Dillan DiGiovanni explains how honoring your word differs from doing everything you say you will.
I am a bit of a perfectionist. Like other guys, I pride myself on character traits like dependability, responsibility and tenacity. I like being a guy you can count on. I am timely, thorough and responsible.
I’ve always been like this, for the most part. I arrive 15 minutes early to appointments and consider that “on time”. I always handed in papers and projects in on time in school and hardly ever asked for extensions. I hit deadlines. I didn’t cut corners.
This way of being has served me well throughout my life, except when it led to me taking on too much. When I did this and exceeded my own personal capacity, things started to drop. In my efforts to be all things to all people, I ended up being being less to most. It took its toll on me and affected my sleep, personality and performance.
In short: it wasn’t working to be such an over-achiever. My manhood was coming into question.
Last year, I learned that being a man of my word didn’t always mean I did everything I signed up to do. It didn’t mean I had to put myself through hell to make sure I completed every task or commitment, was early or on time to every appointment and delivered on every promise. It simply meant that I took on what I wanted to take on, and then honored if and/or why I wouldn’t be able to deliver on it. Taking something on and getting in touch when or if I can’t do it is really different from flaking out or bailing because I am overcommitted. It is really different from shirking responsibility. It’s an opportunity to opt-in with the knowledge that I can opt-out if I realize I can’t make it work. I am honoring THAT I said I’d do something, not merely honoring the commitment itself, especially if it would throw me really out of balance to pull it off. And this has totally revolutionized my personal and professional life.
Since I now think so critically about my commitments and my relationship to the word commitment, it really makes me consider what I take on, why, and the reality of me being able to do it. If I can’t do it, I say no. If I want to do it, I say yes—and then I make it my job to deliver on my promise, my word. If it starts to feel impossible, I take a good hard look. Is it really impossible or am I just afraid and doubting my own potential or ability? If it IS actually impossible, like inhumanly possible even for me, I reach out right away and say something like, “Hey, I want to be responsible for my word. I said I’d do _____ by _____ and I am getting in touch to let you I won’t make it. I get the impact on you. Will this new deadline work?”
Nine times out of ten, the person appreciates me and is totally fine with the new deadline.
I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s tempting to let your ego take over and tell you that you’re lazy, stupid and weak because you couldn’t pull off the impossible. You could give into this idea that a real man makes it work, against all odds and no matter the pressure. Well, maybe that’s true for some people. Maybe it inspires you to keep working when you think you really can’t. It’s up to you to decide where the line is between pushing yourself and your comfort zones and pushing yourself to the point of imbalance and impracticality.
But it takes a strong man, someone who is both confident and resilient, to be courageous enough to say, “Hey, I said I’d do something and it looks like I can’t or won’t be able to. I’m willing to stand for that and hear the impact. Now, here’s how I plan to fix it.”
You can be a man of your word by honoring and being responsible for whatever commitment you made, regardless of whether or not you can keep it. So many people take on too much and end up dropping the ball, which sacrifices integrity and makes life hard. Release the idea that you have do it all, and perfectly. Take on what you want and are able to do, make it your job to deliver and honor your word when you can’t do it. Be willing to accept the impact and keep moving to deliver on your new deadline.
Try this out to revolutionize your life, your accountability and watch your productivity SOAR!
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photo courtesy of http://john.do/promise/