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Choosing to say ‘I will’….

Choosing to say "I will".No, it’s not what you think.

This is not a treatise on getting married, although that might be more along the lines of choosing to say “I do” rather than “I will”.

Anyway, I digress.

Someone asks you to do something. Might be your boss, a friend, a family member. How often is your response, “I’ll try”?

Nothing wrong in that, I hear you mutter. And to a certain extent, I agree.

My children have heard me say often enough:

It’s ok to get it wrong, it’s not ok to not try”

…usually as they squirm uncomfortably on the receiving end of a lecture about music practice, maths homework or Biology revision. We learn by trying, getting it wrong, trying again, making mistakes, trying again and eventually succeeding. Thomas Edison famously said that he didn’t fail 10,000 times to make a light bulb, he simply learned 10,000 ways that wouldn’t work.

So, if we define ‘trying’ as having a go, stepping out of our comfort zone, not being afraid to learn from our mistakes, these are all important aspects of growing up, learning, maturing. Essential elements of life.

But what of a more negative way to define the same phrase?

Because sometimes, “I’ll try” is simply a way of getting ourselves off the hook of really committing to something. A safe on-the-fence-response that suggests willingness initially, but allows for an opt out at a later date.

Imagine the scenario. You are asked to get involved with something that will require time, energy, and some effort. Perhaps a colleague asked you to help with an organisational event, or a friend with some fund raising. The cause seems a good one. There is kudos in being asked. It would be good to be involved, and might be quite fun. These initial responses run through your head, and then you are aware of an inner stirring in your gut that points towards the cost. How whatever it is might start to suck time and energy from your very bones, become a drain or a bit of a millstone.

But an early admission of these concerns is not de rigueur, and saving face or trying to please others, or not letting someone down motivate you to say – “I’ll try”. Then, when further down the line the cost hits home and we want out, our identity is less at stake. It is easier to opt out, justifying to ourselves and others, that “I did only say I could try, I didn’t commit to anything.”

I am aware I am on thin ice, and there might be daggers being drawn even as I write this. Bear with me.

Same scenario, two alternative options.

Firstly, the request comes. Again, it is a good cause, good to be involved, you don’t want to let folk down. All valid and important. However. There is then a brave choice – to weigh up the cost of saying yes, measure it against other commitments and your values, take your own boundaries into consideration….and say a straight out

No I can’t”.

Of course with grace and an apology, but without a string of qualifiers and disclaimers. No shame in this. But not always an easy thing to do, and takes a strong internal awareness of values, priorities and good boundaries.

Alternative option, is to give the answer “I will”.

You take a little time – how often do we say ‘yes’ too quickly before we give ourselves time to think, let alone discuss the situation with others who might be affected?

You weigh up the merits and costs of the request, and consider it against your strengths, time and energy availability, and values. A frank inventory of your other commitments allows you to see clearly what you will be saying ‘no’ to by saying ‘yes’ to this. The summation of all these reflections then enables you to see that this is important, and fits well with who you are and what you can do.

You say yes to the request – “I will”. And in so doing, give yourself and the requester an understanding of your full commitment.

This is a perspective shifter – in saying “I will” rather than “I’ll try”, you are choosing to give your best commitment, and will apply perseverance, discipline, and probably some bravery in your quest to fulfill the request.

Having courage to say no to a good and valid request can be hard, as none of us like letting people down. And if we are honest, there can be an element of pride in thinking we can do it all, and we like to be needed. But being aware of our finite energy and time requires an element of humble acceptance of our limitations – we simply can’t do it all. Choosing not to be too proud is where we will go next week.

But meanwhile, choosing to say “I will” – where might that change things for you this week?

Inspired? Encouraged? Get in touch!

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