Q: I'm conscious I never live up to my word. I'm getting really irritated with myself that I always overpromise and underdeliver. I've made a real effort in the past couple of months to rein in expectations of myself but I'm still struggling to deliver what I said I would. It's largely down to unplanned circumstances like illness but I'm really starting to question my reliability and it's making me quite worried.
A: I suspect you're fooling yourself when you say your unreliability is 'largely down to unplanned circumstances like illness'. When yet again you've found yourself underdelivering on a commitment, I suspect you've grasped gratefully at illness as a way of alleviating your sense of failure and frustration. The more openly you face this characteristic of yours, and the less you look for excuses, the more likely you are to crack it.
The real question you have to answer is this: do you struggle to deliver because your ambition was always unrealistic? Or because, however low the bar, you seem to falter when trying to clear it?
You clearly think it's the former - and I hope it is. If that's the case, you should try doing something extremely simple. Don't commit yourself to any objective until you've written it down in detail. Show it to nobody. Read it the next day. Amend it if you think you've set unrealistically high expectations for yourself. Then print it out - and stick it somewhere where it can be clearly seen.
The chances are that this combination of moderated aim and merciless reminder will do the trick. And once you've pulled it off once, you should begin to shed your self-doubt.
If it doesn't work, you'll know with certainty that your problem can't be explained simply by a tendency to overpromise; harsh but salutary.
Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office? is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: email@example.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.