Do you ever say you’re going to do something and then “I’ll do it later” becomes never getting around to it? If you’re like most people, you do this, in small ways, throughout your life and while often unintentional–it comes at a surprisingly significant cost.
- You tell somebody you’ll call them later and then you don’t.
- You put an item on your daily to-do list and don’t complete it.
- You commit to doing something for someone else and don’t follow through.
All of this might seem harmless done once or twice. But little things done repeatedly have a big impact on our lives. Every time you don’t honor a commitment that you’ve made to yourself or someone else, it’s a message to your subconscious mind, and to the world around you, that what you say can’t be trusted, that your word doesn’t mean much. It prevents you from achieving your goals and eventually causes people not to trust you and to think you’re full of shit. And just as bad–you lose respect for yourself.
Authority Over Ego
On the other hand, honoring your commitments gives the words that come out of your mouth power. They actually mean something. Honoring your commitments can simply be defined as follows:
You do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it. Despite its simplicity, there’s great power to be found in honoring your commitments.
It’s important to establish your word as law unto yourself and others, because that in itself becomes an affirmation of your ever-developing authority over ego. – Stuart Wilde
Like anything else in life, this takes practice. You will always have times when you are not able to be impeccable with your word. But as the words that come out of your mouth and physical reality start to align, you tap into the power to speak things into existence. You start to take control of designing your life.
1. Learn to Say No
One way to maintain integrity is not to commit to things you can’t guarantee that you’ll follow through on. Say no to everything that’s not aligned with your essential priorities. Every single day we’re forced to choose between yes and no.
Our inboxes are filled with people asking for favors. When we say yes to a thousand small things, we say no to a handful of important things. This makes it much harder to honor the commitments we’ve made to ourselves and to others. Sometime in the last year, I started to receive more emails than I had in the past. Many of the emails were incredibly heartfelt, but some were quite long. I felt guilty about not responding to them or I’d just send a one sentence response. Eventually, I realized it was up to me to say no. So I set up an autoresponder that said the following:
Due to the fact that I’m in the middle of a manuscript for a second book, I’m unable to respond to every email I receive.
When we say yes to things we want to say no to, we create a self-imposed handicap and we fail to honor our commitments.
2. Honor Commitments You’ve Made to Yourself
Start by honoring the commitments you’ve made to yourself. If you can honor the commitments you’ve made to yourself it will be much easier to honor the commitments that you’ve made to others.
First and foremost, make it easy for yourself to succeed.
One way to do that is to limit the number of items on your to-do list. By limiting the number of items on your to-do list and actually finishing them, you increase momentum and you can always add later. I almost never have more than 3-4 items on my to-do list each day.
Another way is to make a micro change to your behavior. For example, don’t tell yourself you’re going to workout 5 days a week and lose 100 pounds if you’ve never set foot in the gym. In an interview about changing your habits to change your identity, James Clear told me a story about one of his readers who wanted to lose weight.
James encouraged him to do something much simpler that would be easy to commit to, drive to the gym and walk in. Once he was there, he realized he might as well work out. Driving to the gym and walking was a much easier commitment to honor than trying to lose a 100 pounds.
If you want to develop a daily writing habit, or write a 1000 words day, commit to opening a notebook every morning. Just by making the simple commitment of opening your notebook, you’ll increase the likelihood of following through on your desire to write.
Honoring the commitments you’ve made to yourself teaches your brain that you are capable of not only following through on something but also changing your behavior. Once you’ve managed to teach your brain that you can change one behavior, it makes it much easier to change others.
3. Honoring Your Commitments to Others
Once you’ve learned to say no and honor your commitments to yourself, you have to honor the ones that you’ve made to others.
We often violate our commitments to others in really small ways.
- Let’s say you tell a person you live with that you’ll clean something up and you don’t. It’s not like anything catastrophic will happen as a result. But you’ve chosen not to do something you said you would.
- Another common way that we violate our commitments is with deadlines. We say that we’ll have something by a certain date or time. But then we don’t deliver what we said we would.
- Let’s say you tell a friend that you’ll be somewhere at a certain time and you show up 30 minutes late. That’s a simple example of not honoring your commitment. Sure, sometimes we get stuck in traffic and shit happens. But if you know shit happens you can do something proactively to make sure it doesn’t. You could leave 15 minutes earlier.
As Kathryn Woodard Thomas says:
When we say one thing and do another, say things we don’t really mean, or consistently break our word to ourselves and others we profoundly diminish our capacity to create the lives that we are hoping to create.
When you don’t honor your commitments, people begin to see you as untrustworthy or unreliable. They stop taking anything that you say seriously. They lose respect for you.
I see this pattern in aspiring creatives who lack consistency, and in other people who can’t stick with something long enough to actually have it produce a result. You should never hire these kinds of people to work in your company or on a project of any sort.
Transform Your Self-Image
When you get in the habit of honoring your commitments, you develop a sense of power and control over your life. You become the type of person who does what you say you’re going to do, and as a result, your self-image starts to transform. You become a better and newer version of yourself.
Try to spend an entire week honoring the commitments you’ve made to yourself, saying no to things you can’t 100% commit to, and honoring the commitments you’ve made to others. You might be surprised by just how much your life changes through this simple practice of honoring your commitments.