There is a usually false dichotomy that people like to use which starts with the phrase, “There are two kinds of people.” While mostly imperfect, it does serve to make the point. Disclaimer given, I am going to use it as follows.
There are two kinds of people. Those who say “we should” and those who say “I will”.
I learned this from my experience pledging back in college. There are a lot of problems that arise during pledging and a lot of things that need to be figured out and taken care of as a group. In such an environment, one comes to appreciate the people who say “I will” much more than the people who say “we should”.
Everyone has ideas. It is easy, immediate, and mostly inconsequential to offer them. A lot of times this person even gets some credit for contributing, in their own mind if not in everyone else’s. Anyone can suggest things “we should” do. They can do it all day without lifting a finger.
It is harder to say “I will”. In saying “I will”, one is committing to doing something. The onus is on them. They have given themselves the responsibility to take care of something and they have stated its upcoming completion as a fact. Less people are willing to do this. It requires the time and effort to do the work. It exposes one to become at fault if the thing does not get done. It does not do anything in particular for the person, but it does do something for the group. This is a real contribution.
Not everyone is a “get s*** done” kind of guy or girl. For those who are, getting things done is just what they do. On the flip side, getting a “we should” kind of person to get a thing done can sometimes seem like an impossible task, almost certainly harder than the one at hand. While I learned this during pledging, it applies just as aptly in business, sports, or any other group setting.
As I noted in the beginning, things are always more complicated than the phrase, “there are two kinds of people.” Chances are, you have probably said both “we should” and “I will” many times in your life, if not in the last week. Regardless of where one stands on the spectrum, I have reminded myself and would encourage others to be more conscious about their usage of these two phrases.
Instead of saying “we should”, say “I will”. Then do what you say you will do. When it is not something that impacts a group, replace “I should” with “I will”. In this case, you will not be helping any group but you will find that you are helping yourself.
The next step after turning oneself into the kind of person who says “I will” is to evolve into the kind of person who says “I did”. At that point, you are taking care of things proactively before they are even being discussed. This requires thinking ahead, figuring things out, and getting them done. These kinds of people don’t care about a consensus for how everyone thinks something should be done. They just know what needs to be done and get it done however they can and see fit.
The final step does not require saying anything at all. Actions speak louder than words. The best kind of person to have in any group is the one who gets things done without telling anyone either that they are going to do it or that they did. It’s just done. Everyone knows a person who gets things done. Let that person be you.
Start now. Instead of saying that you should become this kind of person, say that you will.