We’re coming to the time of year for reflection and resolutions, but once a year doesn’t seem nearly often enough to me. Too many of us reach this annual ritual reflecting and resolving the same old stuff.

Let’s close out this year by eliminating, once and for all, the dithering that keeps us from boldly moving ahead in our lives.

And let’s start with a favorite mantra of the cowering: “I don’t know how.” Instead of seeing this as an invitation to learning, it becomes a convenient hiding place (and a crowded one at that).

There’s an exercise I created a few years ago after reading that when his flight seatmate asked author Robert Fulgham what he did, Fulgham suggested that they spend the flight lying to each other, describing some fantasy occupation that they had only imagined. That produced one of the liveliest trips of Fulgham’s life.

Although I’ve never tried it on a plane, I thought it would work in a seminar. People are put in pairs and instructed to take turns answering the question, “What do you do?” with a fabricated story.

The listener asks questions about how they chose this occupation, what they love most about it, etc. The only rule is that participants have to pick something they’ve never seriously considered.

Suddenly the room explodes as faux symphony conductors, espionage agents, innkeepers and horse trainers start sharing their stories. People are smiling and laughing as they weave their fictional tales.

They also startle themselves as they discover they know more about “how” than they realized. The dangerous, actual lie, then, is, “I don’t know how.”

If you’re tempted to use this worn out excuse, stop and notice that you have the world’s largest  How-to Emporium at your fingertips—the Internet. Add on libraries, bookstores and living examples and “I don’t know how,” appears to mean, “I don’t want to be bothered.”

Moving from wishing to willing involves a few other changes as well. In fact, one of the most critical steps is often overlooked: making room for what you want.

Writer Truman Capote  said, “I  believe more in scissors than I do in the pencil.” That applies to all sorts of creative endeavors in life.

Metaphysical teachers talk about creating a vacuum  by clearing out what you don’t want and trusting that it will be replaced with something better.

Letting go ahead of the evidence is terrifying to many people who seem to have forgotten a basic teaching from high school physics about two objects not occupying the same space at the same time.

That’s not just true for rocks, of course. We like to tell ourselves that we can’t let go until we have our replacement lined up, but that’s wishy-washy thinking that can keep us from moving ahead.

Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann seemed to be speaking for many of us when she said, “I had a life with options, but frequently lived as if I had none. The sad result is that the woman I’ve become is not the woman I could have been.”

Here’s a question worth pondering as we head to the new year: What am I willing to do to make a difference in my life and the lives of others? What  new options am I going to exercise? What is the best way to make room for that?

Once you know the answers, remember that wishing won’t get you there.

Are you willing?


When I woke up this morning, I had a whole new idea about the August theme for this blog. The word that was shouting in my head was Alternatives. “That’s interesting,” I thought. It was not at all what I’d been planning to write about.

I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. For the past several weeks I’ve been weighing the alternatives of staying in Las Vegas or moving to California. So the process of decision making that comes into play when considering alternatives has been vividly playing in my life.

In case I wasn’t convinced that this was a timely topic, I picked up my latest issue of Afar magazine and noticed the Subaru Outback ad on the back cover. It said, “Buy map. Throw dart.”

That’s one way of selecting from alternatives, I guess, but not exactly what I have in mind for this month’s exploration.

Let’s begin with the dictionary definition: “offering or expressing a choice.” Technically, alternatives refer to a choice between two, and only two, options. However, the more popular notion is that alternatives include a number of choices, the selection of which eliminates the others.

Of course, alternative also is used to mean “different from the usual or conventional.” So we have alternative music, newspapers, lifestyles, education, medicine and so forth.

Since I never know exactly where a theme is going to lead me, I’m going to keep looking at both definitions of the word and what it has to do with the Joyfully Jobless Journey.

The one thing I know for sure is that it’s ridiculously easy to overlook the abundance of alternatives in every situation in which we find ourselves. Too often we limit our choices to far fewer alternatives than actually exist.

As I was considering that, I remembered something Swedish actress Liv Ullmann said in her autobigraphy, Changes.

“I had a life with options but frequently lived as if I had none,” Ullmann writes. “The sad result of my not having exercised my choices is that my memory of myself is not of the woman I believe I am.”

Ullmann’s recollection might have been different had she encountered this bit of advice from British general W. J. Slim:  “When you cannot make up your mind which of two evenly balanced courses of action you should take, choose the bolder.”

Let’s make that our starting point in this August excursion.