Ep 121: The Importance Of Declarations
Accountability is a word you often hear being thrown here and there, but in reality, it is seldom practiced. This is where the importance of declarations comes in. In this episode, Adam Quiney talks about what declaration is in totality and how it can help you keep yourself accountable for your decisions. He discusses the different ways of using declaration to continuously improve yourself towards making that breakthrough. Also, learn the dos and don’ts in making a declaration as he gives out the four different ways you could be using your declarations wrong.
Listen to the Episode Here:
The Importance Of Declarations
We’re going to be talking about the Importance of Declarations. We’re transitioning out of our Leadership Sandtrap series for a little bit now, we’ve done six of those. Just a reminder that if you come up against thorny issues for leadership, places you’re like, “I just don’t know how I work with this. I notice I keep getting stopped here. How do you deal with this?” Send an email to us at PR@AdamQuiney.com. I love hearing from you. I appreciate the opportunity to take some of that, and in a way, co-create it. You can create some gold out of whatever dirt you’re getting. Onwards for this episode, we’re talking about declarations. The importance of declarations.
What Is A Declaration?
What is a declaration and why are we talking about it? Here’s the one-sentence summary that I’ve got for you. Declarations are part of what moves leaders forward and one of the most significant ways that leaders create possibilities in the world. We’re going to start by explaining what it is, why it’s important, how it’s used, and finally, how people get it wrong, how they squirrel out of it. Here’s the definition of a declaration. It is the declaration that you will achieve something specific by a specific point in time. To put more succinctly a declaration is a what by when. What will you do, and by when will you have done it? Why is this important? How do we use that? Until people make a declaration, they’re operating in the realm of expectations or vague generalities, masked and empowering language.
You probably know these kinds of generalities. Statements like, “We’re going to be the best that we can be. I commit to never leaving anything on the table.” These kinds of statements sound great and they look nice and pretty when they’re posted on the wall of your business for your customers to see. When they come to the door or when you post them boldly on Facebook or share them with your friends, but how do you hold anyone accountable to this? How do we even know if you’re getting better at doing this?
Absent in declaration with a clear result, we don’t have anything to measure our progress towards or away from what you say you are committed to. When this is the case, where we’re left is using our feelings as the measure of how well we’re doing. We have no other measuring stick. It’s just, “I’m going to know that I’ve left something on the table because I’ll feel this way.” People might push against that. They’d be like, “Because of the way people respond to me.” Great. What’s the measure of having achieved that? “They’re going to look at me more often then,” and you can just feel the murkiness of this.
There’s no way for us to check so we could ask, “How did it go this week?” We could like, “Three people looked at me that way that I’m trying to get to so, I guess pretty good,” and “This week, only two people and one of them looked at me crappy, so maybe not so good.” The trouble here is that there’s nothing outside of our subjective experience where it leaves us at the end of the day is how do we feel? “I can think of these times when it didn’t happen, I guess I’m doing good.” “This week may be worse.” How do we know? We don’t. What we’re left with are vague pronouncements and using our feelings to determine whether we’re creating in the world what we say we’re committed to creating.
You’ll notice that a declaration creates a commitment and in that creation of a commitment, you not only create the possibility for yourself, but you create something that you now have to move towards. When you declare a result, it requires you to show up in the world in such a way that will create that result. If I tell you, “I’m going to leave all our customers feeling better than they once did,” you don’t have much you can work with me on it. If you were either to support me or I made a declaration like, “90% or more of our customer reviews will be positive by December 31st, 2020.” That’s a clear declaration that we can measure our progress towards. When we couple the act of making a declaration like that with a result that is something outside of what you already know or predictably will be able to do, the declaration sources of a breakthrough.
Two Types Of Results We Can Declare
I want to make that last point a little clearer because this is where I see most coaches and most leaders fail to use this powerfully and cost their clients and themselves the breakthroughs that they say they want. There two types of results we can declare. I can declare a result that I’m already reliable to do. Here are some examples of a result that I’m reliable for. “By this time next week, I will have gotten up and gotten dressed every single day.” You’re like, “Great. Way to go, Adam.” That’s something I’m going to do no matter what.
Next, I could create a result that would be a little bit, it’s not what I’m already going to do, but I’m still reliable for it. For example, “By this time next week, I’m going to get up and I will have dressed in three different outfits every single day.” That’s not a result I’m already doing, so it’s outside of what is already going to happen, but there’s no breakthrough required from me. I can already figure out how I’m going to create that. I already know how I’m going to get there. This is great. I’ll just do this. Easy peasy. That is still something I’m reliable predictably able to generate. No breakthrough will be required.
