(Preface: This is one of those posts that I’m not overly happy with, but it’s been sitting in my post queue for about three weeks now. I keep making edits and revamping it, and then there reaches a point where you just have to hit “publish” or “delete” and be done with it…)
I went back and forth about whether to make this part of my Beauty in Books series, but I only really wanted to talk about one particular segment of The Noticer.
The book itself is a bit hard to explain, but essentially each chapter features a story where a man named Jones coincidentally runs into an individual or couple needing new perspective and wisdom. It was a book I primarily skimmed except for this particular passage:
‘Five seagulls are sitting on a dock. One of them decides to fly away. How many seagulls are left?’
‘No,’ Jones responded. ‘There are still five. Deciding to fly away and actually flying away are two very different things. Listen carefully to me. Despite popular belief to the contrary, there is absolutely no power in intention. The seagull may intend to fly away, may decide to do so, may talk with the other seagulls about how wonderful it is to fly, but until the seagull flaps his wings and takes to the air, he is still on the dock. There’s no difference between that gull and all the others. Likewise, there is no difference in the person who intends to do things differently and the one who never thinks about it in the first place. Have you ever considered how often we judge ourselves by our intentions while we judge others by their actions? Yet intention without action is an insult to those who expect the best from you.’
I’ve always been a fan of the adage “well done is better than well said,” which I think is why I loved that passage so much. Despite being a big proponent of it, even I get hung up on not moving past intention. I don’t even want to count how many times a week I say I’m going to do something and either don’t follow through or half ass it.
The day after reading that chapter, I saw an article by Liz Gilbert (she’s at Brene Brown level in terms of how much I love her perspective and writing). There was a paragraph in the article that immediately made me highlight, copy and paste it so I wouldn’t forget the message.
The hurdle, however, is that asking for what you really want—whether it’s a job as a writer or a discount on tires—can be difficult. Especially for women. First of all, you must know what you really want, which can be hard if you were raised to please others. Secondly, you must believe that what you want is worthy—again, a tricky prospect for women long trained in the dark arts of self-deprecation. Thirdly, you must face the possibility of rejection. That’s the worst of it. Women don’t like being turned down (we get enough of that in our personal lives), and so, like trial lawyers, we often ask only questions to which we already know the answers. Which means: no risk. Which further means: no reward.
Needless to say, my mind was spinning. There’s no power in intention. There’s no risk or reward in not asking. In both scenarios, it’s about playing it safe.
Moving beyond intention and going after what I want was the big motivation when I decided my word for the year would be daring. I think what these two quotes helped me remember is that it’s not just the big things (my career, wanting to be a consultant, personal growth) that need attention and action. It’s also about the daily things, the small things that, in the end, can actually make a huge difference.
I got to thinking about all my good intentions throughout an average week or month. And let me tell you, I’d be one rich lady if I got even a penny for every time I said something like, “I really need to start eating healthier” or “I should really give up Diet Coke.”
It goes beyond health, too. It wasn’t until I attended a financial/retirement planning seminar two weeks ago that I start taking action on budgeting/creating a new retirement account and getting a bank in Lincoln (six months after I moved here…). All the intention in the world is going to get me a bank account in town or money for retirement. It requires action.
From that financial seminar I also gained a different perspective on that first quote. Intention without action is an insult to those who expect the best from you. You know who that is? Me, myself and I. The financial advisor kept stressing you need to look in the mirror and have that staff meeting to really assess if you’re taking the actions you need to take. In the end, waiting another month to not budget or start eating healthier hurts myself.
I can’t say this post has a real purpose other than giving me an opportunity to reinvigorate my efforts to keep daring myself — to act on and ask for what I want, whether it’s big or small. Plus it’s part of living the good life, right? It’s not always easy, but in the end I’d say it’s worth it.