“You only know how to talk and no action..”
“Don’t tell me what you want to do. Show it to me!”
“A down-to-earth person let his actions do the talking.”
What triggers you
No one likes such criticisms.
To avoid it, you might have developed a style of not talking about your ideas, unless you’re very very sure that you’re able to deliver them.
You become a closet dreamer. You don’t tell people what you want to achieve, for the fear of not being able to attain it.
You don’t want people to wag their fingers at you. You don’t want to be labelled “No action, talk only.”
But an alarming side effect is that you also stopped declaring to yourself what you want. You become unsure of your commitment to your goals, and your power to follow through.
“Don’t go for anything that I cannot afford or am not sure that I’ll complete.” That has become your mantra.
Desperation caused me to change
This is my personal story.
A few years ago, I was at a career crossroad, deciding whether to end my business. As a last-ditch effort, I enrolled in a well-known business program which cost a five figure sum. I didn’t have the money, but I thought, “If I want to be in business, I will not let this lack of money deter me. If I cannot even cross this hurdle, I’d better say bye bye to any dreams of running my own business.” I took up a personal loan from an acquaintance, and committed to repaying about $750 per month.
I thought I was out of my mind. I didn’t have the money when I committed to the personal loan. But once I committed to it, it created a focus in me. Because I didn’t want to default on the loan, I started to think of ways to tutor more students so that I could meet the obligations. I also summoned up my courage to ask for a loan from my parents, just to give myself some buffers. In the end, I managed to meet my obligations every month. Somehow, I managed to find the money even if I didn’t know how when I made the commitment.
This story is not about how determined or how resourceful I was. The mere act of believing something is so important, that I am willing to say, “I’ll do it”, whether I see a way or not, is powerful.
I call it “The Power of Declaration”.
How powerful declarations work (for me, anyway)
Powerful declarations require two key components only. First, you must believe in its importance. Second, you must make a plan to follow through. What is not required though, is to know how exactly you can make it work.
From my experience above, I believed that I had to take some actions (“sign up for a business course”), and I also had a concrete plan to execute them (“$750 a month”).
When I made the declarations, I did not have a consistent surplus each month to make the repayments. I didn’t have a view of the path ahead.
Only when something is important enough for me, then it’ll drive me to make a declaration. Everything else is not a “must-do”.
Once something is important enough for me to make a declaration, it commands my attention and becomes my focus.
Because it is so important to me, it frees me from other concerns and constraints. Everything else is negotiable. It unleashes certain creative powers in me.
For example, when I made the commitment to repay $750 each month for my business course, I knew that, by hook or by crook, I had to come up with the money every month. My purchases, my longer term collaborations, my pet projects, my preference for a certain kind of student, all had to take a back seat. I would make sure that my time and effort could generate enough income to pay off the $750 for that month. It pushed me to take on projects that I hesitated to take on.
What if things didn’t work out?
Declarations are not magic spells that will make everything work. Far from it. Making a declaration does not guarantee results.
Especially when you don’t really believe in the importance of your declaration, it will render it powerless.
What if you fail to attain your desired outcome after making the declaration? Are you not setting yourself up to be embarrassed? Why not play by the rule of “let your results do the talking”?
The answer to this, is that even if a declaration doesn’t always work, the result is not everything.
It’s about making progress
Making a declaration and a commitment drives you to be absolutely focused on your commitment, to break out of your comfort zone, to prioritise something over all others. This means progress. This kind of progress will not happen naturally.
JFK made a declaration to put US astronauts on the moon within a decade. I’m not sure whether they really did it by their committed timeline, but the fact is that it drove tremendous progress in space technology.
I made a commitment to my wife, and declared it to the world on my wedding day. I cannot guarantee that my marriage will work, but I have made a commitment and a declaration, my focus is to do whatever I can to make it work. Although the ultimate outcome is not totally within my control, we have made lots of progress from the day we were married.
Scale. Adventure. Fire
Making a commitment and a declaration is like a weighing scale. It shows you how much weight something is in your heart.
Making a declaration is an adventure. It is much safer to flirt with “I will do it if I have the resources…”. Going on an adventure means that you might make it, or you might fail, but either way it’s guaranteed to be a darn exciting story.
Making a commitment is a fire. It burns away all your trivial concerns, worries and distractions. It shows you what you really have at your core.