In Make Even Smarter Choices, Uncategorized, What's Holding You Back?

I love being a Southerner.  I grew up with a tradition of hospitality.

How nice.  That would be lovely.
Aren’t you thoughtful to ask.
We’d love to see you when we’re back visiting.

There is thoughtfulness, yes, but tentativeness as well.

That WOULD be nice (doesn’t necessarily mean yes, I’ll do it).
Aren’t you thoughtful (doesn’t mean that I’ll accept your invitation).
We would love to see you (doesn’t mean we WILL).

As long as one understands the subtlety all goes smoothly.  And even if you don’t, we’ll certainly try to work things out.

Recently though, I realized this conditional way of speaking can keep us from reaching our goals.  When you say: I’m thinking about looking for a new career or doing a marathon or starting a new business, you’re actually holding back on commitment.  You are being tentative – even timid.  Have you noticed yourself or your friends say: I will try? Or even worse: I’m thinking about trying to…!

Of course it’s O.K. to consider things before you take action.  But once you are committed, then say it like you mean it.  “I’m cleaning out my closet”NOT “I’m going to try to clean out my closet…”  Try this on something you have on your list.  Can you feel the difference?

One of my favorite quotes is about the power of commitment:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.  Concerning all acts of initiative and creation there is one elementary truth—the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans—the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events, issues and decisions, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no one could have dreamed, would have come their way…”

W.H. Murray
Scottish Himalayan Expedition

So next time you are going to do something – Say it!

I will find a new career this year.
I am starting a business in six months.
I will run the marathon in April.

This week pay attention to how you articulate your intention.  Let me know what you notice.

Until next Tuesday,



  • Claire Petersky

    Even more affirming is to state these in the present tense:

    “I am completing [not running – the word “completing” means you’re crossing the finish line!] the marathon in April”
    “This is the year that I find a new job”

    If I really feel I can’t say things in the present tense, because the goal feels nearly insurmountable, then I use the “May I…” formula. Since I am a hair religious, I can imagine a divine figure granting these – but I think the “May” formula doesn’t require god(s)/goddess(es)


    “May I have a complete healing” – after a long or life-threatening illness or injury

    “May I know peace” – I use this one when I am really struggling, internally or externally

    “May I remember differently” – when I am having difficulty forgiving someone – it’s not that I want to forget what happened, but I want to remember what happened without the baggage of all the feelings of hurt or resentment

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