Words Matter, So Speak Carefully

Sean Baumstark avatar

by Sean Baumstark |

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The start of a new year always seems to bring new goals and commitments. I’m sure you’ve thought about a thing or two, or have created a long list of resolutions for 2020. Whether we’re talking about specific actions such as exercising three times a week, or vague commitments to “be happier,” most people can relate to a list of “new” at this time of year.

Over the years, I’ve increased the habit of evaluating the past year and outlining goals for the new one. I believe this is an important and valuable exercise, even throughout each year, to keep a pulse on the vision for my life. 

Saying “I want to be the president” was good enough — maybe even cute — when I was 8. Saying that today definitely isn’t enough to land that job. If that desire were still true, I’d need to take some serious actions to help increase my electability in 20 years. I don’t have the political equity today to even consider the job, nor do I have the social influence or cash to talk my way into the Oval Office.

What has been weighing heavily on me since the closing days of 2019 is the effect that words have on myself and others. In addition to creating a list of goals, I’ve spent time and mental energy thinking about all the things I said I would do and never did. More than just that, I’ve been thinking about how that affected others.

My injury and months of recovery were the catalysts that brought this to the front of my mind. The alignment with our calendar year has been convenient timing.

Throughout my recovery, I was surprised at how much attention and tangible support I received from some, while disappointed at what lacked in those categories from others.

Hear me out. This isn’t a passive-aggressive pouting session. All of the little things related to this have acted as a self-facing mirror and I have realized how passive and flighty I often have been with my words.

I feel challenged to carefully evaluate my words and understand the effect they have on myself and those around me. What I’ve come to realize is that no matter how well-intentioned I may be in the moment of commitment, my intentions are worthless without action.

To be a little more specific, I can use a generality to help make the point. How often have you, or someone you know, said something like, “Yeah, that sounds great, I’ll be there,” in response to an invitation to a party or gathering? Of those dozens or hundreds of passive invites and responses, how many times have you or someone you know followed through and shown up?

I know things happen and legitimately affect our ability or availability. Careers, children, families, pets, and car troubles. On and on the list goes of things that throw us off course. I can relate to health issues — the fatigue that Friedreich’s ataxia brings into my life can be aggressive and relentless.

I’m not suggesting that follow-through requires sterile or “perfect” living. This world of ours is the closest to perfect we will ever have.

However, the real friction for me lately is the act of following through. That doesn’t mean I have to show up. But it does mean I need to take ownership of my commitments by delivering on the promises or initiating the communication that helps explain the different outcomes.

Put simply, I’ve started 2020 with a commitment to choose my words wisely. Whether it’s a signed contract or as simple as “Yeah, I’ll be there,” my words matter. I need to speak them with care.

There is no good excuse for letting my words, or lack of follow-through, erode my reputation and my personal legacy.


Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


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