I = My Word

You may choose your words like a connoisseur, And polish it up with art, But the word that sways, and stirs, and stays, Is the word that comes from the heart.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox, American author and poetess, 19th century

I recall the 1970s supernatural classic, ‘The Exorcist’ in which the possessed Regan, when asked “Who are you?” replies in a demonic voice, “Nowonmai”. Initially thought to be something in a foreign dialect, the reply is later deciphered to be, ‘I am no one’, when read backwards.

Regan in The Exorcist
Regan in The Exorcist

What is it that makes us ask the question, “Who are you?” It seems to support us to create a fix about the other person. About his characteristics, about his viewpoint, about his intentions. We try to determine the authentic self in the person which then allows us to engage with him powerfully.

At the other end, the enquiry ‘Who am I’ allows us to present a perspective of ourselves which we feel offers the best chance for engagement and success. Said another way, we show up, not as our authentic self, but in the best manner possible to get the job done. Clearly, over time, our ‘Who am I’ face does become a talent for deception.

It is in the attempted matching between the “Who are you” gained perspective and “Who am I” put on mask that the effectiveness of engagement and relationship between two individuals lies.
Who am I? I remember those times as a child when having nothing better to do, I would stare into the mirror and wonder, “How is that me?” Am I me because of the name which my parents christened me with? Or because of how I look? Or because of how I think, speak, act? Or because of how I behave with others? After all these decades today, when I think back to those questions, I yet remain uncertain of the answers.

Who am I? Why do I experience this sense of self? Is it a natural function of my mind? Or is it some spiritual awareness that keeps tugging at me? The fact remains that with every passing day, I keep changing. Every day I change into the person I become in the moment. As I sift through photographs and memories, I am confronted with the realisation that I am a person who is significantly different from the person I had been at an earlier time. Both physically and mentally, I see myself changing, adding, subtracting, becoming …..Me.

But if I am always changing, adding, subtracting, becoming, where does the assurance of ‘Who am I’ lie? For is this assurance not critical to my engagement and effectiveness in the world? As I muse on this, my thoughts shift to a webinar series titled ‘Integrity: Without it nothing works’ which I participated in recently. In it, author Mike Jensen concludes that the foundation for being a high performance individual is to declare “Who I am is my word”. He goes on to say that within his own organisation, a perspective shift to ‘I am my word’ amongst employees led to a 300% improvement in performance with no additional inputs.

As per Mike, since I am my word, I become whole and complete only when my word is whole and complete. And how does my word become whole and complete? This happens when I honour my word. I can do this in two ways. First by doing what I said and in case I am unable to do so, I inform about this to all the people counting on me and be willing to clean up any mess that might get created.

Why does honouring my word become important? Because it makes my word, and thereby me the person, whole and complete. This is what goes a long way to improve the potential of my performance. To understand this some more, let us look at the example of a car. For optimum performance, it needs to have been designed right, all its components need to be in place and functioning and you, the owner, drive it correctly. Should any of these aspects be missing or not right, the car would malfunction, become unreliable and essentially would lack integrity. So it is true with me (or you). When my word and therefore I, am whole and complete and therefore in Integrity, I radiate an empowered and trustworthy persona and my actions get perceived as reliable and consistent. This then becomes the core of ‘Who I am’ which does not change even when I change physically and mentally. The power of “I AM equal to MY WORD” lies in this. As my word gets perceived as that changeless anchor I am to which everyone around me can tie their knots of trust and faith to.
As I muse of all the difficult-to-handle aspects ranging from self deception about not honouring my word ‘ Do I really need to if no one is looking’ to fear of acknowledging that I would not be able to keep my word ‘How on earth would I clean all the mess that would ensue’, I realise the best place to start is to give my word to myself that I would be my word.

In Learning…….. Shakti Ghosal

Acknowledgement :‘Integrity: Without it nothing works’. Harvard Negotiation, Organisation and Market Research Paper No. 10-042 by Michael C. Jensen,Jessie Isidor Straus Professor Emeritus, Harvard Business School, April 3, 2014.

