Be reliable and deliver on all your commitments, no matter how small. If a commitment is in jeopardy, notify others immediately and set a new commitment.
A few years back Don Miguel Ruiz, a Spiritual healer and Master in the Toltec wisdom, wrote a book, The Four Agreements. The first agreement was “be impeccable with your word.” The Four Agreements is a guide for living life free from the constraints our beliefs and interpretations impose upon us. After reading and rereading this little gem over and over again, I’ve started to consider a rather profound question for myself: “Are not the commitments I make in life, both to others and myself, the essence of who I become in life, regardless of how I may see myself?”
I have to think that how I manage my commitments does impact how the world responds to me. I can look back and see, especially when I was younger, how many commitments I made knowing there was a good chance I wasn’t going to keep them. Then there is the whole slate of commitments I made and didn’t keep because ___? Fill in the blank with a favorite excuse: “I ran out of time,” “someone asked me to do something more urgent,” “the other person, department, group didn’t give me what I needed,” etc.
To honor one’s commitment and to be impeccable with one’s word is not easy, and if you stay with it can be profound. It’s a choice and a discipline. It can be a life-long and life-changing pursuit. The core power in this Agreement is it requires the discipline of being awake!
Honoring commitments is not just about doing everything I say I will do. That’s not likely; unless I keep my commitments at such a low level little is required of me. At a practical level It’s about being aware of the impact of my commitments, both kept and unkept. When I commit to something, I set off a whole chain of events. What is the impact on me, what is the impact on others, what expectations have I set up and what is the impact if I don’t deliver or fall short in the delivery? Fortunately, in the arena of making commitments in everyday life there is a protocol: Someone asks something of me and before answering I consider if I am really able to commit the time, resources, authority, competence, etc. I go about delivering on the commitment. I deliver or I discover that I can’t deliver or I can’t deliver on time, I immediately contact whomever I made the commitment to and alert them to the change and make a new commitment. I take accountability for the impact of the change and work out a resolution with the other party(s). I deliver on the new agreement, and then examine what I missed when I made the original commitment.
This protocol applies to the simplest agreement, “I’ll meet you at 11:30 for lunch,” or the most complex, “I’ll get this project completed on-time and under-budget!” Notice that what this template calls for in honoring commitments is being awake and being impeccable with your word. I can easily see that my effectiveness in life has paralleled making a practice of managing the commitments I make. There have certainly been commitments I didn’t keep, but the way I honored them, communicated about them and took accountability for the impact has left me with a high degree of credibility.
It’s not so much about how many commitments are not kept, it’s about how you manage the impact and it’s about how you recover. Practicing Recovery is Fundamental # 23; we’ll get there in several weeks.