Have you ever had that feeling where you seem to have some sort of background process going on, something is bothering you, but you just can’t seem to quite put your finger on what it is? Lately I’ve been coming across situations where I get that feeling and I am convinced something is just not right but if you asked me, I wouldn’t be able to express it. Well, finally I have figured it out and I can actually put it into words. I’d like to share it with you to get your take on this…
I have always been very much of a black or white type person. People have often described me as such and I’ve been told over and again throughout my life just how frustrating it is that I don’t seem to allow for any “gray zones”. If I ask you if you want to do such and such and you answer me with “Sure!”, that means absolutely nothing to me and I will press you for either a “Yes” or a “No”. Nevermind this wishy washy “Sure” kind of answer. And you’ll look at me and wonder what the hell is wrong with me, after all, it’s very clear that “Sure!” means “Yes!”. What more do I want eh? I want yes or no, on or off, black or white. I’m not interested in anything in between…it’s far too vague and non-commital.
So, I’ve heard you out, my family, friends and many others along the way, and have worked long and hard to make the necessary adjustments so that I can accept a few shades of gray. I’m doing much better. But I admit to still driving people around the bend.
Me: “Do you like it?”
You: “Ummm, well so-so.”
Me: “So what does that mean? Yes, or no?”
I’m working on it, I promise!! I am grateful that for all these years everyone has nevertheless accepted those parts of me that frustrate them…and I have heard the kind nudges along the way. So what is it all about? Well it has to do with commitment and taking responsibility. I have this issue with the response that goes, “I’ll try!”. Oh my god, if you answer me with “I’ll try!”, I start to get that uncomfortable feeling inside and I realize now that it’s because it means absolutely nothing to me. “I’ll try” is simply not making a commitment, one way or the other, to do it or not do it. I cannot count on “I’ll try”. To me, it means that perhaps you will, perhaps you won’t and so I cannot walk away with that feeling that I know what the outcome will be. I’m left dangling and the only way out of that feeling is to dismiss that response and log it as a “No”. Then I feel better because I’m back in the driver’s seat of my own life since I’m no longer in waiting and wondering mode. Do you see what I’m saying?
I’ve been wondering what “I’ll try” really means. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it is essentially a cop out and that it has no value. You see, we are so afraid to FAIL. There it is, that big word that drives a lot of our actions and most of our inaction! If you were to commit and say, “I will”, you have essentially taken on responsibility for your actions. People will depend on you once you give them the assurance of a firm commitment. How scary is that? Conversely, if you clearly state “I will not”, then people know very clearly that you have turned down taking responsibility for whatever it was they asked of you. And that works too. But we are so afraid to actually let people down (that is how we perceive responding with a “No thank you”) that instead of clearly saying “No”, instead we say, “I’ll try”.
So what does “I’ll try” really mean? It means that you hereby waive all responsibilty for the result of your actions with respect to whatever you didn’t really commit to do. In other words, if you merely said that you’d try, and in the end you never got around to it, or you started and didn’t finish, or you tried and apparently failed, well…you are not responsible because all you committed to was trying. Are you really truly committed when you will only go so far as promising to try? It’s just far too easy to turn around and say, “Well I tried but I didn’t have what I needed”, or “I tried but I didn’t have the time”, or “I tried but other things came up”, or simply, “I tried”. Yes, trying is not worth anything because it has no weight. There is no commitment and we absolve ourselves of any responsibility when we merely offer to try. Have you ever considered that by not making a clear commitment, you are also actually negating your own self worth? I’d love to hear what you think of that idea…
Tell me, how do you feel when you invite someone to a big party you’re planning? You are all excited and want to put on a fantastic spread and share some fun times with people close to you. You make your list of invites and start calling up 20 friends. Ten of them tell you, “Yes, I WILL be there!!”, three of them tell you outright, “No, I’m sorry, I can’t make it”, and seven of them answer with “I’ll try to make it!”. Okay, so do you set the table for 10 or for 17 or do you do some sort of calculation of averages and end up setting the table for 14 or what? What do you do about those seven people who gave you an “I’ll try to make it” answer? Well, I’m done with those people. “I’ll try!” is simply not good enough because I can’t work with that. So, I’m very sorry but I need to dismiss you. I can’t count on you with an answer like that. I don’t know if you will or you won’t and you are leaving me dangling…waiting to see what will happen. How can I have any control of my life if I’m going to go around dancing around a bunch of wishy washy “I’ll try” type answers?
There you go, I have finally figured out what that background process has been that’s been nagging me. Simply put, “I’ll try” frustrates me. But, I don’t have to “try” to deal with it, I can opt to simply negate it. There you go, yes or no. No, I will no longer work around “I’ll try!”. And when I catch myself copping out with such an answer, I’ll bear in mind that I will be negated as well.
My suspicion is that such a non-commital response comes from an inherent fear of failure. We are so afraid to fail, in whatever terms we describe failure, that we refuse to make a commitment. And then, what happens? We wonder why we never get anywhere, why we somehow got overlooked when the party invites went out, why we’re not being asked to participate, why we get passed over for that promotion, and so on. Well, we are all sitting around waiting and hoping to be able to cash in on any one of those wishy washy attempts to get something done or go somewhere or whatever. There we wait, like Godot, for someone to take the reins and “Do it!”. And while we’re sitting there, we whine and wonder why our lives are out of control… Why not take up the challenge!! So what if it doesn’t work out exactly as you’d planned…at least you took control and made a decision. Doesn’t that feel better?
Now that I’ve said all that, I want to consider the other side of the coin for a minute. You see, I have this theory that we would all feel so much freer if we got rid of this concept of merely trying. I’ve just gone on about how it feels to be on the receiving end of “I’ll try” and I’m admitting that personally, I feel so much better and more in control of my life having decided to no longer be led around by “I’ll try”. But what of the one who is giving such a non-commital answer? How do you actually feel when you say “I’ll try”? Does it not nag you the whole time? Would it not have been so much better to simply commit one way or the other? Would you not feel more free to answer with a clear “Yes” or “No’? Either you decide to take it on or you completely relieve yourself of the commitment and everyone is clear on your position. There is noone left dangling and you are not walking around with the burden of basically having never answered the question. Would you not feel so much more free and in control of your life if you removed the vagueries of non-commitment? I’m suggesting that it feels better to take on a commitment and take responsibility for our actions than it does to allow all those things that could possibly happen, that we don’t even know about until they do, to cloud everything and control our lives.
Thank you for reading! Please let me know how you see it… You don’t have to agree with me, all I ask is that you commit, one way or the other. Let’s see what happens… I think it will be fun! Meanwhile, I’m going to go make a list of all the things I’m “trying” to do and make a commitment one way or the other for each thing on that list. Oh boy, scary….now I’m going to be accountable…but maybe, I’ll also end up being counted!