Author: Shakti Ghosal

* A PCC Credentialed Executive Coach mentor and trainer for leaders & performance. * A qualified engineer and a PGDM (Faculty Gold medalist) from IIM Bangalore. * Four decades of industry experience spanning Engineering, Maintenance, Projects, Consumer durables, Supply Chains, Aviation and Tourism. * Top level management positions to drive business development, strategy, alliances all around the globe. * A visiting faculty at the IIMs. *A passion to envision trends & disseminate Leadership incubation globally. www.empathinko.in , * www.linkedin.com/in/Shaktighosal. shakti.ghosal@gmail.com . +91 - 9051787576

19 thoughts on “I = My Word”

  1. A stimulating piece of writing. My mind has been nourished this morning.

    I think who we are emerges over time yet we still question who. Throughout our lives we change roles a child becomes a teenager then becomes an adult further growing as we settle in our lives. Our experiences dictate what we like and don’t but does not define us. I agree on integrity being our core and knowing ourselves is the only person we can really ever get to know. Yet still life stimulates us further and we still question.

    You have inspired me.


  2. As always, Shakti, a pleasure to visit and ponder with you!
    I’ve been contemplating this for some time as well. When I think of myself as a human being seeking a divine experience is when the question “Who am I?” pops up. When I remember that I am a Divine being having a human experience, then I know I Am That. There is no question, there is only being.
    One of the world’s scriptures, I think it may be the Bible, says “In the beginning there was the Word.” Given that, we could do much worse than being our word! xoxoM


    1. Dear Margarita,

      That’s a lovely comment. I also find it so comprehensive that I can hardly think of anything to add and complete this conversation.

      I suppose the aspect of ‘Being’ is something which every individual contemplates on at some time or the other.In my musings here over the last few years, I have time and again been confronted with the myriad aspects of ‘Being’. Or put another way how the being shows up under different situations.I have come to the conclusion that it is difficult, if not impossible,to articulate what it is in its entirety.I suppose that is what makes it so elusive and mystical.

      I truly appreciate your presence here.



      1. I think that we are constantly attempting to define infinity in finite terms. Being is infinite and eternal. It’s appropriate that our attempts to articulate It should be multi-disciplinary and multi-faceted!

        Thank you, Shakti, for creating a space where I may show up! xoxoM


  3. First of all, it is a truly amazing fact that the majority of people I believe, never have taken time out in their lives to even comprehend themselves. It is something we have all been distracted from knowing and asking about. Who am I ? The labels we are taught to use everyday from early on have a unique way of limiting who we are. Labels stop our discoveries of ourselves dead in their tracks. Imagine if we were taught since early childhood to think deep and ask questions about ourselves. It surely wasn’t a part of my childhood until my early teens when I discovered the book Siddhartha. That opened up a whole new journey for me. I would imagine people would think kids shouldn’t be bothered with thinking deep or asking questions but instead should just play. Play! Yet another distraction from the truth. It is like an onion, the more layers you peel on this subject the further back you go….I truly believe if kids were taught to ask and dig deep as part of the normal process of growing and being we would have very astute children at very early ages. Thanks for the mind bend Shakti…I needed to work that muscle again 🙂 VK


    1. Hi VK,

      Good Morning!

      As always I can count on you to come in with a wonderful perspective every time. I loved the aspect of ‘labels’ which you speak of. Indeed, in its anxiety to slot and make identifiable every member of the herd, Society does impose boundaries with these labels, thus restricting the creativity and the realm of possibilities for the labelled person. Usually this is done under the guise of conformity but if one were to dig a little deeper, one would find the reason to be to hold power over the other.

      Great thoughts and it adds immeasurably to my post and the discussions here so thank you from my heart, my friend.




