One of the core elements of your character is being a person of your word. There are very few subjects more important than your personal character. Being known as a person who honors your word is as simple as doing what you said you would do when you said you would do it.

Why Your Word Matters

In short, honoring your word plays a powerful role in how you are viewed by others. In the longer-term, it also plays a large part in how you view yourself. And, quite frankly, it dictates whether you are a person who is respected and accepted or disrespected and scorned.

It’s ironic that although nearly everyone will admit to valuing the importance of keeping your word, fewer and fewer people actually do it. As a result, when I see people who consistently live up to their commitments, my respect for them soars.

While honoring your word does include big things like marriage and business agreements, it also includes the little things you say you will do—such as calling when you said you would, remembering to let your neighbor’s pet in as you promised, and getting the report turned in on time.

Just as there are benefits to doing what you say you will, there are repercussions when you don’t. When we allow ourselves to back out of our commitments, it usually results in guilt and time wasted in our attempt to avoid those we’ve let down. I’ve learned it takes more time and emotional energy to circumvent or repair a damaged relationship when we’ve shirked a commitment than it does to keep it!

Keep Your Commitments

Undoubtedly there have been and will continue to be times when you agree to do something that you later regret. However, once you have agreed to do something, don’t back out or procrastinate. Don’t hope the other party will forget or wait for them to remind you. When you have given your word that you will do something, you must do it and do it when it is expected.

After you have fulfilled your obligation (however painful), learn from the experience. Why was it so hard to follow through? Was it a matter of time, or were you ill-equipped in the first place? Whatever the reason, figure it out and know that it should factor into the next time you are asked to do something similar.

Not only is living up to your commitments vital in building the trust and respect of others, but it is critical in building your own self-respect. Whether you realize it or not, when you fall back on your promises, it erodes your self-image and self-esteem. Think of the last commitment you failed to fulfill? How did this experience make you feel about yourself?

Think Before You Commit

Becoming a person whose word can be trusted and relied upon boils down to a few basic things.

1. Think before you commit. With very few exceptions, you don’t have to immediately say yes or no to a request. Take an hour, an evening, or a day to think it through. Consider all that is involved and decide whether or not it’s something you are willing to commit your time and energy to. If not, politely decline.

2. Once you have given your word, don’t give yourself the option to back out.

I have asked myself hundreds of times, “What was I thinking when I made that commitment?” When this happens, I muster everything I have to uphold my end of the bargain. I do that because I feel so strongly that honoring my word is essential to who I am. It’s one of my core values. As a result, I am very careful with the commitments I make.

My Challenge to You

  • Starting today, become a person who lives up to your word and does what you say you will even when circumstances change.
  • Uphold your word with a good attitude. Remember that it was you who said “yes” in the first place.
  • Take every opportunity to learn from your commitments so that you can make better decisions in the future.
  • Finally, do you have any unfulfilled commitments? Do them now. You will feel better.
  • Keeping your word is one of the most effective ways to earn the respect of others and build a solid reputation, both personally and professionally.

About the Original Article Author: Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 30 years and founder of Little Things Matter. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts. (Todd’s podcasts are ranked #27 in America’s top 100 podcasts and #1 in the personal and development field.)