Guest post by Cynthia Morris

In 2000, I stood in the Père Lachasie cemetery in Paris, marveling. I marveled at the beauty around me. I marveled at death brought so intimately to life in this city of graves.

I marveled that I could speak French. After ten years away from my francophilia, I had found my way back to France and the pleasures of speaking French. Playing with the language felt like coming back to an old friend that I wanted to know better.

There, full of the marvelous on a gray day in Paris, I vowed to return every year. And I have, every year except 2002 and 2003.

What made this possible? When I made the vow, I had no idea how I would fund transatlantic trips to one of the most expensive cities on the planet.

Oddly enough, a long-deceased bookseller made coming back easier. Sylvia Beach, the original owner of Shakespeare and Company bookstore, was a compelling figure and the bigger story of her life inspired me to write a novel based on her.

On my annual trips to Paris, I delved into Sylvia’s world. I relentlessly explored the streets and alleys of Paris, sniffing for clues to what this place was like in 1937. I rummaged in dusty bookshops, spoke to booksellers and befriended random passersby, as one does in Paris.

I became more familiar with this city of marvels. These trips helped me feel that I was building on my French degree. These adventures gave me the feeling that I was living my passion, one stroll at a time.

How did a single woman building her business afford trips to one of the most expensive places on the planet? I wasn’t funded and I’m not rich.

Commitment drives chutzpah

My intention to travel and my dedication to this project, along with some creative fundraising, allowed me to travel without going into debt. But I had to gather up my chutzpah – get gutsy – to make it work.

In 2003, drawn to Paris by the Shakespeare and Company literary festival, I conceived of a plan to raise funds from making art. I approached friends and family, promising a hand-painted postcard to anyone who gave me money.

I drew and painted and sent seventeen cards. The money from that wasn’t a ton, but it fueled at least one day in Paris.

Then, in 2005, I began leading workshops in Paris and other parts of France. Combining my coaching, my teaching, and my love for beauty and art, I created a unique experience for others. Profits from these workshops began funding my trips to France.

Clueless but willing to try

When I was a fresh graduate with a French degree and no clue what the future held, I desperately wanted to live in France. After that ten-year hiatus from my francophilia, I made the commitment to keep my passion for it alive.

My historical novel, with its demands for more and more research, helped me live my dream and honor my commitment. Now, I’m content to live in the US and visit Europe often.

Your focus and commitment will look totally different than mine. Not everyone wants to annually visit Paris or wherever.

But imagine the difference it would make if you took your wish and turned it into a commitment. Even if you don’t know how it will pan out, dare to commit.

Too often we squelch our dreams because we don’t immediately know how they will be realized. But with the power of intention and the focus of a project you want to bring to life, answers and solutions appear along the way.

What’s your Paris? What commitment can you make to that passion and what project will help focus it?


Cynthia Morris loves putting her French degree to good use in Paris. When she’s not in France, she coaches writers and entrepreneurs from Denver, Colorado. Cynthia’s novel, Chasing Sylvia Beach, launched online on June 22nd, 2012. Find out more here:

Commitment is about being there when it’s not convenient or easy. It’s about steadfastness in the face of change and crisis. ~ Mary Pipher

Commitment comes in all sizes and shapes and levels of intensity. Sadly, when it comes to dreambuilding, many people make only feeble attempts.

A woman I’ll call Leslie comes to mind. Although she professes a desire to live a creative, self-employed life, her attempts to make that happen are repeatedly thwarted. In fact, if you have the stamina to listen to her story, you’ll hear about years of being a victim of the most pathetic circumstances which have conspired to keep her stuck.

Whenever I see Leslie, I can’t help but picture YES, BUT tattooed on her forehead, because that favorite expression will be countering any suggestions I might make in response to her questions about improving her life.

From her perspective, she’s a modern version of Sisyphus, the ancient Greek eternally condemned to rolling a boulder uphill only to have it roll back to the bottom again. Sadly, Leslie seems committed to her belief that life is treacherous—and she’s got proof.