  4. Shakti …

    When I was young, I learned that my word is very important. Trust can easily be broken and very difficult to rebuild. My Dad once told me that he would not promise me a bike, for example, unless it was already in the garage. That meant he’d already bought it and I could depend on getting it. It wasn’t an empty promise. He set the standard that I chose to live by.

    On another level, Paulo Coelho says: “You must be the person you have never had the courage to be. Gradually, you will discover that you are that person, but until you can see this clearly, you must pretend and invent.” That agrees, I believe, with you reshaping and fine tuning yourself. It doesn’t mean that’s a false you, just a new, improved you. 😉



    1. Dear Judy,
      What a lovely and empowering story from your own life!

      The way it occurs to me, honouring one’s word is really something much more than high morals and a way of life to be aspired to which many folks seem to think. It is much more integral to our opportunity to perform ( that is where the concept of Integrity comes from). So, if we need to succeed with life and living, honouring our word needs to find a central place.

      Thank you for the lovely comment as also Paulo Coelho’s quote Judy, you have made my day!



    1. Dear Diana,

      You need to be acknowledged for that and the fact that you are blessed with a parent who brought that aspect into your socialization.
      If I may say so, true Integrity is really not about ‘trying’ but about honouring our word every time. When we honour our word, we do have the choice of not keeping our word so long as we say so and are willing to take care of the consequences. Integrity is one more mountain with no top and we need to get into the habit of liking the climb!

      Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment.




  5. And inside is what Descartes fingered with “I think therefore I am.” The “who” of my essence can never be touched on with words when all words are are representations. The word is never the thing. Then there’s what Ruiz (“The Four Agreements” said) be impeccable with your word for the word creates reality. We do believe the word. The many words. Philosophy and religion have been trying to figure this out for eons. Like the above comment, one could look to actions, but then if the action is a product of conditioning, someone else’s thinking, how am I to know thyself? Sending you a cyber hug. That’s the best I can do today. 🙂


    1. Thank you for this great comment, or if I may call it musing! Indeed a lot od food for thought.

      In life, the way we impact those around us is by how we occur for them. As I have mused in my post, the only way we can do this is by honouring our word. Should we make this as the essence (to use your term, I would call it that changeless core) of who we are, we would find increasing number of people coming into our circle of influence, attracted to the aura of trust and solidity that we emanate. As this occurs, our capacity to perform in alignment with others improves dramatically. In this sense, ‘honouring’ our word is really the thing to strive for.

      Actions, to be relevant, need to succeed in achieving what they had been contemplated for. Actions initiated from a space of Integrity ( Honouring of our word) improves workability and thereby the opportunity to succeed.

      I appreciate your presence here!



  6. I think it’s futile to look for one single answer to Who am I? It’s a fluid definition, subject to daily change. It’s all those factors you list. You can define it when you ask the question but it’s best not to expect the same answer next week when you ask.

    Your musing about honoring your word is really about your actions. Hamlet said, “Words, words, words… and he was right. They only count towards their relationship to you actions. Words can be meaningless but actions are definitive.


    1. You are quite right. Looking for answers to “Who am I?” lie in the domain of Philosophy. The purpose of my pondering over the question was however to explore the stretch and the misalignment that exists between this and how we tend to show up when asked, “Who are you?” I realized that our effectiveness in the world would get increasingly dictated by how we succeed in moving these two into alignment and thereby maintaining the integrity of Who am I?.

      This pondering took me to the aspect of my Word, rather the honouring of my word, which, to me, construed that changeless aspect of who I am which people could trust and have faith in.

      You are also right when you say that “Honouring of our word” is really all about what we have said we would do or not do and thus about our promise of action.

      Thank you for taking the time to read the post and penning this comment. I appreciate.



    1. The questions which came up when we were children, sometimes remain with us long after we have grown up. Our perspective of what it is change but we might continue to be unsure the way we were when we were young. That, to me, is that great fascination which we call life.

      Thank you for commenting.



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