“Always do what you say you’re going to do!”
That’s what a good friend said to me in our undergrad college days, after I tried to back out of some activity that I can no longer remember. I’m sure it was something relatively silly, like go watch a movie or concert with him, but his words stuck with me.
“Always do what you say you’re going to do.”
For someone like me, who had a horrible time saying “no” to anything, adhering to that phrase meant that my life would never be my own.
At the time, I felt that I couldn’t say “no” without providing an excuse, real or made up. But given the fact that I’d already committed to the personal promise to stop telling “white lies,” the latter wasn’t an option for me.
So how in the world should I balance these two, seemingly competing, ideas that I’d embraced?
Eventually, I realized the real power of and reason behind “no.” The only way you can follow up on your true commitments is to know when to not commit to others.
I began by focusing on setting boundaries. In my mid-20s, I declared to all of my friends and family that Sundays were my free days.
“Wanna come to my cookout this Sunday?”
“I might join if attendance is flexible. But I have a no-commitment Sunday rule. Can I be a maybe?”
Some folks bristled in the beginning, but most laughed and said “okay.”
I got bolder over time. Finally by my 30s, I realized that I didn’t need to provide a reason for saying “no,” I just needed to be polite when saying so.
“Do you want to come to my grandmother’s backyard garden ground-breaking event on Friday night?
“Thank you for asking me. I appreciate the invitation, but I won’t be in attendance.”
No excuses. No white lies. No need to apologize when I didn’t show up.
Conversely, I realized that when you don’t follow through on commitments or make a mistake, you have to own it.
Step 1: Proactively admit your mistake
Step 2: Apologize and mean it (in a manner that’s proportional to the offense)
Step 3: Provide any context (reasons, not excuses)
Step 4: State what you’re going to do to avoid it happening again
In that vein, this post is both my confession and my example of that philosophy in action.
Step 1: I committed to doing a “What’s Your?” post every other Wednesday and failed to do so this week.
Step 2: I feel awful about not doing so, and I am truly embarrassed and sorry that I didn’t meet the deadline. I don’t think many folks, if any, were waiting on the edge of their seats for this post, but I do sincerely apologize for being a slacker.
Step 3: I simply got confused about the bi-weekly cadence and wasn’t paying attention. (Perhaps that’s due to impending senility from turning 40? Although, if that’s true, I’d awkwardly cry instead of laugh.)
Step 4: I’ve marked reminders on my calendar and hope to avoid the same foolish error moving forward.
Now, assuming you accept that apology, let me share my top five reasons (true stories – not excuses) from my last decade for not meeting a deadline or following through on a commitment:
- Dammit, I locked myself out of my house. . . again!
- Dammit, a bird just pooped on my head! I freaking hate those creepy critters!
- Dammit, I just realized that I only shaved one leg! Give me time to execute a do-over.
- Dammit, I’m not sure if my car was towed or stolen! Can you come get me and then we’ll call the police?
- Dammit, even though I’m sick and I was en route to my birthday dinner, a freaking policeman stopped me for speeding and gave me a ticket! Please excuse my lateness while I go to the bathroom and put mascara on my second eye.
How about you? What are your opinions on “doing what you say you’re going to do,” admitting mistakes, or your favorite excuses for failing to do either?
(This series typically appears every other Wednesday. In these posts, I pose a random “What’s Your _______?” question, reveal my answers, and revel in your responses. In this case, this post is also one of 30 30-somethings I’m writing for the weekly countdown to my 40th birthday. Celebrate with me as I share other lessons or humbling experiences from the past decade.)