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Live deliberately

So your boss is nagging you for that overdue report and you know when you get home you have that worsening plumbing leak to repair. The kids are at that awkward stage (and have they ever not been?) and the spousal unit (or non-spousal equivalent thereof) gives you the dagger-eye for not being attentive enough.

The cause you most cherish in all the world is making so many demands on you that you start to wonder how you ever came to love it that much. Meanwhile, you never know what the NSA, the TSA, the ATF, or the IRS might spring on you tomorrow. But whatever it is or isn’t, you fear it. You tell yourself you don’t, or you shouldn’t. But somewhere in that one, obscure private corner of your soul that ought to belong to you alone, you fear it.


Unlike most of you hereabouts who don’t make New Year’s resolutions if the comments are representative, I do make them. Ellendra was about the only commentor on the same bandwagon. (Hi, Ellendra!)

Like everybody else who tries, I also fail at them. But I’ve found they keep me pointed in the right direction. In time, resolutions … resolve. It might be in a different way than you imagined or at a much later time than you hoped. But … you get there.

This year, though, I found myself down to the true stubborncusses of resolution-making. Those ones I’ve made year after year to no avail. The ones where I’ve gone so far as to post behavior schedules above my desk or slap Post-It notes on the bathroom mirror, only to find myself ignoring them as thoroughly as if they were written in Cantonese.

Take several days a week off from the computer …

Don’t spend money on X days …

Don’t ever plunk at the computer solely for the sake of plunking at the computer or shutting out the world …

Put more time and thought into what you eat …

All amounting to don’t fritter, don’t rush, don’t avoid, don’t be addicted.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to draft these same old resolutions in a way that would finally make me heed them. A futile effort.

Then when I was walking the dogs in the woods yesterday the words came to me: “Live deliberately.”

My shoulders relaxed (I didn’t know they’d been tense). My stride slowed and lengthened. Breath deepened. My deadline-spinning brain let go of the noise — and a few hours later, the writing was a breeze.

At the moment the words drifted down on me, I didn’t recall where they came from. Something Buddhist, I supposed. It took me a while to remember what you probably got instantly: Thoreau. Walden.

I confess to never reading Walden. All that (ugh) nature. But even without that association the words “live deliberately” carry their own meaning and magic.

It might be a different meaning for different people. But whatever it may be (NFI on the book on that last link, BTW) … it’s holistic. Wholeistic, as it ought to be spelled.

Yeah, yeah. I know that word’s so precious and touchy-feely you’d almost expect it to be embroidered on Pajama Boy’s onesie bottom. But really it’s a great word despite the unsavory associations.

“Live deliberately.” Live deliberately and of course you won’t spend your life checking Wikipedia trivia six times a day. Of course you’ll attend to your health and nutrition because you’ll be living consciously inside your own body. Because food will become interesting in itself and not merely something to shove down the gullet while driving from one appointment to another. Of course you’ll follow your dream (even if all you can do right now is put aside a little money or buy a few books or tools). Of course you’ll gradually put everything in better perspective … because perspective will be the driver of your days.

I found that merely thinking the words “live deliberately” put me inside a calm center, gave me a sense of directing my own life, and helped me look behind and beyond all my specific, piecemeal goals.


Is it hard to live deliberately? Yikes, you know it! It was hard back in Thoreau’s day or he wouldn’t have had to go traipsing off to the pond. How much harder in the era of smartphones, freeway commutes, Twitter, downsizing, and newsblather 24 hours a day? Not to mention government sneak attacks on our liberty that come faster than any “deadly black assault weapon” can shoot.

But the great thing about that phrase “live deliberately” is that it pulls everything together. It can help pull us, ourselves together. Maybe not keep us together 100 percent of the time. But that’s okay, too, because it gives us a quiet center to come back to.

I’m saying us and we and you — when (as so many times before) I’m preaching the good word to myself. “You teach what you need to learn.” I confess; it’s true. If us and we and you also enjoy and benefit of this little insight, then I’m glad. I’m doing that part of my job.

