Recently a friend of mine was visiting. As we talked, I found myself drawing a series of small boxes on a sheet of paper. It was mindless scribbling, but my friend soon had enough and snatched the pen away.

“What are you doing?” he said. “You are driving me crazy with the constant scribbling.”

I explained that I felt boxed in and couldn’t think of options to the issue we were discussing.

He took the pen and paper and drew a large open box and said, “Now get out of your small box and enter a new box.”

What a revelation.

What causes us to box ourselves in, to think we have to live in a series of small boxes when all we need do is turn the page and create a new box?

Sounds simple?

Well, it is.

The first step really is to recognize the need to turn the page, pick up the pen and start drawing a new box.

Scary as that may be in today’s economic environment, we are often frozen in place by our fears, remaining in careers or jobs without meaning. But even in our fears, we must recall the famous quote by President Franklin Roosevelt: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

This week I heard a story on NPR about how a nontraditional flutist decided to pursue his passion AND made a living. He had auditioned for a large city orchestra and was among the top five finalists, but he was not hired. No regularly scheduled performances and no consistent paychecks. Yet his story is not one of dream deferred.

Instead of opting to sit in a cubicle, daydreaming about playing calming notes with ethereal sounds, this clever musician chose to find a way.

Through a series of independent musical engagements, he was able to share his talents with the universe, reaching music fans who were not dressed to the “nines” or relegated to stoic venues.

What he discovered was that what really matters in life – earning a living where you can take care of and provide for yourself and your family — does not preclude living your dreams.

For most of us, dreaming the dream and finding the passion to make it happen is often lost in everyday life.

Make today the day you stop doing those things that box you into a career that you don’t enjoy. Step outside of the cubicle and dream the dreams that bring music to your ears. Reclaim the freedom to think outside of the box and start planning for a career that offers growth, opportunity and most of all personal satisfaction.

In the coming weeks, I’ll outline some practical tips to help get you climb out of that career box.

Della B. Cauley, president of Best Innovative Consulting Inc. in Charlotte, specializes in career counseling and executive coaching. Visit her Web site at

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