”Behind 99 out of 100 assertions that a thing cannot be done is nothing but the unwillingness to do it,” said William Feather.

When we’re barely committed, we’re rarely going to win. It might sound backwards to commit ourselves to winning before we even begin, but that’s the way it works.

Entrepreneurs commit themselves to market products and services before they know how the market will respond. They decide first to sell and then create their own markets afterwards.

The same is true for education: we commit ourselves to continuing education and seminars and college degrees before any learning takes place.

We commit ourselves to being parents before we hold a child in our arms.

My friend Chris once told me about spending time on the phone with a woman named Carol who was struggling with her business. As Chris—who was brilliant at seeing possibilities—pointed out several positive outcomes, Carol weakly replied, “I hope so.”

Chris hung up the phone and had a revelation. As she told me later, “I suddenly realized that when people say, ‘I hope so,’ they’re actually saying, ‘I don’t believe it.’”

Commitment’s not about hoping:  it’s believing beyond any shadow of doubt that what you envision can and will happen even when you have no idea how that will take place.

At first glance it would seem that making a commitment is a verbal act. That could be part of it, but verbal commitments mean very little if our behavior isn’t in alignment.

For example, studies reveal that millions of people who have taken a public vow to be faithful to their spouse chronically break that commitment. And who hasn’t waited for a service repairman who failed to show up at the time they agreed to? Or a friend who is never on time?

Keeping our commitments is an act of integrity—even when we don’t feel like it. That’s something the barely committed don’t understand, but parents quickly learn that they must take care of their children when they’re being lovable and when they’re not.

Same goes for taking care of our dreams. Whether the commitment is a big one or a little one, integrity assumes that we’ll do what we said we were going to do.

At the end of a talk in London, a young woman handed me a piece of paper with the best quote I’ve seen on the subject.

It simply read, “Definition of commitment: doing the things you’d said you’d do, long after the mood in which you said them in has left you.”

That’s a definition worth remembering.


Ready to up your commitment to the Joyfully Jobless Journey? Join Terri Belford and me in Las Vegas on January 28 & 29 and get 2012 off to a successful start.


Hardly a day passes when I don’t encounter someone who is unwilling to give up even a speck of comfort in order to go after their dreams. How sad.

Although I don’t know the source, these words have been on my mind as I’ve been listening to the litanies of excuses: To dream costs nothing; to not follow costs everything.

The truth is, dreams can make us uncomfortable. After all, they challenge us to be more, do more and have more—and that can make us squirm.

Finding answers, finding direction, finding passion all begin with asking questions that stimulate fresh ideas and insights.

If you’re feeling brave (or even if you aren’t) give some serious thought to these uncomfortable questions:

Who wins if I abandon my dreams?

Who wins if I commit to my dreams?

What evidence do I have that I truly support my dreams?

What can I learn now that will help me accomplish my dreams?

What excuses do I need to banish to a distant shore?

What am I willing to trade in order to have my dreams?

Here’s one more thing. In fact, you may have already seen it. Even so, take 31 seconds and watch it again. It’s full of more uncomfortable questions worth answering for yourself.

It’s simply called Learn.





Scan the bookshelves for titles on relationships and you’ll quickly discover a trend: numerous titles tackle the issues around lack of commitment.

It’s not just personal relationships that are feeling the fallout from this wishy-washy approach, however. Hordes of people refuse to commit to anything much at all.

Does the idea of commitment make you tremble? A commitment is, after all, a pledge to do what we said we were going to do. It’s actually a way of volunteering to be accountable.

Those who avoid making such a pledge to themselves have no idea that they’re cheating themselves of some of the biggest rewards in life.

If getting a dream is step one, committing to that dream is the next thing that needs to happen. Commitment doesn’t mean trying something for a while to see how it turns out; it means being actively involved in how things turn out.

