A declaration is a statement that begins or ends something.
Powerful declarations comprise:
- Language: a statement that is written in active voice (I will or I am…)
- Emotion: an emotional commitment; conviction and a visceral connection
- Body: a posture or body of resolution
What are Declarations?
At its simplest level, a declaration is a statement that begins or ends something. We call this type of language “generative” because it does more than simply describe our world; it creates a context by which we interpret the world and ourselves in it. It sets into a motion a series of actions and a mood.
Examples of declarations
- The Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Establishes a nation.
- Declaration of Marriage: “I now declare you man and wife….” Establishes a context of family.
- Declaration of War or Peace – Establishes a relationship between entities; establishes a mood.
- Mission Statement: Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Establishes a purpose
- A personal manifesto; “Fewer Clients. Less Money. More Intention. Caring for them. Caring for ourselves…. Starting our lives….” (from Jerry Maguire’s The Things we Think and Do Not Say)
- New Year’s Resolutions: To lose weight, to quit smoking
What do these successful declarations have in common? They meet the definition of a declaration in that they start or stop something. The language is active rather than passive (“I am” or “I will” as opposed to “I want to” or “I think maybe I might…”).
They reflect a past that the author did not agree with and wished to make a change; they design a future that is in line with the author’s personal values. In this way, there is a personal truth that is revealed. A person who resolves to eat better and lose weight does so because he or she believes him/herself worthy of a long life, health and wellness. A person who commits to a vegan diet does so because he or she can not justify killing an animal. A person who sets about a revolutionary war does so because he or she believes that a nation’s freedom from tyranny and oppression is more important than the individual lives that would be lost in the fight. Whatever declarations we make, in the end, they come to something that is personal.
A personal connection is both emotional and visceral one. A successful declaration releases an emotion of conviction. It feels like a moral imperative and often feels like relief or comes with tears. To prepare for this piece I re-read the Declaration of Independence and cried. A powerful declaration unites, inspires, and expresses a personal truth and that truth is felt in the body. It may be different for each person. Perhaps it’s a skin level shiver. Perhaps it’s the sensation of muscles contracting. Perhaps it is dropping to ones knees in prayer. Perhaps it is tears. But there is a physical reaction.
Just as the response is physical, so is the way it is spoken. Declarations are spoken from a body of resolution. Imagine the forefathers of the United States considering the Declaration of Independence. Do you imagine them sitting, laid back in their chaises lounges, looking aimlessly into the sky? Or do you a imagine them, muscles tightened, eyes focused, leaning forward, prepared to make history? We can use this same level of resolve when we make decisions about ourselves and our lives.
Whether the declaration is a broad reaching, impacting hundreds of people, or entirely private – the change we make is the change in ourselves first. In every case, a powerful declaration is one that is supported by language, emotion and body.
Practice: How do I make a successful declaration?
Language: Draft your resolution. If the words are not coming to you easily, consider the following questions:
- What have you been experiencing that you wish to change?
- What has been preventing you from making a change, up until now?
- What action(s) would you like to take to take?
- Who are you to take this step? (I deserve…. I am worthy…. I am capable…. I am proud… I am strong….)
Write your declaration: ______________________________________________
Emotion: Why is this change needed? What is your personal motivation? Consider the following questions:
- What has been the cost of inaction, up until now?
- What have you been accepting as truth that you are ready to reject, or vice versa?
- What do you have to gain by taking action?
What emotion would best serve your declaration? ______________________________
Body: Take notice of your personal body disposition:
- Your breath – what breathing supports your resolve? (Shallow or deep, slow or fast paced)
- Your skin – do you notice tingling in your skin or relaxation?
- Your muscles – where do you need to keep or release tension to support your resolve?
- Your hands – are they clenched? Are they straight ahead or by your side?
- Your posture – do you lean forward, straight or backwards to demonstrate resolve?
Make your declaration!
Assume your personal body of resolution in step 3. Allow the emotion you discovered in step 2 to wash over you. And speak your declaration! Do this at least three times, either alone or before an audience of trusted supporters.