Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said “your actions speak so loudly, that I can’t hear what you’re saying.” I shared this with my son recently as one explanation for why effort matters. People can see your effort, or lack of. And in the end it shows in results.
But I think Emerson speaks to a broader theme about the games we play with ourselves and with others. I’m going to focus on the importance of being honest with yourself and others, as well as the importance of reading your environment.
Do you really see yourself clearly?
It is incredibly powerful to “know yourself”. It helps you make good choices about priorities, helps you be a strong teammate and in general makes for a happier existence. It’s also a journey, as we all change over time. I am both very much the same and very different today than 20 years ago.
For example, You say you really are committed or love something? Are you really?
People who really care about something put some combination of time, talent and treasure ($) into it. If you are talking about something a lot and believe you are committed, but can’t actually recall any meaningful engagement then maybe you aren’t really that committed. In that case, there are only two explanations. You are either deluding yourself or posturing because you think it’s important. In the first case you lack self-awareness and in the second you’re inauthentic. So think about what you are telling yourself and others and ask if the world sees the same thing?
The opposite is also true. If you can’t get something off your mind, find energy in working on it and sustain interest over time, then you’re pretty committed even if you’re nonchalant about it.
I try to keep myself honest by tracking aspects of my time. I have written about getting in shape and losing weight in a prior post. I still track every workout in a spreadsheet and all my eating in the Lose-it app. It’s been 4+ years. If I stop, I’ll lose focus. I haven’t made much progress writing, but I can quantify the lack of time and effort. Then the question becomes what are the barrier(s) and do you really mean it?
Another example I see in my world is job candidates who say they are working hard on their job search when they spend 5 hours a week. That’s not really trying if you have a big hill to climb.
One point I emphasize to myself when I’m struggling to achieve a goal is maybe your inability to motivate tells you something fairly important. It could be that it’s time to step it up, or maybe it’s time to let it go. Either way, be honest with yourself.
More next time on reading the signals the world is sending you about the message you are communicating with your actions.
Part 2 is here: http://www.phils-career-blog.com/2015/02/your-actions-speak-2/