My friend Niall recently launched his much-anticipated trip around the world, and many of his friends share the same reaction: “Wow, you’re really doing it!”
Niall is polite, so he smiles and nods. But he’s really thinking: “Yeah. I said I was going to. What did you expect?”
I had the same experience when I launched my two-year round-the-world trip. My friends and family exclaimed, “Whoa, girl! You’re really doing it!” One close college friend even emailed me to say: “You’re my new hero for doing what you said you’d do!”
My reaction? “What’s all the fuss? Didn’t you hear me pledge that I’d do it?”
I learned two important lessons from these responses:
#1: Most people rarely do the things they intend / hope / want to do.
- and -
#2: Conventional wisdom says publicly proclaiming your goals will help you achieve those goals. Conventional wisdom is wrong. Declaring your goals isn’t enough.
How Strong Is Your Word?
Pause for a second and think about how many of your friends, family members or co-workers say things like:
- “This year I’m going to quit my stupid job.”
- “This year I’m going to write a book.”
- “This year I’ll quit smoking.”
- “This year I’m going to lose 20 pounds.”
- “I want to leave the law firm and become a hang-gliding instructor.”
- “I swear that relationship is over. I’m not taking him/her back.”
Yeah, right. How many of your friends have followed through with these pledges?
But – let’s turn this question around – Did you believe them when they made that pledge? Or did you just smile and nod?
The sad truth is that sometimes we expect others to fail. As a result, we ALLOW our friends to fail. We don’t hold their feet to the fire when they fall off the bandwagon.
If they accomplish their goal, we’re amazed. “You’re really doing it!” We didn’t expect them to succeed.
I call this “permissive failure” — the idea that it’s okay if I don’t follow through with my dreams because no one expects me to achieve those dreams anyway.
“Permissive failure” is a two-way street. Many of our friends share those same low expectations of us. Despite our pledge, our friends expect us to skip the gym. They figure we’ll never really quit that dead-end job. And they know we’re going to get sucked back into that relationship we vowed to leave.
When we follow through with our dreams, our friends are shocked. “Wow! You really did it!”
People often rise or fall to the expectations you have of them. Low expectations lead to losses. Great expectations create victories.
The best thing you can do for others is believe in them.
Publicly declaring your goals is only the first step. The second crucial step is making sure your audience BELIEVES you’ll do it. That way you’ll rise to their belief in you.
The final step is to make sure that your audience will CALL YOU OUT if you don’t follow through. It doesn’t matter that you made a public declaration of your goal if no one holds you accountable.
Our friends and family don’t force us to deliver on our promises. They don’t chide us for eating Cheetos instead of doing sit-ups.
They justify their reasons for keeping their mouth shut: It’s considered rude to point out someone’s shortcomings. Plus it’s ‘none of their business.’
But just imagine for one second that you had a friend or a family member who believed you – believed you with her whole heart – when you said you’d quit your job, get out of debt, end a bad relationship or travel the world.
Imagine that if you failed to do what you said, you’d disappoint her. You’d shatter her faith in you.
Won’t THAT make you want to try harder?
Now imagine that this friend holds your feet to the fire. She doesn’t twiddle her thumbs and say, “If you want to cheat on your diet, that’s none of my business.”
Instead, she steps in and says, “Hey, listen. You and I both know that what you’re doing won’t help you reach your goals. So why are you still doing it?”
That’s not a rhetorical question. She’s your friend, and she’s waiting for your response.
Won’t THAT make you want to try harder?
The Bottom Line: Talk is cheap. Public declarations are a dime a dozen. If you want to achieve something, your biggest asset is someone – a friend, a family member, a blog audience – who BELIEVES your pledge, and who will call you out if you don’t follow through.
I want to buy at least one cash-flow positive real estate investment property every two years, until I amass a portfolio of at least five properties. In other words, I want to buy at least 5 rental properties within the next 10 years.
By the way, do you see how specific that goal is? “Cash-flow positive real estate investment.” // “One purchase every two years.”
Specificity is essential. When I set my travel goal, I was specific about wanting to: #1: not work while I traveled, #2: visit multiple continents and regions, #3: spend an average of one month in each country, and #4: travel without working for at least one year.
Real Estate Progress So Far: One down, four to go. Eleven more months until I reach my self-imposed deadline for buying the second one. I hope you’ll hold my feet to the fire
UPDATE 03/14/2012: I bought a second rental house — two down, three to go, more than six months ahead of schedule! You can read about it here.
UPDATE 05/07/2012: I bought a third rental house — three down, two to go! Find out the juicy details.