Four Declarations for when things don’t go to plan

Forest Gump’s mum famously said, “Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.”

For me, life is like a balloon. Some days you pump yourself up. Some days you let yourself down. But on any day, at any time, your bubble can burst and change everything.

What’s your version of ‘life is like…’?

(This is the second post in this Life’s Work series. In case you missed it, here’s Post One.)

 

When your life bursts

When I was sitting at the cafe chewing my thoughts with my long black, my intention was simply to plan my day. But from deep within, my deeper purpose rose up and slapped me in the face. I didn’t see it coming. My life balloon burst.

In the blink of an idea, I went from excitement to despair. I wasn’t getting my projects done. More importantly, I wasn’t getting my life done.

That’s not good. But as with any breakdown (when you realise things aren’t as you’d like them), you’re always left with the thought, ‘Now what?’

Now what am I going to do about that? A moment of realisation is also a moment of transition – a turning point where everything can shift in a new direction. It’s like arriving at an intersection while driving your car. You can keep going straight ahead. Or you can turn left or right. Plus, if things are really bad, you can do a U-turn and head back to where you had come.

What to do when your balloon bursts

When my life balloon bursts (it does happen often) and I don’t know what to do, I usually go for a walk.

Walking is one of life’s simple pleasures. It doesn’t take much effort. You’re not huffing and puffing like running. You don’t have to watch out for selfish drivers running you over on your bicycle. And you can still enjoy the scenery you’re strolling through.

I also find that walking helps me think. Some days I walk to make phone calls. Sometimes I listen to a podcast (99% Invisible is still my favourite). On a rare day, I listen to music. But mostly, I walk in silence.

I’m not trying to force an answer to my troubles. More likely, like my wandering feet, I let my thoughts meander. Eventually, my next move always shows itself.

The World’s Best Coaching Advice

I earn my living as a business coach. I work with smart people (business experts) who want to leverage what they know into a product or service – usually to earn more money or work fewer hours.

In other words, I’m paid to think and offer my opinions.

And this can be a tricky business. On the one hand, you can be an ego telling people what to do. And on the other, you can provide a space for people to work it out for themselves. Knowing which to provide and when is the art of coaching.

While walking, I realised something obvious that fitted like a glove for my situation and my professional role as a coach.

All I had to do was answer one simple question: What would I tell someone else to do in this situation?

The Four Declarations

My answer was to make some declarations.

A declaration is a statement you make about how things are or how you want them to be. The generic answers look like this:

  • I’m doing great (or not great)
  • I want things to be great (or at least better than what they are now)

In my case, there were four questions to answer (four declarations to make).

  1. Four Declarations
    The Four Declarations

    What’s wrong? I need to state or declare what is wrong. For me, I’m not getting my life’s work done. And how does that make you feel? Disappointed.

  2. What do you want instead? I want to finish my list of books and art projects. That would make me feel proud of my life.
  3. What could I do about that? This is the stage for exploring possibilities and opportunities. For me, the obvious answer was to start working on my books and art projects. But how? I could simply pick one of each to focus on and complete. Trying to complete all of them at once would leave me in a bigger hole than I was currently in.
  4. And what will I do about it? This is the commitment phase. You make a declaration about your future actions. While there are hundreds of things I could do, what specifically was I going to pick to focus on? For me, I had a book called The Done Game Plan which was fully written but never released. I had started the art project I called ‘Nude Cutouts’ (I’ll show you more in a future post), so let’s get that one up and running. Now I have two commitments.

NOTE: If you add also answer – how does that make you feel? – for each question, you’ll be able to see your emotions change. This is crucial to see if the process is working.

 

The Four Declarations - My Example
The Four Declarations – My Example

Before you Launch Do This.

Houston, we have a plan. And that already feels like progress.

But, before I launch my rocket, I need to do one more thing.

And if you want more here’s my first post in this series.

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