Can I count on you? To me, it’s one of the most important, defining, revealing questions in the human condition. In simple terms, what I really want to know about you, maybe more than just about anything is, can I count on you to do you do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it……to be your word. Because if I can count on you to be your word, then the foundation is set for creating a highly functional and rewarding relationship; one based on trust and mutual respect. But if I can’t, then a lot of things start to unravel rather quickly, the primary one being trust. And trust, from my perspective, is the most critical component of every meaningful relationship we are engaged in, be it a marriage, a friendship, a business partnership, a team, pretty much any circumstance where there are at least two people involved. Absent trust, a lot of things become difficult to damn near impossible, the big one being the creation of a strong and lasting relationship. And so as you consider this question, how would you answer it for yourself? Are you someone who can be counted on to be your word?
Before you answer I want to be clear that you are answering the whole question. In my experience, a lot of us are pretty good at doing what we say we’re going to do…..eventually. The problem is, we oftentimes don’t do it when we say we are going to do it.
We are engaged in a very destructive behavior called over promising and under delivering. And that behavior sets in motion a cavalcade of problems both for ourselves as well as for those that were counting on us.
And the reason it creates problems is because we are leaking, specifically we are leaking our integrity and that is quite upsetting, at least to most of us. And if we leak enough, we will eventually create a flood of upset and disappointment running right through the middle of our life.
And that flood, if left unattended for long enough, will wreak havoc on everything we hold dear to us – our health, our relationships, our sense of self, and yes our spirit. That is the cost of being out of our integrity by not being our word. Perhaps you think I’m being dramatic, but just go back to the last time someone let you down by not being their word; maybe it was your spouse who was late picking up your child from school for the 3rd time this month, or maybe it was a co-worker who got you the information you asked for two days after the project was due, leaving you holding the bag, or perhaps it was the friend who was giving you a ride to the airport showing up late, resulting in you missing the plane. How did it go for you? Were you psyched? Did it engender a sense of warmth, connection and trust? They did what they said they would do….eventually…. so what’s the problem? The problem is they didn’t keep their word. And as a consequence a little or big piece of trust was eroded.
In my life, whenever I’m out of my integrity it creates a pit in my stomach until I take an action to clean it up. And if I don’t clean it up, by avoiding it (even though I know that AVOIDING NEVER WORKS), then it will come calling at 2:00 a.m. waking me from a restless night sleep. That’s how upsetting being out of my integrity is to me. How does it affect you? Have you been awakened recently in the middle of the night over some issue where you’re leaking integrity, leaving you staring at the ceiling? In my experience, that is almost always the cause of the early morning wake up call. There is some integrity issue, either with another person, or with yourself. Do you have any leaks right now? Can you see that with every leak in integrity there is a corresponding drop in energy and personal power. And with that drop in energy there is a corresponding drop in productivity….because we’re stressed out. It’s stressful to consistently be out of our integrity. Stressful and exhausting. It’s exhausting because we are always cleaning up the leaks in our life. We become like a giant vacuum cleaner, cleaning up one leak after another with apologies or excuses or justifications or rationalizations as to why we’re late or worse yet, didn’t do it at all. Is this you? If so, what’s the next action you can take to clean those leaks up and reclaim your integrity?
I’m a big fan of Stephen Covey’s book called “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. I love the simplicity of his premise – if you want to change your life, change your habits. WIth that as a context, I want to examine one of the most interesting habits related to being your word, or more accurately not being your word, the habit of being habitually late. Do you know someone that is habitually late? What effect does this habit have on the relationships in their life? Being habitually late is a choice, and that choice has some very large consequences not only for those that choose to be late but also for those that allow that behavior to continue….inside their marriages and their friendships and inside the teams that they work in. I’d like to suggest that being habitually late is one of the most controlling and destructive habits a person can have. It’s controlling because when they are late they control the situation. It’s destructive because it denigrates trust, one late occurrence at a time. I know that is tough to hear, but doesn’t it also ring true? I wouldn’t want to be the person who can only be counted on to be late. That sounds nightmarish to me.
If you are someone that is habitually late, would you be willing to choose to create a different habit, one that will clean up a lot of upset that always being late creates?
How much trust have you jeopardized or simply lost by choosing to be consistently late?
Would you be willing to make a stand for fiercely being your word by being on time? After all, it’s just a choice.
Can you imagine what your life might be like if you weren’t constantly choosing to be late?
How much more peaceful might your life be if you were the person who could be counted on to be on time and thus be your word?
Someone a lot smarter than me said it so simply, your word is all you have. If that’s true, can you be counted on to be your word?