Walk Your Talk

Most of us have been guilty of the “hot air” syndrome at one time or another; you know, all talk and no action. However, studies show that people pay more attention to what others do than what they say.

UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian, an expert in nonverbal communication, says our spoken messages comprise three elements: verbal, the words we use to express our ideas; vocal, how we sound; and visual, what people see. Mehrabian found that visual and vocal components account for a whopping 93% of believability. The verbal component was a paltry 7%!

Danella Christiani has been thinking about becoming a teacher for years. The 2003 graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore substitute teaches on an on-call basis but has yet to make her dream come to fruition. One of Christiani’s mentors, the principal of an elementary school where she substitutes, has been encouraging her to pursue her goal. The only obstacle has been registering for and passing the mandatory educator preparation exam, which is offered several times a year. Christiani missed more than a few test dates.

“My mentor tells me I have excellent potential as a teacher,” says Christiani. “She wants to hire me after I get all of my credentials.” Finally, after more than a year of prodding from her mentor–who, Christiani says, “had her doubts” about her dedication–the 24-year-old took the test earlier this year.

Failing to walk our talk is “one of the biggest problems we face as humans,” says Ann Lawrence, Ph.D., a Milwaukee-based psychologist and life coach at Heartland Counseling. “It is centrally an issue of fear and motivation.”

Lawrence says there are many fears that keep people talking, but not moving (see sidebar). The good news is, according to Lawrence, there are three practical exercises that can help dreamers become doers:

Identify your fears and confront them. You can make better decisions when you understand the inner “gremlins” that hold you back. By confronting your fears head on, you will be able to push beyond defeatist behavior to achieve your objectives.

Break your goal down into smaller goals. Then take the first part of your goal and break it down again. Continue to break it down until you have a task that you know you can accomplish. Then, celebrate when you have completed it. Keep a list of your accomplishments in a place that you will see every day. When you find yourself mentally reviewing the things you have not done, stop yourself and read the list of things you have done.

Find an accountability partner. Enlist the help of a life coach, friend, or family member to cheer you on in support. If you’re trying to lose weight, for instance, it’s easier to reach for an apple than a cookie when you know someone will celebrate your success with you.

What are you afraid of?
Many of us are afraid of something. The key is to recognize it and take action to overcome it. Here are four instances (and your possible responses) that may keep you