“Do what you say you’re going to do…

… when you say you’re going to do it.”Moon Hung with Star

Reliability. Consistency. Dependability. All result from fulfilling the above statement.

While I made a lot of mistakes when working in business & education (I really didn’t know what I was doing so much of the time), this one “rule” gave me a reputation that led to many beneficial connections.

Toward the end of my days in this arena, when I began failing to keep this rule, I knew it was time to get out. My mental and physical state interfered with my ability to be dependable, consistent & reliable. And if I couldn’t be those things, I had no business being there any longer.

Under-Promise & Over-Deliver

A phrase I often heard others say while working in business & education was “under-promise and over-deliver.” This meant, make a commitment but promise the minimum you’ll do. Then, if you can, deliver more than you promise. This could mean beating a deadline rather than just meeting it. It could mean making an introduction rather than just providing contact information. And it definitely meant setting lower goals when projecting outcomes.

But I could never fully get on board with this idea. I always felt like under-promising was holding back and selling myself short, maybe not challenging myself enough. It went against the notion of “if you shoot for the moon, you’ll at least land among the stars.”

Of course, I needed to be aware of what I could do before making commitments and to be realistic in what I promised, but I also felt like stepping out in faith by promising excellence above and beyond average was also important.

In all of this, I learned the hard lesson that plans change. Life happens. Circumstances flip. An emergency arises requiring a rearranging of priorities. Maybe resources change or disappear (worked in education, remember). For whatever reason, you can’t do what you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it, and you can’t deliver on your promises.

Change of Plans

Paul talks about changing his plans in 2 Corinthians 1:15-24. He also addresses making and keeping commitments in light of deciding to change his plans. Here’s the short of it:

  • He initially wanted to bless the Corinthians by stopping to see them twice, both to and from Macedonia.
  • He changes his mind because the Corinthians apparently failed to follow his 1 Corinthians advice.

Paul said he changed his plans out of consideration for the Corinthians to spare them a rebuke and give them a second chance to follow his advice. But he prefaces this by stressing the importance of not being “like people of the world who say yes when they really mean no” (v 18).

Instead, says Paul, follow Jesus’ example as He “never waivers between yes and no” (v 19). In other words, make commitments – promises – and keep them. Let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no. (Matthew 5:37)

Paul’s example shows that others not keeping commitments or making needed changes sometimes alters our plans. Oh do I hate that reality! The idea that I can’t stick to my original plan because others failed to even have a plan. Yes, it’s part of the reality – the struggle – of being human.

But regardless of what others do or don’t do, my focus still lies with “doing what I say I’m going to do when I say I’m going to do it” if at all possible as well as with promising to always do whatever I’m doing to the best of my ability.

Four lessons immediately emerge from my experience in approaching making & keeping commitments:

  1. The Holy Spirit’s leading is essential in successfully making & keeping commitments.
  2. Others lack of commitment should not stop me from making them.
  3. Making allowances for others shows love.
  4. Lack of planning on the part of other people sometimes does mean an emergency on my part.

DISCUSSION: What other lessons do you see in this?

20 thoughts on ““Do what you say you’re going to do…

  1. I think you about covered them Kari. Much of it comes down to integrity. In fact, i can see that in your decision to step down. You may have not seen that as part of it but it is. Whenever I/a person cannot fulfill what is expected it is only right to admit it and give it up. If you could not maintain your "credo" then it was time to evaluate your commitment or step out of the position. You made the right choice based on your integrity. You would have hurt that if you had stayed on just for the sake of a job.

    • Wow, Bill. I hadn\’t thought of it in terms of character like that, at least not on such a personal level. There were so many factors in play at the time. But your point is well-taken. We have to have our character/integrity decided before tough times hit in order to truly be able to make the right decisions. Otherwise, it is all emotion, which can be very dangerous. Thanks for helping me see a tough time in my life a bit differently. I did not think there was more to come from that, but I was wrong.

  2. Interesting article. I have been at the head of my company for 42 years. It has always been about integrity, deliver what you promise, follow-thru on a commitment even when others fail, do what is right even when those who are responsible fail, etc. It can be done but only in the power of God. The example is Jesus going to the cross. Compare that fulfillment against anything challenge you have ever faced and convince me that the impossible is not possible. Does it hurt to do what needs to be done when all others have left you alone…you bet. Does it cost you money personally to complete the promise when others have failed…of course. Will God honor your integrity when you honor His…without a doubt. The American way is to take the easy way. But what if you choose the narrow gate to the difficult road. What will be the result? Just sayin. The Old Rusty Bucket

    • Great example & testimony. Really appreciate your perspective. What you talk about regarding integrity makes perfect sense, and it is what I tried to hold to when I worked in education. The world of education is, unfortunately, very liberal. This influence was quite pervasive there, but I'm know there are equal challenges in the business arena too. I've worked there as well. They are vastly different worlds though. This could get into quite a conversation, the differences between the two, but the solution really is the same for both. Follow Jesus' example. Focus on Him.

    • Me too, TC. In fact, I am considering focusing my blog more on the idea of everyday experiences with God. I think I already kind of do this but am wondering if I need to focus more here. ANY input is welcome!

  3. I was also thinking Mat 5:37 as I read this post and saw that you referenced it later down in the post. I think that often we have a disconect between having faith and being faithful. God is faithful and he calls us to not only have faith in him but also to be examples of his faithfulness to others.

    • Good way to say it, Caleb. We "have a disconnect between having faith and being faithful." Is it possible that we find "having faith" easier? At least saying we have it is easier. But, our fruits reveal us, so "being faithful" shows real faith. Good thoughts!