Obviously, not everything we attempt turns out according to our plans—but that’s not the function of commitment. Being committed is about going in for the long haul, not simply for one little project.

When I was cleaning out some back issues of Winning Ways, I came across this story from travel writer Pico Iyer that is a testimonial to the power of commitment:

Part of me really wanted to write and I suppose wanted to travel too, but I couldn’t find a way to do it. Finally, I decided I’ve just got to commit myself to this.

If I’m going to be a writer, I’ve got to haul myself into the unknown, be unemployed and try to make it work.

When I finally decided to commit myself to it, instead of just wavering, then suddenly opportunity came out of nowhere.

I think that if I hadn’t had the resolve to take the plunge at last into the unknown, I might never have been rescued in midair.

I think the whole process of traveling is about pitching yourself into a circumstance in which you don’t know how things are going to work out, but that initial act of faith can bring about good results.

Commitment, it seems to me, is a lot like love. It grows and strengthens over time when we’re truly committed to something that we care deeply about.

We don’t always know at the outset what will become commitment-worthy. What may begin as a simple flirtation, becomes more compelling as we learn more, increase our exposure and devote our energy to it.

For many of us, we’ve tried to make commitments to things and people and ideas that we really weren’t that crazy about. It’s hard to get past lukewarm if our heart isn’t engaged.

No wonder the word commitment elicits feelings of dread and drudgery. And if we’re only willing to commit where the outcome fits our preconceived notions, we’re doomed to a life of commitment avoidance.

Seems to me that commitment needs a new press agent and here’s what they might advise:

Give up ambivalent commitment.

That’s probably an oxymoron, but there are plenty who think they’re committed when they’re not even close.  Genuine commitment says, “This is what I’m going to do and keep doing until I succeed.”

Sound like it’s too much trouble?

“Those who would reap the blessings of freedom,” warned Thomas Paine,”must be willing to undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”

It’s still true.

When Karyn Ruth White was a little girl she discovered that she could diffuse her father’s anger—and subsequent punishment—if she could make him laugh. Her father gave her plenty of opportunities to practice and she honed her comedic skills early in life. Somewhere along the way she decided that she wanted to spend her life making as many people laugh as she possibly could.

Karyn left her New England home after college and headed to Los Angeles to build a career as a stand-up comedian. After seven years of performing in nightclubs, she realized she wasn’t happy and it terrified her. She says, “I was afraid to stop because it was my dream and I thought if my dream isn’t making me happy, what’s going to become of me?”

Finally, she did walk away and gave herself time out. She worked at a number of mundane jobs while trying to figure out the next step. 

And figure it out, she did.

Today she continues to keep people laughing, but she’s reinvented herself as a speaker. Some of her stand-up material still finds its way into corporate presentations. 

Karyn hardly took a straight path—even in her current incarnation. Five years into building her speaking business, she felt burned out. Again, she gave herself permission to walk away, but then had an insight that changed everything.

 “I realized that it’s not the dream that’s the problem. It was the way I was doing the dream,” she says. “I was doing everything myself and I just couldn’t keep up.”

She let the dream get bigger and gathered a team that included a personal assistant, an accountant and a Web designer. She says she learned to set boundaries and reminds herself that the essence, not the form of her business, is what matters. 

Karyn describes the essence as, “To follow my soul and use my gifts for the greater good.” If the form that takes changes, she’s fine with it as long as the essence remains intact.

Making a commitment to the essence of your business is quite different than getting stuck in the form.

In their book Creating Money, Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer explain, “The essence of something is the function you want this item to perform, the purposes you will use it for, or what you think it will give you. Many things other than what you picture might give you the essence of what you want, so be open to letting what you want come in whatever way, size, shape or form is most appropriate.” 

Clarifying the essence of what you want in your life is also a way of gaining overall clarity and peace. It takes both time and practice to create while focusing on the essence of what you’re doing or what you want to have. 

Commitment  is a lot like love. It grows and strengthens over time when we’re truly committed to something that we care deeply about. 

