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One of the simplest ways to improve the quality of your life is to adopt a policy of “Do what you say, say what you do.” This is sometimes known even more pithily as “walk your talk.” Walking your talk is something many are not even aware of and if you apply it consistently you will see positive change.

What does this involve? Several things:

  • Think before you agree to do something. Only agree if you’re sure you’ve got the time, the interest and the resources to see it through
  • Communicate clearly whether you’ve committed to doing something, you’ve committed to not doing it, or you’re still undecided
  • If you do something that significantly affects others, tell them about it
  • If you fail to do something you agreed to, apologise


Walking your talk is all about commitment. When someone wants you to do something, ask yourself: “Am I committed?” If you can clearly answer with a yes, go for it. If you’re committed you’re interested, you will make time and you will find the resources. Job done. If your commitment is tentative or negative, let the other party know. Don’t let yourself be bullied or guilt-tripped into agreeing to something you’re not committed to. When the time comes, you’ll skip out on it because your heart isn’t in it.

“Do what you say, say what you do” means erecting clear signposts. People will learn that your yes means yes and your no means no. They will learn to trust you.

“Do what you say, say what you do” means erecting clear signposts. People will learn that your yes means yes and your no means no. They will learn to trust you. I regularly meet with a film director. When we first met, he used to text me a reminder. He hasn’t done that in a while. He knows that if I said yes I will be there and if my plans change I will inform him.

That brings me to the next point: keep people updated of changes affecting them. Our accountant recently disappeared. Website down, phones off, email dead. The first I knew was when a penalty notice arrived from the taxman. The accountant communicated poorly and did things at the last minute, but they’d always got the job done—until now. Something went belly-up and they were too ashamed to tell those impacted by it. I doubt they will ever work as a chartered accountant in Britain again. The price of flakiness can be steep.


Apologising for failing to walk your talk is also important. It’s best to do it before the event but afterwards is fine. Don’t write a long spiel saying why you couldn’t make it—especially if it’s a lie. The aim is to show respect, not convince someone you have a decent excuse. Keep it curt and truthful.

Failing to apologise can have consequences. Years ago I advertised a role in a film I was making. An actress applied and I invited her to audition. She accepted the invite but never showed up or apologised. She later applied for a role in another film. I sent her a polite email saying that she wasn’t sufficiently business-like to be considered for the role.

Making it a policy to “Do what you say, say what you do” weeds out the liars and charlatans in your life. Of course, it requires you to weed out your own inner liar and charlatan. Be gentle but consistent. When you walk your talk you foster integration and integrity. You notice when others are flaky and distance yourself from them. Your calendar—and your life—fills up with people and events that you’re inspired by and committed to. Those are the people you want.


Here’s an exercise to align what you do and what you say.

  1. Make a list of all the commitments you’ve made, who you’ve made them to, and when you’ve made them by.
  2. Flag each commitment as green, amber, or red, depending on whether you know you can fulfil the commitment, you’re not sure, or you know you can’t.
  3. Proactively communicate with all the amber and red people on your list, apologise, and re-negotiate.

The process of apologising and re-negotiating is humbling. It will teach you to make commitments in line with your capabilities.

Repeat this exercise until what you do aligns with what you say.

Image: Stay on the path by Tez Goodyer on Flickr. Cropped to 16:9.

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