Complete these 2 sentences without stopping to think:

The rules: When you complete the two sentences below, write the first response that comes to mind. Just go. No extra thinking. Whatever comes to mind.

You may also write the second or third thought, but only if they come quickly. Do NOT give yourself more than a second to start writing. If you do, your brain will find a way to explain away your true answer.

Ready? The first response that comes to mind:

  • Even though I want to, I can’t _____________.
  • What I actually want to do is _____________.

I used this exercise to open a class I taught recently. My objective was to open people up to the idea that they may have more choices available than they thought.

Sometimes, if you just say what you think you can’t do, you realize how silly you sound and then you just go do it. Other times, the word “actually” can help you find something you didn’t know was there.

Those questions also brought up two particular roadblocks for us:

But-I-really-can’t answers

Even though I want to, I can’t stop changing poopy diapers.

Sometimes, we really do feel barred from a certain choice. I have a baby. I can’t just stop changing her poopy diapers. Whether or not I want to change her, I have to.

Hold up. I could actually stop changing diapers. Some parents do. Their children live in squalor and neglect. If I recoil from that option, then I’ve actually made another choice a step before the diaper ever gets dirtied: I choose to raise a child that’s healthy and cared for.

The choice you feel you “have” to make (the diaper) is often a result of a higher-level choice one step before (a cared-for child). Back up and find out what that choice is and the thing you “have” to do takes on new meaning.

Impossible wants

What I actually want to do is run / fly / cure cancer.

The word “actually” can help dredge up the thing you didn’t realize you wanted and then you can go and do it. Easy peasy.

Or that word can present you with an impossible desire. Maybe you want to run, but you’re not physically capable of running. Maybe you want to fly, but you literally don’t have wings.

This is not a dead end. Your impossible answer still holds information. What would you get out of your desired action? Freedom? Greater independence? Respect? Take the “to do” out of the sentence and write your answer again.

What I actually want is ____________.

You may have a wider range of choices available to you than you think.