Developing a 'Self Contract'

Posted on 6th June, 2022

I often encourage people to develop a Self Contract, which initiatlly can seem a bit strange to them. 'Why would I want to have a contract with myself?'

I've found that often we don't really treat ourselves well or fairly - we may apply 'rules' to ourselves that we would never think of applying to others. We may treat ourselves without the respect we offer to others.

Obviously, this doesn't apply to everyone! There are plenty of folk out there with a very well developed sense of entitlement and importance. However, even they might benefit from reevaluating how they see and treat themselves.

The starting point for a Self Contract is to begin brainstorming our needs.

I suggest that people get a new notebook and on page one write, 'For me to be well, happy and fulfilled I need ...'

Over the period of a week or so, pull out the book when you have a chance and jot down whatever comes into your head. It might be 'an infinite supply of chocolate', or 'to be five inches taller'. Don't critique at this stage, just put it down. It's food for thought, even if it gets ditched further along.

It's important to spend time thinking about the different aspects of our lives: physical (diet, rest etc.), social, career, sexual, relational, recreational etc.  This isn't a test that we've got to get right, just an opportunity to reflect on what we need from our environment and from ourselves.

For some clients, I've asked them to think of themselves as a plant (yes, truly!). 'How would you tend this plant? What type of soil and environment does it need to thrive and grow?'

From the ideas that come up we can begin to pull out some things that we are willing to make an initial commitment to.

My own Self Contract includes some stuff on exercise, meditation and a few other commitments I make to myself. If these begin to slip, I know something is going awry. with me. Perhaps because of stress, work-load or other external demands.

The initial commitments don't need to be iron-clad rules. To begin with they can be tentative. Something to trial for a few weeks, to see how they fit and then review.

One word of advice - don't take on too many changes / commitments in one go and make them bite-sized and manageable. They might involve SMART goals (more about these in a future blog entry).

When reviewing, ask yourself whether these commitments are helping, whether they are sustainable/reasonable etc., or whether they need to be modified or ditched.

Eventually, you'll come up with some core commitments that are important in caring for yourself and maintaining your wellbeing.

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