You finish having a wonderful chat with a long lost friend, and she suggests you both meet up for coffee or tea. Feeling kind, you say yes and set up a date. The date of your appointment arrives and you don’t think you can commit to your promise. A ton of work comes up to swamp you, other social obligations call, or you work it over in your mind that you really don’t want to see this person after all. Feeling shitty, you cancel on her. But she’s not the only person you’ve cancelled on for one reason or another. You find yourself doing this to people over again and again and again. You are a chronic plan-breaker.
I am a chronic plan-breaker, and it makes me feel like the lowest scum on the earth when I have to make up an excuse for why I can’t make this or that appointment. This is more than just being a heartless jerk, however. With some deep digging, I’ve come to realize the real reasons why I keep making plans and then breaking them:
1. I like to say yes to please people.
Whenever a friend or anyone else asks me to do something, I instantly jump in and reply with a yes. I don’t think things through honestly in terms of my availability or mood. I receive pleasure from making people feel good so I try to do so whenever I can.
However, this dangerous habit of saying yes is hurtful and disrespectful to people. I want to live by the mantra of doing no harm to anyone, but I fail in this regard when I use people to give myself a small boost of happiness to cover up real dark issues concerning my mental state.
2. I act with my emotions and not my head.
I’m a very emotional person and if I’m not careful, I find myself acting according to my emotions and not my head. This reflects immaturity on my part and a low mental state. I get angrily easily, fall in love too quickly, get too excited and enthusiastic about good things, and feel other people’s pain and sadness too broadly.
It’s not that I’m not supposed to feel. Of course not. However, when my emotions get in the way of being a better person or end up hurting or disrespecting others, I need to keep them under control.
3. My mood constantly changes
I’m pretty much convinced I suffer from cyclothymic disorder. Cyclothymic disorder is a mild form of bipolar disorder with low-grade high periods (mania) and fleeting periods (less than two weeks) of depression as seen in a major depressive episode (WebMd).
One week I’m happy and invincible, the next I’m depressed and suicidal, and so on like some terrible cycle. When I’m in my hypomania days, I love making as much plans as possible because I want to feel even better about making other people feel good. However, if my appointments fall on days when I’m depressed and unmotivated, I don’t want to go out. As a result, I cancel my plans because I’d much rather be alone. Sometimes the thought of being with other people on these days makes me want to roll in a ball under my covers and never come out. If my dates fall on days when I’m upbeat and feeling like I can take over the world, I keep my appointments. Therefore, I cancel and keep my plans according to my mood. Not good.
Whenever you find yourself doing things you’re not proud of, it helps to take some time to think through exactly why you’re behaving this way instead of telling yourself not to do it. Unless you dig deeper into yourself and get to the root of the problem, you’ll eventually keep repeating this awful or hurtful habit. You’ll then end up feeling pretty shitty about yourself and reinforce negative thinking, which makes life miserable. The goal is to be a better person so you can live a better life and make the world a better place overall for everybody else.
So, what can we do about our awful plan-breaking habit since now that we know its root causes?
Here are three things we can do to help us stop making plans we won’t keep.
1. Don’t instantly answer questions about making plans.
This should be a simple one, but with instant messaging and impatience flying around everywhere, it can be easy to respond quickly because we believe that’s what’s expected of us: to act fast. However, resist the urge.
If you’re making plans through text messaging, you can pause to check your calendar and check your motivation. If you’re on the phone or talking to someone in person, be honest and tell them you’ll let them know within a day or two. Also, make sure you do let them know; don’t just leave things up in the air because doing so is rude and disrespectful.
2. Ask yourself these two questions.
First, can you do this? Make sure nothing within your control will come up to interfere like work or domestic duties. Don’t underestimate your workload or overestimate your ability to get things done. Again, be honest with yourself.
Second, do you really want to do this? Check to see if your heart is in it. If you’re feeling half-hearted about the plans, don’t make them because eventually you’ll not want to follow through. You’ll feel like you’ve been asked to climb Mt. Everest. Just honestly tell the person you don’t feel like doing this or that. A simple, “Thanks for the invite, but I’m good or I’ll pass.” Or “I’m good but let’s do something else next time.”
Doing so will give the other person a chance to better know your likes and dislikes and to stop inviting you or making plans for things you’re not interested in.
However, if you’re feeling genuinely and fully committed to the plans, then go ahead and make them.
Now this can be a tricky one for someone like me who suffers from a mood disorder. As I said before, I can feel totally excited and motivated about making plans, and then feel like death when the times comes to following through with them. To get around this, I need to follow rule number one: Don’t act quickly and let my hypomania die down until I’m levelheaded.
If my plans do fall on a day when I’m experiencing depression, I need to be out of the house at least a few hours or more before the meeting time. During a depressive episode, I find it’s a lot harder to leave my room an hour or so before an appointment. Instead, I can be at the park, library, or a café getting some writing done on my laptop before it’s time to meet whomever.
3. Remember the awful feelings you felt and inflicted when you broke previous plans.
Don’t neglect one of the most important functions of the mind: memory. Use your memories to help you become a better person. When you broke plans with a loved one, someone important, a new friend or date, you felt bad because you’re a human being. You also hurt the person on the receiving end of your negligent actions. You don’t want to repeat feeling these negative emotions or cause pain to someone else.
And that’s it! We’ll find that with some people, it’s easier to meet them or keep promises to them as opposed to others.
The key thing is we want to become people who keep their word. Since we’re all adults here and everything.
How about you? How do you stop making plans you don’t plan to keep? Would love to hear your thoughts!
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