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?