We move these to a more business perspective. A reliable result might typically be like “By this time, next year, we will have increased our sales by 5% or 10%.” Something very reasonable. Something that doesn’t demand too much. It might require like, we tighten the bolts and figure it out, but we’re pretty reliable for it. If you’re working 70 hours a week, you might declare a result like “By this time next month, I will be working 60 hours a week.” Those results are reliable. They’re predictable. By rearranging the furniture in your apartment, you can make those results happen.
Here are some declarations that would be outside of what is predictable, outside of what you are reliable to do “By this time next year, we will have doubled or tripled our profits.” “By this time next month, I will be working 40 hours a week at most.” These are results to go from 70 to 40 unless you’re in some exceptional circumstance, that’s going to require a breakthrough. That’s not something you can figure out like, “How do I make that happen?” That’s where declarations are at their most powerful, the place where we cannot yet see the “How.”
What most people do is they put the how in front of making a declaration. They ask themselves, “What do I know how to do?” They mistake that for what’s possible for me. What do I already know how to do, including maybe I need to go and read some more and gain more knowledge, but then I could figure out how to do it? From the field of what they already know how to do, they declare the thing that they’re going to take on and that is 100% going to be in the realm of what you are already predicted to do. It lies inside of the domain of knowledge you already have or already know you don’t have, no breakthrough required.
By declaring a result that is out in the field of possibility outside of what you may know how to do, that declaration is going to require you to expand and develop your being. It’s going to require a breakthrough on your part to manifest, to fulfill on that declaration, and that’s where declarations are truly powerful. It’s also where they’re really scary because we get afraid that when we make a declaration, if we don’t achieve it, we’re going to be heartbroken, crestfallen, look stupid, or any of those things. Great leaders are willing to be those things in service of creating the impossible, in service of creating the breakthroughs that they’re committed to creating. One of the things that separate leaders from people calling themselves leaders or people that don’t, and don’t have any desire to call themselves a leader, are that the leaders cast a declaration into the field of possibility into the unknown without yet understanding or knowing how they will achieve it. The rest of the world creates declarations that are inside of what they already know how to do, and so consequently at best, their life moves forward incrementally.
How People Get It Wrong
How do people get this wrong? Once you start to use declarations in your own life, you’re going to begin to notice how rare actual declarations are. The first-place people fail when making a declaration is by leaving their “What.” Remember a declaration is a what by when. They leave their what vague and abstract. The first place, we see this are with vague pronouncements of affirmations and positive-sounding language. “I will be the best I can.” “I will start letting people take advantage of me.” “I will only let love guide me.” “I will surrender to whatever the universe provides in front of me.” These sound great, but they don’t call you forward to anything. They don’t pull you through your fear towards something that you’ve committed to, because there’s nothing to hold yourself accountable to. You can test this by asking yourself the question, when you hear a declaration like this, “By when and how will we know you’ve gotten there?”
The test I like to do with my clients and the leaders I’m working with is “If I gave this to a five-year-old, would they,” and no other context and then in a year, or whenever you’re by when is said, “Did they achieve this?” Will the five-year-old be able to tell without you talking about you to them? It’s kind because people are usually like, “Yes.” They haven’t thought about the question, but the truth is almost always, no, the kid would have no idea. It’d be like, “Did you do it?” “What can you show me?” “Jonathan smiled at me yesterday and so-and-so did that and I feel pretty good.” The kid can objectively test that’s something inside of you. The first is getting the what all vague and weird.
The second major place that people get declarations wrong is by avoiding a timeframe altogether or putting them way far out into the future. By putting our declarations far out into the future or avoiding any time-bound, we keep ourselves safe. We don’t have to worry about being held accountable and we give ourselves the exit of avoiding our fears and avoiding the risk of failing so we don’t have to worry about those things. The real risk of this approach is that if we don’t ever take the action that would have us fail and then learn, we’ll never evolve from that failure and we can never create the breakthrough. We just float around. We might feel guilty and then we will be like, “Help me not feel guilty about this” which is such a silly request like, “Help me just not feel guilty about this,” instead of like, “Help me create this thing in my life.”
Long, vague like “Twelve years from now, I’ll have done this.” That’s too far out. You can do nothing for ten years and then at that point, “I don’t want to do that anymore.” It didn’t call you forward. We can start twelve years out but, great, what is the one-year place you will be that would then actually have us have some like, “If twelve years out is the endpoint, where will you be in one year? What are the results? What will we check on?” People will get very squirrely with this and the reason they’ll say things like, “I don’t yet know what I want to do. I’m not sure how this,” and “I’ve got to do some research” and all of that is the how.
Figure out the what first. I guess you could call it a distinction or a saying, which is when you put how before what it turns what into but. What that means is when you put your intention on how will I achieve this before you get clear on what it is you want to achieve, then instead of having a vision that really inspires you and calls you forward into the future and the breakthroughs you want to create, you end up with a bunch of buts. “Here’s why not.” “Here’s why I can’t do it.” “Here’s why it won’t work.”