  4. I think sometimes it is wise to qualify a commitment you make to someone by telling them "under these circumstance and conditions then I will". Communication is key when things change that may alter what you can do and it is helpful to let others know as soon as you know something that may change what you can do. I do not like the idea of under promising. I think it is deceptive. I like the idea of trying to provide more than one promised. I do think it is difficult to project so I do think it is wise to be conservative but not due to wanting to appear better because you promised less. We should never commit for someone else. If our commitment is dependent on others then it needs to be made clear. If you fail on a commitment you should do what you can to make amends for it. If you make a mistake and miss on a commitment then you should own up to it and ask what could be done to rectify the miss. Do not allow yourself to be pushed into a commitment. You should always count the cost first and it is prudent to take your time doing so and if someone is pushing then tell them to move on if they can not give you time to think through it.

    It is also important to remember your commitment is not yours alone. When you commit to something then other people depend on that and if you don't deliver then it can cascade causes many people problems. Also when you commit your time you are in a sense committing those you love and those you live with time too. So you have to consider those you love in your commitments too.

    • Communication is definitely crucial in this, Mark. Good point. Also, projecting is difficult, but I think in part it's that people don't like to be wrong. It's a matter of having a goal not being a prophet, so getting used to not being 100% accurate is important. We go for it with excellence, knowing that we just can't predict the future. And the idea that what we commit to, as well as how or if we keep them, affects more than just us is another huge point. I have been reading about Abraham's life for my daily Bible study, and how and if he kept commitments had far-reaching impact that we still feel and see today. So, we definitely need to always consider the ripple effect of our choices. Great additions, Mark!

  5. I was also thinking of the verse about how we can't say we're going to do this and that tomorrow because we don't know what tomorrow will bring. Instead say, If God wills, etc. I think it's in James or Matthew. We can make commitments and it's important to follow through with them, but it's also important to remember God's in charge. And sometimes He might prevent us from following through or want us to change and go another direction.

    • That verse fits well here. (I think it's James 4:13.) What you're saying also reminds me of Proverbs 16:9 where it says we can play our way, but the Lord directs our steps. We can and should make plans and commitments, but we need to always stay aware of God's directing of our lives. He definitely is in charge, and our lives will have so much more meaning and fulfilled purpose if we allow His charge to direct us. Great point, Barb!

  6. Oh Kari, this hit home. This is my birthday and it is Saturday. We should be home by now. instead I am sitting in the semi while we are being loaded for Minnesota. And because my dear hubby has noticed that the trailer needs some work to be safe, we won't be sitting home all day Monday, but instead going to the terminal to have repair work done. Nothing I can control! But it sure changes my plans in a hurry.
    I am learning there are some things we can control, and when others don't follow through, we cannot deliver. All we can do is our best. I like you want to aim high, to be perfect, to give it my all, whether it is at home or in life in general, or in my relationship with God. But too often I find that what I desire to do and what I can do may not be the same. I believe Paul had this same struggle! thanks for sharing. As always you make me stop and think. I love Proverbs advice to trust God in all things.

    • What's so interesting too is the different ways this truth lives in each of our lives. We all can learn from one another, but the way commitment plays out looks so very different from one person to the next. What works for one won't for another, and so on. Yet, the generally truths are universal. And, much of the time, so are the lessons. So glad this was timely for you, Mary. And I hope you hear what God is saying to you in all this.

  7. Great post Kari! So many great points. One of the things that hit me – when I'm unable to keep a commitment I want to quickly apologize rather than excuse or blame someone else. Accepting responsibility takes courage and integrity. So, of course my natural instinct is to not want it to be my fault. This is true in personal relationships as well as our business relationships.

    I really appreciate your reply to Mary. This truth does play out differently for each of us.

    • Thanks, Deb. You make a great addition with regard to accepting responsibility My first instinct is often to either specifically blame someone else or to find a way to explain why it wasn't my fault. But, there's almost always something I could have done differently. Plus, it only makes me look more at fault when I try to prove or explain why I am not at fault. Funny how that works. And yes, it's absolutely true in all of our relationships. None are off limits. For me, having two boys (one already a teenager and the other becoming one in about a month) has really helped me to realize this truth and to seek to do what we call taking ownership of our role in any situation. Thanks again for the additions, Deb.

  8. This is something I've been thinking about lately. I have a bad habit of making a commitment to others and then not following through on it after my priorities change. In a way, I guess that should be allowable. But it's probably not a great quality all in all.
    Your reference to letting your yes be yes and your no be no is a powerful one. I believe it brings glory to God when we are seen as competent people who honor their commitments.

    • While this may not be the case for you, when that started happening with me (not following through because priorities change), I eventually realized that not only did I have too much going on (too many priorities to juggle) but that I was not crystal clear on the top ones. The more I have learned to simplify my life and to focus on the main priorities where I feel God wants me, the less not following through happens. Again, this may just be my unique situation, but it may have some value to you as well. So, there it is for what it's worth. There's more to this, of course, and I have blogged about it in the past, but I will leave it at that for now.

  9. I wrote a long response that disappeared. I will suffice to say that your post helped me think some things through. I've struggled with people who don't keep their commitments as well as not making commitments I can't keep. I have to trust that God is in control, working all things together for good.

    • I've struggled a lot with that too, Melanie. Somewhere along the line, I just decided that whether or not others keep their commitments is not going to stop me from making & keeping them. I just grew tired of letting others poor choices impact my own so much and so often. And remembering that God works all together for good helps so much because we can take steps knowing that He knows our heart's intentions. That gives me confidence & makes me want to be brave.

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