Living deliberately is a very freedomista concept. It declares that we’re the owners of our own thoughts, choices, and actions. It’s a very Outlaw thing to do because … well, if thinking for yourself is something control freaks militate against from the time you’re in kindergarten, then acting for yourself in such a centered, personal way is the nightmare every politician, bureaucrat, cop, snoop, moral nanny, scammy church leader, and otherwise-complacent elitist must dread.

Beyond the distractions of piecemeal thinking, piecemeal planning, piecemeal news, piecemeal decision-making, piecemeal political battles, piecemeal living, living deliberately can be a unifier, the defining factor behind which every large choice (and many little ones) can naturally fall.

Can you do it all day, every day? Can I? Gimme a break! But in two words, it encompasses a world of worthy goals and actions.


  1. RickB
    RickB December 31, 2013 4:48 am

    Great post! The deliberate life requires a lot of conscious effort–it’s so easy to revert to being an automaton. Over and over and…

    I’m surprised you never read Walden. I thought it was “required reading” for freedom outlaws. 🙂

    Back in my animist days (many decades ago) I considered it to be scripture. Of course as a teenage boy I talked to the “soul” of my car!

  2. Jim Klein
    Jim Klein December 31, 2013 4:49 am

    What a New Year’s post, Claire! You got the whole thing in two words! Well, alright…technically everyone lives deliberately whether they admit it or not; you’re talking of the Glory and Splendor that comes from recognizing it and doing it consciously and explicitly.

    Nearly everyone wants to be happy—those two words explain how it’s done. Magnificent job. And speaking of worthy goals and actions, particularly in today’s upside-down world, there’s this…

    2014–when it all began to get right. Happy New Year!

  3. water lily
    water lily December 31, 2013 5:19 am

    Spot on, Claire.

    I’ve never read WALDEN, or another similar book, PILGRIM AT TINKER CREEK, but I do get the concepts.

    I’m not one to notice pop culture or what’s trendy. Oh yeah, I admit my taste in things far outweighs my pocketbook, always has, but I don’t follow the herd, never did.

    A fellow writer encouraged me to join Pinterest, for future book promotion. The one thing I like about it is I can have boards to post ideas/photos for current works-in-progress and future books. Nice visuals. Pretty cool.

    After having an account for about a month and perusing “popular” pins, I’ve grown to understand what’s important to many folks, and it’s incredulous, and at times, I’m disgusted and sad for women in general. (Most “pins” are by women.) Ignoring reality and being slaves to certain trends is the norm, and it’s so sad and meaningless. And very silly as well.

    Which brings me right back to living simply and deliberately. Happy New Year!

  4. Terry
    Terry December 31, 2013 7:23 am

    Great post, Claire, and something I’ve been looking for/needing.

    You’re absolutely correct in that it ties together so many aspects of what we require in our lives.

    Haven’t made New Year’s Revolutions (sic) in a while, but this is a good one. And just in time, too, 🙂

    Wishing you a great 2014!

  5. Chris
    Chris December 31, 2013 7:49 am

    >Take several days a week off from the computer …

    I think I will borrow this one. I actually did manage a 4 day stretch earlier this year and found myself able to concentrate so much better! The effect was really amazing.

    But I tend to have trouble with negative goals as they seem to require continual reaffirmation, whereas the commitment to do something positive can be achieved with a single effort 🙂

  6. kycolonel
    kycolonel December 31, 2013 7:50 am

    Living simply and deliberately is the message of Walden. And, as you stated, it is not easy to maintain with the din of advertising and babble of idiots (pretty much the same thing, isn’t it?). Obviously, I watch to much TV and to waste less time in front of the “idot tube” is one of my resolutions for ’14.
    I recently began rereading Walden. It reminds me of the importance of living simply and in the moment. That is certainly my goal.
    Happy New Year!

