What One Thing Makes The Biggest Difference In Your Success?

This article appeared in the April 2006 issue of Spirited Solutions’ E-Newsletter.
Let’s face it…It takes incredible courage and commitment to face the challenges that life brings our way and to lead others. But it also takes incredible courage and commitment to lead ourselves, to lead our lives in ways that articulate our fundamental values!

The truth is, we’ve got to lead ourselves or no one in their right mind will follow us! In fact, if we don’t follow through on what we promise to ourselves, how on earth can we follow through on what we promise to others?

Don Miguel Ruiz expresses this eloquently in his best-seller, The Four Agreements:
Be impeccable with your word. This is the first agreement that you should make if you want to be free, if you want to be happy…It is very powerful.”

Recently I’ve seen this principle in action—or rather, missing in action—with people who set appointments, by phone or in person, and don’t show up. Please note, I’m not talking about my clients—I choose to work only with people who value themselves and me and who follow through on commitments.

The people I’m referring to who don’t follow through are largely individuals in positions of leadership. You would assume that holding such a position would make them extra-motivated and conscientious; yet they don’t follow through on something as basic as an appointment they set with another busy business person.

We’ve all had this happen to us—We’ve scheduled an appointment or a business lunch with someone only to find that they cancel at the very last minute because “something came up” (by the way, could we be a little bit more creative with our excuses???). Or, they don’t even cancel; they just don’t show. We’ve set aside time and energy for them, yet they don’t have the courtesy to honor our commitment or their own commitment to the meeting.

Perhaps I’m preaching (come to think of it, I am), but I’m observing this pattern of not keeping commitments over and over in the business world. And it raises a very important question: If you make a commitment, shouldn’t you keep it? And what impression do you leave with people when you don’t do what you say you’ll do in your personal or professional life?

Can you trust me if I don’t keep my commitments? And can I trust myself if I don’t honor my commitments? (By “commitments,” I mean anything that I agree to do for myself, someone else, my work, etc.)

We rattle on about commitment phobia in intimate relationships, but I would argue that it has permeated our work world and is spreading fast. In fact, it’s the bird flu of the business world these days!

So what can you do to not become infected—or to recover from a serious case?

  1. Don’t agree to do something if you are not committed to following through. Don’t accept a date or schedule an appointment if you know you’re not interested. The polite thing is to say “no” and let the other person or people involved make alternate arrangements.
  2. Only accept those opportunities—business and personal—that are in alignment with your personal and professional mission. (And if you don’t know what your mission is, by all means, stop now and write a one or two sentence summary of what you’re here on this earth to accomplish! Have you ever seen anyone hit a target when there is no target??? You’ve got to have a mission!)
  3. Set weekly, monthly, and yearly goals for yourself and dates by which you want to achieve them. Figure out the necessary small steps to make your goals happen and take just one step each day. Persistence breaks through resistance—It’s a law of the universe!
  4. Simplify your life. Release people, activities, and beliefs that don’t feel right anymore and create a vacuum in which to consciously create what you want. Letting go of people and things you’ve outgrown will be difficult at first, but you don’t have time to waste! Your life is waiting for you! Make it yours, not a lifestyle you’ve adopted because you’re too lazy, complacent, or scared to say “No!” to what you don’t want and figure out what does have meaning to you.
  5. Finally, when you make a commitment, make it your honor and pleasure to keep it, delivering even more that you promised. If you say you’ll work out for sixty minutes three times a week, do an extra fifteen! If you make plans to celebrate your sweetheart’s birthday, be there early with gorgeous flowers and Godiva chocolates in hand! If you promise a dedicated employee a raise by a certain date, do it before then and give them a recognition gift for their hard work.