The Flake Factor – Are You ‘The Worst’?

October 12, 2016 - 9 minutes read

Have you got plans this weekend?

Let me rephrase that, and be honest here: Have you got plans this weekend that you’ll actually keep?

If you answered anything other than yes to the second question, you are not alone. It seems that we are living in a time when it’s easier than ever to fall victim to what is known as being ‘flaky’.

You know, those “Sorry I’m late!” and “Gah, I can’t make it!” texts that float around in the air at any moment caught between “Can’t make it. Had a hard week” emails and “Maybe” responses on Facebook events.

Not even Bridget Jones is exempt. Here she is in her latest film celebrating her 43rd birthday alone, after her friends text to cancel their plans for the evening.

Like Bridget I’m up to my eyeballs in excuses.

There was an article recently published in Success Magazine about the life of Robert Downey Jnr, which documented how he turned his life and career around. Downey says that the foundation of the change for him, was the word honor. In fact, he says that over the years he has learned that honor is the most important factor to success.

He spoke about honoring your commitments through tough times and following through on what you say you will do regardless of circumstance.

…as if I didn’t like him enough already! This man speaks my language.

Part of why I feel it’s so dang easy to be flaky in today’s world comes down to technology. There is nothing that gets us out of our commitments quite so easily as sending a text message. Amiright?

In my opinion, because so many of our plans are made through technology – Facebook or text in my case – it somehow doesn’t feel as wrong to just undo them via technology as well. Maybe people feel that the plan wasn’t as concrete in the first place, as say, an in person invite or a paper birthday invitation.

So let’s talk for a minute about keeping commitments. It was once explained to me in the most amazing way.

Imagine this.

You’ve set a lunch date with a friend, for tomorrow at 1pm, her place.
Tomorrow arrives and one of your kids are sick. It’s just a head cold, but then you go outside and see that you’ve left the car light on all night so the battery is flat and it will take forever to charge.

Do you still make the 1pm lunch date with your friend?

In my experience, the chances of this happening are slim to none.
But, did you intend to have lunch with your friend at 1pm? Most of us would answer yes. We intended to.

So the challenge here is to re-think our definition of the word intention.

You see in this example the word intention actually means,

“I’ll be there at 1pm tomorrow for lunch IF everything falls into place and all goes to plan”

But here’s another scenario:

Your bank call to say they are giving you $1 million dollars. All you have to do is be at the bank by 9am tomorrow morning.

You wake up to the same situation as before. Your child is sick with a head cold, and you find that you’ve left the light on all night and your car battery is dead.
Do you still make it to the bank by 9am?

You bet your ass you do! You’d taxi, call a friend, walk all night with your sick child on your back if you had to, to make sure you were at those bank doors by 8:30am.
What changed here was your definition of the word intention. You weren’t thinking “If all goes to plan I’ll be there at 9am”. Now you’re thinking “ Come hell or high water I WILL be there at 9am”.

 So, what if we viewed all of our commitments with that same definition of intention. If we held ourselves to a level of integrity that “Come hell or high water we WILL…”

Now, these two situations are extremes and some would say that of course your intention would increase in the second example because the reward was greater.

But I would argue that if we make it a habit of cancelling on small commitments, or seeing them as only ‘maybe’ plans it becomes more acceptable in our mind to do the same with bigger ones.
Life happens – totally. But if we are really honest with ourselves 90% of the time we aren’t cancelling appointments because our kids are sick and the car battery is dead. We’re cancelling to stay at home with Netflix or to attend something more appealing.

What if we all started to honor our word more, and do what we say we will do?

I can guarantee I’d stop getting texts like, “Sorry not feeling so hot anymore, can we catch up another time this week” half an hour before a scheduled appointment.

Again, no science, just my opinion and personal experience.

Perhaps it would also stop us from falling into the ‘busy’ trap to begin with. We’d start to say no to more stuff, and honor ourselves by saying yes only to the things that we truly value.

I would hope it would also end the strange, apologetic self-deprecation that we see so often in our inbox.

B: I totally suck at planning and forgot to put in my diary that we were meeting up tonight. Can we do Monday instead? I’m SO SORRY. I feel terrible!

S: OMG, do not feel terrible. You’re not as bad as I am. If you totally suck then I am like the absolute worst sucky sucker because Monday doesn’t work. What about tomorrow?

All this does is put your own feelings or issues at the centre of the conversation instead of connecting with the other persons’ feelings for letting them down. I know we are all guilty. We’ve all been ‘the worst’ at some point.

So how do we stop the flaking cycle that seems to have become the social norm?

By honoring our commitments. Showing up to lunch on time, arriving to a friends house when we say we will and making it a goal to stop sending texts in lieu of real apologies. If you really can’t make it, phone and give plenty of notice.

Today I challenge you to think of three people you owe a phone call, a project or a meal. Pick up the phone today, set a time and honor that commitment… come hell or high water.





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