December 28

The Power of Honoring Your Commitments

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 fail at honoring your commitments in small ways. You do this throughout your life and while often unintentional- it comes at a cost. You do one of the following:

  • 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.
  • Commit to doing something for someone else and don’t follow through

Nobody is immune to this, myself included.

The Unintended Consequences

All of this might seem harmless done once or twice. But little things done repeatedly have a big impact on our lives. When you don’t honor a commitment that you’ve made to yourself or someone else, it’s a message to your subconscious mind.

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 or think you’re full of shit. And just as bad- you lose respect for yourself.

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 doing what you say you will.

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.

1. Learn to Say No

honoring your commitments

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.

2. Don’t Respond to Every Email

black iphone 5 on orange surface

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:

I’m in the middle of a manuscript for a second book, I’m unable to. Unfortunately, I can’t 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 keep our word.

2. Honor Commitments to Yourself

woman sitting on white bed while stretching

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 keep your word with others. First and foremost, make it easy for yourself to succeed.

3. Do Less

person writing on a book

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.

4. Make Small Changes

person standing near railing looking down

Another way is to make a micro change in your behavior.  For example, Don’t tell yourself you’re going to work out 5 days a week and lose 100 pounds. If you’ve never set foot in the gym, that’s a recipe for failure.

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 inside. 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 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 can not only follow through on something and that you are capable of changing your behavior. Once you’ve managed to teach your brain that you can change one behavior that makes it much easier to change others.

5. Honoring Your Commitments to Others

two person holding papercut heart

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.

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.

Kathryn Woodward Thomas

When you don’t keep your word, people begin to see you as untrustworthy or unreliable. They stop taking anything that you say seriously. They lose respect for you.

Conclusion: Honoring Your Commitments can Change Your Life

Several white arrows pointing upwards on a wooden wall

When you get in the habit of keeping your word, 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 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. Start honoring the commitments you’ve made to others. You might be surprised by just how much your life changes through this simple practice of doing what you say you will.


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