We don’t always know at the outset what  will become commitment-worthy. What may begin as a simple flirtation, becomes more compelling as we learn more, increase our exposure and devote our energy to it. 

For many of us, we’ve tried to make commitments to things and people and ideas that we really weren’t that crazy about. As the poet  David Whyte warns, “Anyone or anything that does not bring you alive is too small for you.”

No wonder the word commitment elicits feelings of dread and drudgery. And if we’re only willing to commit where the outcome fits our preconceived notions, we’re doomed to a life of commitment avoidance.

Perhaps commitment needs a new press agent to remind us that building commitment happens one day at a time.

And it’s built on innumerable days of recommitting ourselves for as long as it brings us joy, peace, growth and the essence of our best possible life.

Excellent results are never accidental. Without commitment, our creative powers are scattered and our ability to attract support and resources dries up. Of course, it’s possible, as millions of people demonstrate, to go through life getting by without ever committing deeply to anything much at all. 

In their insightful book, Money Drunk, Money Sober, Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan call money (and money difficulties) the last addiction. They identify five kinds of money dysfunction, including one they call the Maintenance Money Drunk. This is a person who grows increasingly bitter or numb from the inability to pursue or even identify their dreams.

They write, “One of the telltale symptoms of the Maintenance Money Drunk is the phrase ‘I’m going to,’ heard over and over again without action toward the goal. We often say that the greatest gift of solvency is learning how to turn a wish into a goal. And action is the difference between someone who is really going to do something and someone who is just wishing.” They offer these familiar examples:

“I’m going to write a book.” So write one page a day.

“I’m going back to school.” So call the local college.

“I’m going to be an actor.” So take a monologue class.

It’s exhausting to be a Maintenance Money Drunk and it’s exhausting to be around one. Commitment is the catalyst that propels us to take action—and break the cycle of apathy that keeps us stuck.

I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth mentioning again because it’s an essential power tool for building dreams. There’s a foolproof test for commitment that goes beyond any verbal claims of commitment: look at your calendar and your checkbook. Are you spending your time and money in ways that back up what you’re truly committed to? It’s only when you bring your spending into alignment with your dreams that good things begin to happen.  

If commitment is an on-again off-again thing for you, or if you recoil from the notion altogether, I’d like to suggest you adopt an idea from the no-nonsense Barbara Sher. She asks her students to make “a temporary permanent commitment.” The brilliance of Sher’s idea is that she reminds us that making a commitment doesn’t mean we’re stuck forever with the things we’ve committed to. For many of us, that’s a huge relief. 

When we make a temporary permanent commitment, we give it our all for a limited period of time. I like the idea of dividing our dreams into 90 Day Projects where we focus on making progress in small, manageable ways day after day. During this time, immerse—don’t dabble. Treat it as a permanent commitment. At the end of the 90 days, take inventory. Want to keep going? Or have you had enough? If the answer is, “I’ve had enough,” then design projects for the next 90 days. And so on and so on and so on.

Commitment gives us direction, but it doesn’t guarantee ease. As Paulo Coehlo so eloquently reminds us, “Too often we decide to follow a path that is not really our own, one that others have set for us. We forget that whichever way we go, the price is the same: in both cases we will pass through both difficult and happy moments. But when we are living our dream, the difficulties that we encounter make sense.”

Time to Get Unstuck?

Three upcoming teleclasses can help you do just that. 

Need ideas? Join Alice Barry and me for Better than Brainstorming, Wednesday, February 18, 8-9:30 PM Eastern. 

Stopped by resistance? Learn techniques for dealing with it in Outsmarting Resistance, Monday, February 23, 8-9:30 PM Eastern.

Marketing scare you? You’re not alone. I Hate Marketing will show you some new approaches that make marketing fun. No kidding. Wednesday, February 25, 8-9:30 PM Eastern. 

Can’t attend in person? Register and you’ll receive an audio download.