Commitments and Keeping Your Word

I would say one of the harder lessons I've learned in life is that we live in a world where people often like to commit to things - but frequently don't follow through. They break their commitments. Whether it's something small like a lunch date or going to the gym - to something bigger like starting a new goal or pursuing a new business idea. As someone that likes to trust people and take them at their face value, I've learned the hard way that people often just aren't able to keep their word. They're flakey.

What people often don't realize is that by committing to things, we're actually exercising our personal power in life. Personal power is defined as our ability to act - our ability to take action. So every time we follow through on something that we say we're going to - we essentially build and nurture our personal power.

However, whenever we do the opposite. Whenever we say we're going to do something but don't. Whenever we break our commitments. Whenever we break our word - we're actually giving our power away. We lose personal power - and not only hurt the people we make our commitments to - but ourselves as well.

For example, as a kung fu teacher, I've had students tell me that they would be coming to class on a Monday. Monday rolls around and right before class they text me, "Sifu, I was so busy at work today and didn't get to eat lunch. I don't know if I can make it through class tonight, so I'm gonna skip it - but I'll be there on Wednesday."

Wednesday comes around and before class I get another text, "Sifu, I'm really tired today. I wasn't able to get good sleep the night before because of XYZ. I think it would be best if I stayed home and rested. I promise I'll be there on Friday."

Finally, it's Friday, and I get yet another text, "Sifu - I'm soooooo sorry, I know I said I would be there tonight, but I've just had a really rough week at work, and I totally forgot I have to get up super early tomorrow to go skiing with my friends. I promise I'll be there on Monday."

Ugh. :) While my examples apply specifically to me as a kung fu teacher, they really could be about anything related to breaking commitments. It could be about flaking out in going to the gym with a friend - or having date night with a significant other.

The main point I'm trying to make is that if you break commitments over and over again. If you're always making excuses as to why you can't follow through on your promises - how do you think others are going to start perceiving you?

People are going to start believing that you're not reliable and that you're not trustworthy. That you're not someone they can depend on to keep their word and honor their commitments.

The ability to honor our commitments and keep our word reflects our integrity. It reflects the alignment between our thoughts, our intentions, our words, our actions - essentially our character.

And what I've already alluded to earlier is that this lack of integrity doesn't just hurt your relationships and how others perceive you, but more importantly you're ultimately hurting yourself and how you perceive you.

When you don't follow through on commitments and promises you make to yourself or others, you actually weaken and diminish your self-esteem and confidence. You lose trust that you can actually exercise personal power and take action on the things you say you will.

You basically start developing a habit of believing that you're not capable of getting done anything you try committing yourself to.

And when this happens, we also lose our capacity for consistency. Just like learning kung fu, mastering anything in life takes consistent effort. If you're just doing something once in awhile, or only when you feel like it - you will always just be playing at the surface level of things. It takes being able to commit to things in order to have the consistent action needed to be able to attain mastery and sustainable growth and success in life.

So when you commit to something, it's important to follow through. It's important to get it done - no matter what. A commitment means there's no other option but to get it done. And we always feel great after we do something we say we will. It empowers us and builds our confidence and self-esteem. For example, if you say to yourself you're going to work out every morning - and you actually do - it feels absolutely amazing! Afterwards you feel proud of yourself and the discipline you exercised because you know you're in alignment and integrity with your greater vision for yourself.

But we also all know what it feels like to NOT follow through. We can feel disempowered. We can feel like we're not making progress towards our goals and dreams.

And so, if we're regularly falling short of our commitments - whether to others or ourselves, we need to start taking a hard look at how we're showing up in life. We want to better understand why we're not following through. When we're not living in integrity - it's always due to a fear that's holding us back from living in alignment.

For example, for some people, it could be a fear of not being liked by others. Meaning, they might habitually overextend themselves by making too many commitments because they want to please everyone. And ultimately they end up pleasing no one because they aren't able to follow through on their promises.

It's important to be intentional and selective about your commitments. Over the years, I've definitely learned to commit to fewer things. And I've had to learn to say NO to a lot of things. I believe saying NO to some things means saying YES to other things. And the things I say YES to - the things I commit to - I give 100% of myself to. I try my best to get it done - no matter what.

In the end, learning what to say NO to and what to say YES to involves self-awareness. You have to know and be honest with yourself about what your real goals are and what your vision is for yourself.

In our society, we often give away our commitments too freely.

Instead, they must be chosen mindfully. Otherwise, you won't have the awareness to set boundaries for yourself and others. By being mindful, you can more easily determine where your time and energy should be spent by focusing on what's most important to you in life - and commit to the things that actually move you towards growth and progress. Following through on commitments brings deepening confidence, self-esteem and empowerment - character traits of what I call energetic leaders in this world.