Remember that old saying “You Are What You Eat”?
I do. I remember posters in the school cafeteria, ads in magazines, and a lot of chortled high-school jokes, most of them in good fun.
“Don’t be a grouch. What’d you eat for breakfast, anyway — prickly pears?”
We got the message.
My colleagues in the National Speakers Association put a different twist on this concept. Ron says, “You are what you do, not what you talk about doing.” Chris says, “Talking about writing isn’t writing. Writing is writing.”
I get those messages, too. So much so that I have a saying posted in my house that says, “Life is not a dress rehearsal.”
When I hear people talk about taking a class, or learning to knit, or improving their professional skills, I think it’s great! They have made a proclamation. What is even better is when they take their first real step.
Three weeks ago a client told me that he wants his department to work more collaboratively. He told me that they work in silos, each doing their own thing. I asked him, “What’s your plan?” He chuckled and said, “My plan was to call you and have YOU figure it out.”
Recently, my friend told me that she intends to run a marathon in May. Even though she is currently running just a few miles a day, taking the first steps (literally) builds momentum. When she showed me her running plan, I believed she would do it. More importantly, she believes she will do it. And regardless of when or if this marathon occurs, she is getting more fit and more determined each day.
Let me invite you to consider, whether your goal is an individual goal or a group goal, whether you set your own milestones or work with a partner, that you are what you act on. You are what you eat. Your intentions aren’t you, your actions are you.
I am thrilled that someone I coach is starting a new business. He’s been talking about it for years. Recently he put together a business plan and he opened a business checking account. He is diligently working on a website. How fabulous!
Our lives aren’t happening somewhere else, or at some other time. We aren’t the people we are going to become — we’re the people we currently are. Living in the present means doing what we believe in, now. Let me know what goals you are living.
You probably don’t believe that silence is one of my favorite tools. Certainly when I taught a presentation skills class to Johns Hopkins graduate students, they did not expect me to talk about silence! But I did. And at the end of the week, their final presentations showed how silence can be so effective.
When Mariah began her program, we all saw how powerful silence can be. She paused. She made eye contact with her audience. She waited. Only when a room full of curious eyes were focused on her did she begin to speak.
We saw it when Kristin began her meeting with a question — neither simplistic nor overly complex — designed to transform an audience into a group of participants. She asked. She waited. Sometimes she waited five to eight seconds, and five to eight seconds of silence is longer that you might think! It’s very hard to listen to silence.
We watched Tad use silence in a marketing brainstorming session. There was a blizzard of ideas, but when the flurries slowed and then stopped, he didn’t move on. He waited, in silence, for a full 60 seconds. The best ideas of the session followed that silence.
And I know that skillful negotiators, like my colleague Michael, use silence in their work every day. I’ve heard Michael say, “The person who speaks first, loses.” I think he’s right, and how-to books on negotiation concur.
I like to use silence in the appreciation segment of a teambuilding session (my favorite part of these workshops!) when colleagues tell one another what they genuinely like about working together. The inevitable lull comes, and everyone looks at me as if to say, “Well, we did it. Can we go home now?” I just smile and wait, knowing that my silence will give them time to appreciate one another in a deeper way.
How can you use silence in your work and life?