Growing up my mom taught me a lot of things that have stuck with me throughout the years, and for that I am eternally grateful. There is one thing in particular however that she made a point to never ever forget. It was the basis of not only being a good man, but a decent human being.

Always keep your word.

If you tell someone that you’re going to do something, unless you’re on your deathbed, you damn well better get it done.

This is something that is all too often overlooked in the modern world we live in, and I can see its effects almost every day. Whether it’s something as small as taking the trash out, or something bigger such as giving somebody a ride to the airport, someone is counting on you to do that thing. When you break your word, when you decide not to do what you said you would, everything around you can fall apart.

Sure, if you forget to take the trash out other than a small inconvenience, it’s not that big a deal. The problem comes when you make plans with someone and people are counting on that plan.

If you decide you have better things to do, maybe that friend doesn’t get to the airport. Maybe they miss their flight and miss the chance to see their grandmother one more time before she passes. When you make a plan, you may not have a formally signed and notarized contract, but you do have that mutual trust that you’re going to follow through.

What would happen in the business world if all contracts were suddenly void and companies decided to do whatever was easiest at the moment? What would happen if the government just decided that the Constitution no longer made a difference in the choices they made? Now you may be thinking, ‘Yeah, okay but those are huge ideas, I’m just one person!’

While that may be true, yes you are just one person, all of that changes when you say on your word that you’ll do something. You are very much a huge idea in that context. Someone is relying on you, and to that person it could be the biggest thing in the world.

If the people around you cannot trust you enough to keep your word, how are they supposed to trust you with anything? You are never going to move up in the world if the people you work for can’t entrust you with any responsibilities (without wondering if you’ll actually pull through this time).

They’re going to give big projects to the people who consistently do what they said they would do, and when asked go above and beyond what was originally expected. While you, the one who couldn’t even do the original task at hand, are left behind.

This also has a huge impact on your social life and the relationships you form every day. Nobody likes to spend time with someone who always falls through at the last second. How many times have you had to completely rearrange your schedule just because one person had something better to do? If you do it enough times your friends are going to get sick of it, and who knows what would happen then.

So before you tell someone that you’ll do something, stop and think about whether or not you might actually do what they want. If you don’t think you can do it, tell them that! Almost everyone would rather you be honest about it upfront rather than have you pull out at the last second.

And if you do agree to do something, big or small, think about what your mother would say, and you damn well better get it done.