The third way that people fail or fall with their declarations is by making a declaration to make a declaration. This sounds something along the lines of “By March 23rd, 2021, I will have decided when I’m going to leave my job.” This is not what we’re going for. A declaration like this doesn’t call you forward to anything. It’s simply the act of putting off what you say you’re committed to until later. By when will you leave your job? Make the declaration now, today. Until you do, nothing will happen. Once you’ve made that declaration, you’ve got shit to do. You’re called forward into your life. “You said you’re going to leave your job in a month.” What do you need to make happen? What are your requirements for leaving your job? What now do you have to start doing to leave your job? Someone wants to go full time into their entrepreneur gig and they’d make a declaration “Three months from now, I’m going to leave my job.” Now, a bunch of stuff is going to start happening.
First, they’re going to have to get clear. “What do I need in place?” “I need $20,000 in the bank.” “What do you currently have?” “$5,000.” “How are you going to create $15,000 in the next three months?” People can start to get overwhelmed and afraid when this shows up, which is why they avoid making the declaration in the first place but the path to that full-time entrepreneur life that they want is through that overwhelm. Making the declaration forces people to confront it now, as opposed to perpetually putting it off. What are you going to take on and then what are you going to have to do to honor your commitment?
The fourth way that people fail or fall with their is by making declarations without any intent to commit to it. Your declaration is only as valuable as your commitment to really creating the result. One of the easiest places to find this is something that’s become a little vogue these days, this notion of an impossible goal like a moonshot goal. Some people use moonshot a little differently, but I’m talking about like, “We’ll say we’re going to go towards this,” but in your heart, you’re not committed to creating it. You’re not building a plan. You’re not looking at what that’s going to take. You’re not forging ahead towards that. It’s like, “Wouldn’t that be neat if?” From that place, there’s no commitment, and thus it’s almost the same thing as having no declaration whatsoever. There isn’t a declaration. There’s no pull into your future to fulfill it. Impossible goals, neat bucket list items, there’s a whole bunch of ways that we can create this so that we’re not committed and it’s fine.
I just invite you to distinguish that is not a declaration and that is not what we’re talking about in terms of something that will call you forward into your life and create the breakthroughs that you say you want to create. Creating results that are outside of what is currently possible for you will require a breakthrough and what most people do instead is make nice-sounding declarations, and then expect the result to get created by just showing up the way they always have. They’re like, “I want to be prime minister one day.” I’m setting that intention. Now, I’m going to go back to my life here and I’m going to keep doing things the way I do. If I hold that intention and then do my best here, maybe one day I’ll arrive at the intention.
Maybe, I don’t know, but it’s pretty powerless and there’s not a lot of like, “The real question we want you to be in,” and this arises once you’ve made a declaration is, “Is the way I’m showing up actually moving me towards that declaration?” If not, okay, great. We can look at it. We get a lot more power from getting outside of holding an intention. Breakthroughs pretty much never show up from the same actions you’ve already taken.
Why does all of this matter as a leader? We’ll then get to what you do about it. On the personal level, leaders that can’t or won’t make declarations are rarely able to create breakthroughs in their lives. They can talk about their breakthroughs using big language and talking about what they’re committed to creating. They might even have the internal feeling of creating a breakthrough. This is important that the creation of a breakthrough is not the same as feeling about it. The truth, the measure of that is, it’s a bit sticky because on the one hand, who are we to judge whether someone has created a breakthrough for themselves. The hallmark of a leader is that they create some impact in the world that they are committed to beyond that which was already predictable. Whether or not someone’s feeling any different is not the question we’re interested in. It’s are they creating the impact they say they’re committed to creating.
To be clear, when I say impact, I’m not talking about something vague. I’m talking about a specific declared result, “Five hundred thousand kids will have shoes by this point next year.” Great. That impact is clear. Leaders on the personal level, they’ll be engaged in a lot of conversation and dialogue about breakthroughs, but the actual results they’re creating in their lives will not change to a very great deal. With your teams, the leader, they will resist making their powerful declarations and committing to them will have the same challenge holding their teams to do that. They won’t hold their teams accountable to make declarations and commitments that will challenge, confront, and move the team forward through their breakthroughs. Instead, they’ll have teams that are a reflection of them.
It’s a nice language that sounds cool and empowered. Perhaps some feel like things are changing, maybe some names to values written up on their wall or something like that, while in the world of the concrete and tangible, nothing that different beyond surface-level changes. Incremental shifts, but no breakthroughs. If it sounds like I’m having a go at the values, words, whatever written on the wall, it’s simply because I noticed that it’s a common exercise done. Teams will sit down and talk about their values but it’s more of lip service or an exercise done once. It’s that same thing where it’s like, “Let’s take a look at this.” Now, we’re holding the intention and the value, and we’re going to remind ourselves every day, integrity and we’re going to ask ourselves is what I’m doing in integrity. That tends to fall.
