Find out how you can create a self-contract and make the greatest commitment of all — to yourself. 

What makes the difference between those who succeed and those who put their dreams into the too-hard basket? There's plenty of talk out there about goal setting but while goals are important, it's the commitment that you make to yourself that's the key to long-term success. 

What's a self-contract?

While it might sound complicated, a self-contract is simply a commitment you make to yourself about something you want to achieve. The difference between this and a regular goal setting exercise is that a self-contract is all about the commitment you're making to yourself, rather than the external thing you're trying to achieve. After all, the destination isn't what's important, it's who we become along the journey that's the real achievement. 

Expect the unexpected

One key element to a self-contract is building in contingency plans for when things don't go as expected. There's a reason why not everyone has a formal qualification, can shred sick guitar solos, or run multi-million dollar companies — and that's because it's not always easy. Everyone faces challenges that get in the way of what they want to achieve. Make sure you build them into your self-contract and figure out a way to minimise them before they happen. That way if you do face that obstacle along the way you'll be better prepared to deal with it if and when the time arises. 

No excuses

Everyone has their favourite excuses we use to justify why we can't do something — I don't have time, I'm too tired, I'll do it tomorrow. Think about the excuses you generally use and then figure out how you can challenge them to make your excuse invalid. For example, a common excuse is we all use is I'm too busy. The challenge to this could be that everyone has the same amount of hours in the day, however you may need to make some sacrifices, re-organise your schedule, and block out dedicated time in order to achieve your goals. 

Think of the positives

When you're writing down your self-contract, make sure to focus on why this is important to you. Getting a qualification is great, but why do you want it? What will it mean to you? How will it change your life? How will you feel once you've achieved it? Taking the time to consider your why and incorporating this into your self-contract will help make it that much more powerful and motivating. 

Take responsibility

The other key difference between goal setting and a self-contract is taking personal responsibility. Goal setting tends to involve practical steps that take you towards your goal. However in a self-contract it's more about taking stock of yourself and taking personal responsibility to commit to actually doing what you say you want to do. That means owning your actions and decisions and not using life, others, or your own excuses to let yourself off the hook.

Sign on the dotted line

There's something really powerful about writing down your self-contract. It takes it from something you've promised yourself in your head to something concrete that you can refer back to if you face a challenge. Once you've written your self-contract down the next step is to sign and date it. Now there's really no turning back — you've created a legally binding contract! Not really, but if you act like you're taking it seriously your mind will take it seriously as well, and you'll be more likely to stick to your plan. 

Check it out

Once you've created your self-contract make sure you put it somewhere you will see it often. Your desk or study space is a great place as it will act as a constant reminder of what you're trying to achieve and why it's important to you. Then, if you find yourself tempted to take a night off, you can re-read your commitment to yourself and get those motivation levels back up to where they were when you started. 

Now it's your turn 

Here's an example of a simple self-contract that you can adjust for your own personal, career, or education aspirations. 

I {insert name} commit to completing my {course} by {date}. This qualification is important to me because I want to have a career that I love and be able to spend more time with my daughter. Balancing my studies with my work and family commitments will be challenging but I will remember to ask for help from my friends and family and to access my student support services if I need help. I won't let one bad day be an excuse to give up — tomorrow is a new opportunity for me to get back on track. I commit to this self-contract because I believe I am worth achieving great things. 

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