Keeping Our Word

When I was in my mid-twenties I thought I was pretty together. Outwardly it showed this way too. I worked full time as a lending officer at a large bank. I lived in a nice apartment in Los Angeles, and I had lots of friends. But inside I was anxious. I worried a lot, felt overwhelmed a lot of the time. It seemed I was always running behind. Whether it was taking too long to return a phone call, running late for work, or not doing something I had promised, it would weigh on me. I remember driving to work, racing down the freeway, and feeling rushed and hurried.  The conversation in my head would go something like this “Damn, why didn’t I wake up earlier? Why was I always waiting until the last possible second to leave the house? Why aren’t these cars moving faster?” About the moment I would realize I was going to be late, the stories would start to swirl in my head. The stories I would tell when I arrived at work about why I was late. More anxiety – now I have to make up an excuse for why I was late. Over time I could see that people didn’t appreciate, nor even listen to my stories of why I was late, the simple truth was that I was not keeping my word about showing up on time.  All the stories in the world wouldn’t change that. 

In 1984 while sharing my sense of anxiety and overwhelm with a good friend, he told me about a training called Lifespring. He said I might find the training very helpful. The following Wednesday I found myself seated in a room with 125 other people, unsure of what I’d gotten myself into, and wondering how this was going to help me feel less overwhelmed and anxious all the time. It was a long five days. At first I thought there was nothing particularly valuable in it for me, but then as they began to go over the ground rules, I gulped… hard. “Be on time. No excuses, no stories. Doors close promptly at 9:00 AM. If you are late, you will not be allowed into the room.” Clearly this was going to be a stretch for me.

I managed though, and I showed up every day on time, came back from breaks on time. Funny thing happened in those five days… the anxiety began to subside. The overwhelm began to ease. Turns out, a lot of that training was about learning to keep your word, do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it. It was about building an identity in the world of being someone who could be counted on, trusted, relied upon, and about living as your word. This was revolutionary to me! You mean my whole identity was all up to me, no one else gives me a pass about how I show up in the world?  Those five days changed my life.

From that weekend forward I began living my life from a place of wanting to keep my word, and be someone who could be counted on to do what they said they would do. Someone who could be trusted. Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I’ve been perfect for the past 30 years, far from it. However, I continue to do my best to be someone who keeps their word and can be counted on to do what they say they will do. I continue to find that when I operate from this place, I have less anxiety and overwhelm.  The other benefit?  People trust me.  People know what to expect with me, and thus, like being around me.  One of the things I attribute my professional success to is my ability to be someone who can be counted on and trusted.

So often business owners tell me how they struggle to get business, or get customers to give them rave reviews, or find it difficult to get people to make the choice to work with them. I have a secret formula! Start keeping your agreements with people. Whether it’s to return a phone call when you said you would, or show up on time to a meeting, or submit that proposal on the date you promised. All of these small acts build our identity and reputation as someone who can be counted on and trusted. Extra benefit? You will find that you have more peace of mind, less anxiety and less overwhelm!

All we really have is our word. It is the thing that builds our identity in the world. It builds trust, and a sense of confidence in us. It is the final act that speaks to who we are. When we do what we say we’re going to do, when we say we’re going to do it, we build an identity of someone people want to be around. No matter how good we are technically, if we cannot be counted on, then it makes people be hesitant with us. Hold back. Not want to commit. Not want to refer.

If you want more customers, want more referrals, want more peace of mind, less anxiety, less overwhelm, do this one simple thing… Keep your word.

Have an extraordinary day!


1 Comment

  1. Greg

    Here are some not-so secrets for success. 1. Have a plan but improvise to realize it; 2. Say what you will do, then do what you say; 3. Hurry up every chance you get; 4. Don’t worry about being the best at what you do, be the only one that does it; 5. Go to work before anyone arrives, go home before anyone leaves, disconnect everything but your imagination; 6. Dwell neither in past regrets or worry of the future; 7. Always give your time helping others, karma is real. Know that the world and your place in it opens as a flower, slowly and unpredictably, but always in beauty. Thanks Vicki