When I was a little girl, I remember my Mom always reminding me that “your word is your bond”. My Mom’s instruction stemmed from what Jesus teaches us about oaths. He said “But I say to you, make no oath at all either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be ‘yes, yes’ or ‘no, no’’. – Matthew 5:34-36 In other words, what you commit to do with your words is as binding as any contract you sign.
If someone’s word is their bond, they always keep a promise but when your word actually becomes your bond, you have no need to ever promise. People will expect you to do what you say you are going to do. That has intrinsic value because of the sheer number of people who fail to do what they say they are going to do.
Here are my 5 Steps to Making Your Word Your Bond
Step 1: Think Before You Speak
“Your Word Is Your Bond” very much became a part of my inner psyche at an early age. I was careful not to agree to do anything that I couldn’t back up with my actions. This did not end up limiting my endeavors but rather freeing me to pursue only those endeavors I knew for certain I could accomplish. Starting with little things like telling my friends I’d have to check with my Mom first before just agreeing to come over and play or carefully weighing what was going to be required of me before deciding to commit to joining the Girls Scout Brownies. I decided it was worth the time and effort I’d need to commit to it and I won a Texas Instruments computer for my work on one of the fundraisers that year.
Before I agree to do anything, go anywhere, or even make a commitment to my son as simple as taking him to the mall after school, I first stop and ask myself one question “when will I be able to accomplish this task? If we’re on the way to school and Luke asks me if we can go to the basketball court tomorrow, before I answer him I think about when we could pull that off. Am I planning to go grocery shopping in the morning, do we have to do chores, are we going to have time to go to the gym, these are the things I think about before I answer.
Step 2: Consult Your Calendar
Sticking with the basketball court example, the next thing I do is consult the calendar. Is there anything already on it? What about my husband’s calendar? Did he schedule something without telling me yet? If there’s a conflict, decide whether it is something that can be moved around or whether it’s a fixed commitment. Based on these conditions I move on to step 3.
Step 3: Calendar It
Everything we do takes one thing that we can never get more of, that is time. So, the best way to make sure we do what we say we’re going to do is to schedule the time to do it in advance. In this case, I’d put an hour timeslot on my Saturday calendar for “Basketball with Luke” and I’d schedule it for when would be the most convenient time for me to achieve it. In this case, after chores, and after my workout at the gym, so 11am works perfectly.
It may seem ridiculously anal to put every little detail of your life on a calendar, I understand, but the only sure-fire way to make sure you do what you say you’re going to do is if you make the time to make it happen in advance.
Step 4: Make the Commitment
A while back I did a “Strengths Finders” test to Discover My Strengths. One of my biggest strengths came back as “responsibility”, no surprise, since my husband’s nickname for me has always been “Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility”. What was surprising to me though was discovering the motivation behind my responsibility. My assessment included the following quote which articulated perfectly the reason behind my responsibility. It was linked to my lifelong commitment to making my word my bond.
“Because of your strengths, you may want people to regard you as trustworthy, dependable, or reliable. Perhaps this yearning motivates you to do whatever you said you would do. Perhaps you assume total ownership for doing whatever you promised you would do.”
Putting something on the calendar is not going to magically make it happen. You have to mentally commit to yourself that you are going to do whatever it is you’ve calendared. In the case of the Basketball date with my son, as soon as I say “Ok, we’ll go play basketball tomorrow after the gym” he knows he has my commitment. It’s just a simple “yes” but when your yes always means yes to people, they know they can depend on you. It strengthens your relationships and just feels so much better than having to apologize later, right?
Step 5: Follow Through
In this technology age, we are privileged to live in, following through on our commitments is easier than ever. It’s as simple as setting a reminder on our calendar or an alarm on our phone. If you have kids, they will serve as walking reminders to you “but you said…! “no alarms necessary. They will not let you forget.
If you don’t have kids or need further reminders to help you follow through, you can find help and encouragement at BecauseISaidIWould.com. I discovered “Because I Said I Would” on a business flight to San Francisco one morning. The in-flight magazine featured a story on the founder, Alex Sheen, who titled his father’s eulogy “Because I Said I Would” to highlight the one thing his father did exceptionally well, kept his word. Alex handed out what he called “promise cards” at the funeral to help remind people of the importance of their commitments. He offered to send out 10 promise cards to anyone in the world at no cost to them. A movement was born and at the time of this post, he has sent out 6.64MM promise cards to 158 countries. These cards are one more way to remind you of your commitment. You can print free “Because I Said I Would” cards or purchase them here.