It’s really interesting, Enron, the company that just created massive bankruptcies, huge problems, big energy crisis, and tons of corruption. Until the day they were shut down, the words, integrity, and other values were on their wall when you came into their lobby. I am having a little bit of a go there. It’s not that’s a bad exercise. It’s that I’m inviting you beyond that. I’m inviting you not to stop where most people stop because we want to support you in playing at the top 99th percentile of leadership rather than doing what everyone else does.
What do you do about this? First, you can take a look at what’s a predictable result for you. What does a result you’re reliable to generate? What do you say you were committed to in your life? Do you have projects that you’re working on? Do you have any goals and are those goals ones you’re reliable to create, or are the ones that are going to require a breakthrough? If you go and read one of our live coaching calls was with Sandra Possing, and we were talking about a budgetary goal or a revenue goal she had. I was asking her, “That goal when you’re reliable for, is there a breakthrough?” She said, “I’ve got a good, better, best. I have three.” I asked her “Which one are you committed to?” When she looked, she could see like, “I’m committed to the good one, the baseline one.” Notice that’s a little bit of a sneaky way we can get away from our declaration. She was committed to the good, and then had two other intentions that she set for herself. You can look for this thing like, “What am I committed to?”
If I take away all the chaff based on how I show up, the actions I take, the way I conduct my affairs, what is my commitment as shown through that? Is what I’m committed to something I’m already reliably going to be able to create from what I already know or what I know I need to know? If so, it’s totally fine. It’s just you might get into the practice declaring a result further out into possibility where you don’t yet know how to do it. All the same, you are committed to creating it. Practice distinguishing between those two things, predictable result or reliable result versus breakthrough results, and support your teams and doing the same.
It’s okay. Just to be clear, when people begin the conversation with, “I want to leave nothing on the table. I want to always conduct myself with integrity.” That is not a bad place to start. We just don’t end there because there’s no declaration in it. A year from now, if you never left anything on the table, what is the result you would have created? If you created the breakthrough of never leaving anything on the table, what result would you have created that would be different from what you’ll have created this year without having done that? People will get squirmy with that. We don’t like being held to it. It’s annoying. We’re like, “Can’t I just have the cool, exciting thing that I just said?” You can, but if you want to get supported in creating a breakthrough, you’re going to have to hang out here in the uncomfortable part. That’s where the breakthroughs are.
All that we’ve got for you in this episode. I hope you’ve enjoyed this show. As of this time, I think we probably have one week left before we start the Creating Clients Course. I’m plugging in a lot because I’m excited about it. If I’m excited about something, I think it’s a value to you. I want to share a little bit about behind the scenes, how this went for me creating this, which as I’ve resisted any low cost or lower costs. It’s $1, 000, it’s a fairly low-cost course. I had a hard time seeing how I could create what I’m committed to creating breakthroughs, shifts for people, in a way that would honor that commitment. All I could see was, “I could create a course and it’s evergreen. I have my sales.” All of that stuff sickens me.
There’s some work for me to take on there. It’s not just that I’m right to be sickened by it and they need to change. I’m always going to struggle a little bit. Even in sharing about courses and stuff like this on this show is a little awkward for me. I don’t like marketing this way, but I want you to know that I sat down and brought this to my coach and said, “There’s a breakthrough I want to create.” It’s that I want to create a course that is going to create transformation for the people in it. We’ll be met at a lighter touch than one-on-one or The Forge or the intensive and that’s going to be deeply fulfilling for everyone. Everyone leaves feeling that they get in their bones how to create clients in a way that’s an organic, natural expression of them being in relationship with people.
I think we’ve created that. I feel really good about it. I think you will too if this is anything if you’re like, “I want to have just a little bit of like deeper work with Adam,” then this might be the thing for you. If you felt it calling too, I invite you to reach out and have a conversation with me. Most of all, because then we get to talk, which will be cool. Second, because then you’ll get the gift of being on the other side of how this works. It’s not going to be me trying to sell it to you. It’s not going to be me doing anything other than getting curious about what you want to create in your life and seeing if this will support you. If it will and you’d like to do it, I’m supporting you to make that happen rather than getting stopped. That’s a beautiful conversation to be in. Thanks for reading. That’s all I’ve got for you. We’ll catch you next time.
About Adam Quiney
I’m an obsessive perfectionist, high-performer, former lawyer, and now an Executive Mentor. I know what it’s like to succeed easily and quickly. To blindly put my happiness in the hands of achievement.
All the success, money and possessions in the world couldn’t cure my boredom. Couldn’t produce a loving, intimate relationship with my wife…and definitely couldn’t fulfill me.