer. However, you are not done yet – you don’t own it in a sustainable way. Take the joy of the accomplishment, celebrate it, but keep going. Right now success requires willpower, and willpower won’t last forever. Take the energy while you have it and keep practicing.
  4. Conditioning (unconscious competence). Finally, at this fourth stage, you are the new you. You don’t have to exert effort any more to accomplish the goal. It is a natural part of you. You have become the result. Now the new truth is stable and you can build upon it to move forward.


These four stages help you figure out where you are in your life. While most of us have aspects of all stages, we also tend to have one pattern that keeps repeating. By engaging in a committed practice, like martial arts, we can analyze which patterns we repeat. In this way we can break through cherished limitations and become more of who we want to be.

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