11 August, 2009

Trying vs. Doing

A friend once told me that the definition of trying was “failing with honor.” That definition has stuck with me for the last few years. In fact, it was probably “stuck in my craw” for at least a few of those months! I had used the words “I’ll try” in conversation with many friends and in most of my professional life. That always meant that I would give it my best…….at least that’s what it meant to me.

It didn’t occur to me that I really wasn’t giving it my best when I was just trying. I wasn’t as profoundly related to my word then as I am now. In earlier years, I felt that the best I could do was to try. If it didn’t work out or I wasn’t able to accomplish that which I’d tried, I could simply tell the person that I gave it my all and I could walk away from that person and situation with my integrity left intact; at least that’s what I thought then.

I’ve now come to understand that if we are really going to give our full intention to doing something, then we can promise that we’ll do it. Think about the difference in intensity that you give to doing something that you’ve told someone you’ll try to do versus that which you’ve promised to do. If you’re like most, when you give your word to another in the form of a promise, you do everything within your power to ensure that you meet your word. And, if you see that you can’t keep your promise, you communicate that to the person to whom you made the promise.

You may now be thinking “why does it matter if I promise vs. say ‘I’ll try’?” It may make no difference for you at all. It really comes down to a matter of how you value your word. If you’re a person who’s about creating your life, then you will want to weigh carefully the words that come out of your mouth and their meanings.

Once we understand that what we think and speak is literally creating our worlds, we become differently related to our words. We want to create lives of meaning and value and we understand that life and death are truly held in the tongue. What we speak suddenly has more weight with us because we understand the value of our words. And because we understand their value, we begin to listen to ourselves differently. We actually begin to listen to what we say and how we speak. We begin to listen to how we respond to others. All of a sudden, we begin to catch ourselves using phrases or words that we really don’t mean and we consciously begin to avoid saying those things anymore. We even catch ourselves eluding others by inferring our agreement with things they say.

With all of that said, you may still be thinking “but I can say ‘I’ll try’ and I can honor that as my word, like a promise.” And, if that’s you, there’s nothing wrong with that. That doesn’t work for me but it doesn’t mean that it can’t work for others. The reason promising has become important to me is because when I give my word in the form of a promise, it strikes a certain tone within me. It makes me be more conscientious of that which I’m promising. And it stays at the forefront of my memory until I fulfill on that promise. Promising, for me, carries more weight than simply saying “I’ll try.”

There’s a saying that “we do better as we know better.” That simply means that we can’t do that which we haven’t yet learned or been educated about. Learning, and esteeming the power that’s held in a promise, is now something that we all share in common. And, if you can’t fulfill on your promise, you simply can’t fulfill on your promise. That doesn’t make you a bad person and it doesn’t mean that you’re incapable. It simply means that you weren’t able to fulfill that promise – just as you wouldn’t have been able to make it work out if you had said, “I’ll try.”

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