The Power of Declarations
As we write this week’s issue, Americans are celebrating the July 4th holiday, which commemorates the United States’ Declaration of Independence from the British Empire. The immortal words “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all (men) are created equal…” opens this historic declaration. As a nation, we are still striving to fully live up to this declaration, as it continues to be the guiding vision for our country.
With this holiday I (David) have been thinking a lot about what a personal declaration means. A recent event brought this front and center for me.
About 3 months ago, I decided to take up the game of pickleball, which is a fast-growing new game that is a unique combination of tennis and badminton. It is very, very popular in our community because the sport originated here on Bainbridge Island, where we live.
I had two reasons for taking up the game. The first was to get more exercise. The other reason was an opportunity to meet new people and have fun becoming a part of the thriving “pickleball community.”
One morning, while warming-up prior to a match, I lunged forward to hit a ball. Stretching and off balance, I crashed to the ground, landing hard on my hand and knee. The result, besides the injury to my self-esteem, was a broken bone in my hand. I now have a cast on my left hand and forearm for the rest of the summer.
After returning from emergency care and learning that my summer of playing pickleball was over, I allowed myself time to wallow in my sense of victimization. After a while, I re-focused on the two reasons for taking up the sport in the first place. I wondered if there was a way that I could stay connected to the community, even though I could not play for a couple of months.
I then silently declared: “I want to stay connected to the pickleball community.”
Much to my amazement, less than an hour later, I received a group email (to the pickleball community) seeking volunteers to be trained as “pickleball referees” for the summer tournaments. I immediately responded and was accepted. I discovered later that all slots were filled within 30 minutes. Making that declaration allowed me to swiftly act on the opportunity.
Declarations can take many forms. They may be broad and long- term, intending to define a direction that may take place over the long arc of time. At the other end of the spectrum, they may be quite mundane and every day, defining a shorter-term aspiration like getting more exercise and meeting new friends.
Declarations produce and hold great power. They can set a vision—a True North—for our lives, individually and sometimes collectively.
I first wrote a “Personal Policy Statement” at the age of 32 and now, looking back at that early declaration, it has stood the test of time for over 30+ years. That vision has morphed through several iterations and became more specific as I created TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) and 3 Vital Questions. My earliest declaration set a broad vision that still holds heart and meaning for me and has provided guidance for my work in the world.
We invite you to begin the process of making your own personal mission statement by reflecting upon those times in your life when you felt most alive and clear about what has heart and meaning for you. What aspects of your life engages your inner state of passion, both personally and professionally? Allow yourself time with this reflection and, perhaps, capture your thoughts in a journal, marked “first draft,” knowing you can continue to give it shape and clarity over time.