Show. Don’t tell.

The whole idea of “words versus actions” is a theme I’ve been contemplating a lot lately. It came up during many coaching sessions over the last few months. It was going to be the theme of my solo Senior Show at DePaul (which I never ended up doing because I got scared/overwhelmed).

I wanted to call it “Show. Don’t tell.” which is a term (I think) I heard first from my professor in my Intro to Journalism back in 2004. The idea behind it in journalistic writing is to hold objectivity and “truth” as the utmost goal – I can’t write, “Susie Jones is kind.” because that would be the opinion of me, the writer, and that sentence alone doesn’t mean anything. However, if I wrote “Each week, Susie Jones donates half of groceries she buys to a local homeless shelter. She spends her weekends walking dogs for the Anti-Cruelty Society and reading stories to children at her local library.” I didn’t tell you that Susie was kind, I showed you all the kind things Susie does and let you decide for yourself what type of person you think Susie is.

The whole point is: it’s simple to say it, but far more difficult to show it. We’re all big talkers, myself included. When I say I’m going to do something, I have every intention of doing it. I’m not purposefully lying to anyone…but then I don’t always follow through. I’ve been telling people that I started a blog. Yes, technically I started a blog on Nov. 16, 2009. But, this is only my sixth entry… and one of those six was only a “hey! I have a new website!” entry.

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs, for research, and thinking plenty about what types of entries I should write, but I haven’t actually written and published very many. I have four half-written entries saved as drafts.

My half-started blog isn’t the only adventure I’ve begun and neglected. I’ve been reading plenty of articles on uncluttering and simple living, but my office is still a mess and my inbox can’t hold any more paper. I’ve researched exercise plans and set goals, but frequently take 1-2 month leaves of absence from the YMCA. You get the idea.

I think the most important thing I’ve learned this year is to pay attention to words versus actions. It’s important to listen to what others have to say, but it is even more important (and difficult) to pay attention to their behavior. It’s crucial to see the differences and to pick up on them as early as possible. Realizing this has helped me have healthier relationships with my family and with clients. It has helped me take things less personally and move on when appropriate. Had I picked up on things a little sooner, 2009 may have been far less stressful.

One thing I learned about myself this year is that I need to be held accountable and have hard deadlines, or else (1) I don’t accomplish anything or (2) it takes me much longer than it “should” have. I’ve started seeking help from other people to kick my kiester in the direction of my goals. Kristie Bavaro, an executive coach, has helped me focus and decide what type of a career I want for myself. I’ve decided that I am committed to having my own business as a designer/consultant, and I don’t want to be an employee. I also signed up for a virtual group where Ilise Benun of Marketing Mentor helped me finally overhaul my website (and make it business/marketing focused) after over a year of me saying “Man, I really need to work on my website.” I’m working with Ilise again in the grow your business marketing group. It’s definitely hard work (and I’m still procrastinating a little), but I know I wouldn’t be working on it at all without her help, and the help of the other members of the group.

In general, I hate New Years resolutions and I don’t make them anymore. They’re all “tell” and no “show.” Do you know anyone who followed through on one? For the whole year (and beyond)? I seriously think it’s worse than giving up chocolate fore Lent. Instead, I’m thinking about personal and business goals for 2010 and a tentative action-plan to get me there. Once I decide, I’ll be sure to post them…and be accountable.


  1. on December 27, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Not long after finishing this post, I read a blog post by Chris Brogan that looks at another way of approaching New Years resolutions: select three guiding words for the new year. Read more here:

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