DWYSYWD: Do What You Say You Will Do

I’ve just said I’d do something with a friend and quickly realise I can’t.

I feel like a yes man, enthusiastically agreeing to an engagement I can’t attend.

DWYSYWD or ‘do what you say you will do’ might not seem important on the surface, but in reality, it has an outsized impact on your life.

What is DWYSYWD?

Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner are elite educators who wrote The Leadership Challenge.

Their first law of leadership is, “If you don’t believe the messenger, you won’t believe the message.”

That’s to say, gaining trust is essential to become a better leader.

To build that trust, we have their second law of leadership…DWYSYWD.

DWYSYWD is an acronym that stands for ‘do what you say you will do’.

There are two areas where it’s important; internal credibility and external expectations.

Both can have a sizable effect on psychology and performance.

Internal credibility

We all have goals. Common examples include:

  • Losing weight
  • Getting a better job
  • Learning a new instrument to impress the ladies

How often do you tell yourself that it’s time to take action?

Compare that with your completion ratio.

Like most people (myself included) you promise you’ll get started soon, instilling good habits and productive routines.

But you never do, because you’re unwilling to face the discomfort of behaviour change.

You frequently dream of lifestyle improvements, but never put in the work to make them happen.

You leave an array of broken promises, half-formed ambitions and abandoned goals in your wake.

And in addition to remaining stuck through inaction, there’s a higher psychological cost to pay.

Trust yourself

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

By setting goals and failing to perform the smaller actions required to achieve them, your word becomes worthless.

Once or twice won’t have much effect, but what if this becomes a regular habit?

Over the long term, you’re identity and self-worth suffers.

Even during the initial excitement of goal setting, underlying doubt exists regarding your commitment.

You won’t see yourself as the type of person capable of making yourself a promise following through.

External expectations

Have you ever told friends you’d do something before guiltily reneging on the agreement thereafter?

It’s a common problem, especially for people-pleasers, who may exhibit deeper childhood self-esteem issues around likeability.

By seeking desperately to avoid social conflict, these people constantly feel like they must agree to ideas, suggestions and offers that don’t interest them.

They never wish to hurt another’s feelings by rejecting an invitation, resulting in misaligned social offers and subsequent panic.

Despite their verbal agreements, they subsequently backtrack or cancel at the last minute, letting others down in the process.

Trust placed in you

Everyone has a subconscious trust quota for their friends, family and contacts.

Each time these people don’t act in accordance with your expectations, your confidence in them diminishes.

Not following through on a verbal contact and DWYSYWD is the quickest way to squander trust.

Imagine if you’re a leader and consistently make hollow promises.

It’s unlikely you’ll gain much respect or leverage.

Here’s the thing – if you simply communicate clearly and honestly regarding your planned course of action, even rejection becomes palatable.

What to do

Gain Clarity

Firstly you need to get honest with yourself.

Knowing what you want makes it much easier to set goals you can realistically achieve and stick to plans you’ve made.

Check out my life purpose and planning articles to understand a value-based system for decision-making.

Give yourself time

Rushing into hasty goal setting is inadviseable.

Likewise, making or agreeing to plans in extreme haste may reduce your follow-through rate.

Buy yourself some time.

If there’s a social invitation, don’t feel obligated to provide an immediate answer.

Start small

Building the do what you say you will do muscle is much easier when a plan feels achievable.

After setting a goal and corresponding habit, deconstruct the behaviour into its smallest manageable component and start there.

Want to get stronger? Do one pull up a day and progress from there.

Always follow through

This is key.

Always DWYSYWD, even and especially when you don’t feel like it.

If we’ve taken the time to set a goal or make a plan, there’ll always be times we can’t be bothered or aren’t in the mood.

We must ignore these transient feelings and stick to our word, treating it as gospel.

Even if we’re tired and can’t face going to the gym, a bad workout is better than no workout.

More important than performance is the training of staying true to our word.


Doing what we say we will do is essential to build both internal and external credibility.

If we want to trust ourselves and honour our commitments, we must practice following through, even when we don’t feel like.

By taking responsibility for our words, our actions will slowly shift, our confidence will grow and our performance will improve.