Every few months, I get the alumni magazine from my college. I usually glance through the class notes to see if there’s anyone I remember who has gotten mentioned.

Most of the entries are a bit, well, dull, saying things like, “Now retired after 30 years teaching in the same school” or “Just retired from 40 years at the bank.”

Apparently, my fellow college students were big on staying put in one place.

One time, however, an entry caught my eye. It read, “Retired after thirty-five years as a social worker and probation officer. He now spends his time as a traveler in Africa and is a full-time freelance outdoors writer.”

I never knew the man so described, but I wanted to.I wanted to know how he kept his adventurous soul alive for such a long time while toiling away in Cook County Illinois.

Leaving a familiar situation is a challenge that comes to all of us—sometimes several times throughout our life.

I once received email from a woman who had spent her life as a teacher. She had stuck with it long after the satisfaction had gone. Now she was ready, she said, to do something completely different.

However, she wasn’t at all certain what the new path should be. That happens, of course, when we become entrenched in a situation or relationship for so long that we forget that we have options.

I made several suggestions about how she could begin exploring. I heard from her again after about ten days and she was making remarkable headway. She’d even listed all of her teaching books on eBay—burning her bridges she said.

Imagine my amazement when I opened her subsequent email which was obviously written in a moment of great panic. “I only have another week to sign my teaching contract,” it read. “Should I sign it?”

I was flabbergasted and promptly replied that I didn’t have the answer to her question. I suggested, however, that it might be a temporary lapse on her part.

Then I said, “So how are you going to tell your grandchildren that you once had an opportunity to create a truly adventurous life and you chickened out?”

The moment I typed that question, I realized at a very deep level, how our acts of self-doubt don’t just impact our own lives, but have a profound ripple effect. Take the low road and you’ll have a procession behind you.

What kind of legacy is that?

We might tell ourselves that staying in a stultifying relationship isn’t really so bad or having a job that robs us of any creative enthusiasm is fine for now, but every day that we hang on we are losing precious time that could be spent building something bold and beautiful.

On the other hand, our acts of courage beget courage in others as well. I’m guessing that my former college classmate will inspire all sorts of people to create their own version of a safari.

While letting go can seem terrifying, think of the times you’ve done so and found yourself in a better place. It’s no use tricking yourself into thinking that you’ll make things better while staying in the bad situation, however. Doesn’t work that way.

As long as you hang on, you can’t move on.

Writers talk about (and agonize over) a condition they call Writer’s Block. When this occurs, even experienced authors report feeling stuck, unable to work, to come up with anything to say.

Any creative endeavor can get bogged down when the creator feels blocked, of course. Psychologists  suggest that we can shorten our down time by doing something unrelated to the project that has us stymied.

In other words, we can solve the problem by walking away from the problem…for a  bit.

With that in mind, I polled several people and asked them, “What do you do when you need some fresh inspiration?”

Many of their replies included old favorites, tried and true nudges. Since I think it makes sense to have a portfolio of remedies for getting unstuck, take a look at the list and note any suggestions you aren’t currently using .

The next time you need a creative jolt, try one or more of these:

° Keep an inspiration journal filled with quotes, stories of people you find inspiring, pictures of beautiful places. Page through it when you need a lift.

I also keep a file labeled Make Me Laugh so I know where to go when I’m getting too serious.

° Go to a busy place like an airport or shopping center and watch people. Make up stories about the folks that pass by.

° Dance or exercise. Walking is a proven way to slow down and open up.

° Brainstorm with other people and pay attention to even the silliest ideas.

° Do needlework or make something with your hands. Give your mind a rest.

° Meditate. Stare out of a window. Browse in a bookstore. Be very quiet.

° Practice mindless motion—like vacuuming the rug. I am convinced this is the secret weapon of creative thinkers.

° Call a friend. Ask questions of someone who might have insights to share, but isn’t emotionally invested in your project. Listen.

° Read a book. Take a class. Bump into good ideas that have nothing to do with the project that has you stumped.

The key, this poll would suggest, is to shift gears.

The late Ray Bradbury would agree. He said, “There shouldn’t be any difficult moments. As soon as things get difficult, I turn on my heel and let the idea percolate on its own. I pretend to abandon it!

“It soon follows and comes to heel. You can’t push or pressure ideas. You can’t try, ever! You can only do. Doing is everything.”