  7. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal December 31, 2013 8:03 am

    If I live deliberately I might just accidentally accomplish something! Yikes!
    I “feel the need” to make a resolution this year- I just have no clue what it should be. I don’t need to lose weight. Most of the changes I’d like to make require more money than I’m likely to see. I’ve tried to figure out for years how to make more money without destroying myself, and I get nowhere. I don’t have the desire to spend less time on the computer- if I weren’t online during the time I am online I’d be doing something equally trivial and even more useless. I am currently re-connecting with someone I lost years ago- but I have no idea what may come of that or how disruptive that could turn out to be. In other words, this New Year I find myself in the exact same position, with only different details, I have been in most New Years past.

    (If kids are “at that awkward stage”, does it mean it’s too late to fix them, but too soon to shoot them?)

  8. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty December 31, 2013 10:30 am

    Living deliberately. Exactly why I left California and moved to Wyoming. It’s a lot easier to do that here. 🙂

  9. Jim Bovard
    Jim Bovard December 31, 2013 12:58 pm

    I suppose that resolving not to accept any more plea bargains would not count as a New Year’s resolution?

  10. Claire
    Claire December 31, 2013 1:06 pm

    Jim, I think that depends on just how many plea bargains you’ve been accepting lately!

  11. LarryA
    LarryA December 31, 2013 2:08 pm

    [But I tend to have trouble with negative goals as they seem to require continual reaffirmation, whereas the commitment to do something positive can be achieved with a single effort]


    Instead of “Take several days a week off from the computer” set a goal to DO something that will KEEP you away from the computer. It can be anything from “learn a new skill” to “invite someone I haven’t seen in awhile to lunch” to “play with the dogs” to “I’m going to do nothing, and do it well.”
    My NYRs are to teach more people to shoot and to write more radical stories.

  12. Claire
    Claire December 31, 2013 2:31 pm

    Well-said, LarryA! Well-thought!

    I especially like “I’m going to do nothing, and do it well.” Right up my hermitty alley. But I can see how anything from “Learn to knit” to “Invent the next incandescent lightbulb” could be the motivator.

  13. Claire
    Claire December 31, 2013 2:33 pm

    Oh and “radical stories”??? Do tell!

  14. Mary in Texas
    Mary in Texas December 31, 2013 3:45 pm

    It would be very easy for me to spend (waste) a lot of time on the computer. To keep myself to a smaller amount of time I deliberately do not have wireless and have the most uncomfortable seat in our house at the computer. That limits me to about the time needed for me to take care of my business and read three blogs. Anything more and my rear end is screaming for mercy! As a result I get up and do “real” things.

  15. naturegirl
    naturegirl December 31, 2013 4:05 pm

    I usually make resolutions because business’ have biz plans and lives should have some kind of framework (even if that is to not have a guideline)…..I’m easily distracted (in a good way), so it helps in that regard too.

    As for negativity, sometimes the end of the year gives people that kick in the butt to sit down and really think about their lives and how it should improve. Or maybe how to keep their lives the way they like it for another year. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in surviving each day the rest of the time that things like that get shoved down on the priority list. I personally tend to look for the change rather than the continuation type of resolutions. Fix the things that aren’t working, find the solution to whatever unhappiness or irritation, as best as possible. A new year some times gives people a Do Over attitude, too. And I find that the important things seem to manage to get accomplished, it’s the not so important resolutions that usually don’t last longer than a month (at best).

    2014 is my makeover year, so it’s been deemed Do Opposite Year. Because nothing like a shake up to get some motivation going.

  16. naturegirl
    naturegirl December 31, 2013 4:07 pm

    Anyway, I came here to say Happy New Year to Claire and all here. – got sidetracked LOL.

    Hope it’s a great year for all of you. 🙂

  17. NMC_EXP
    NMC_EXP December 31, 2013 5:25 pm

    “Live deliberately”…I like it. It is way too easy to become unfocused or distracted.

    I tend to use quotations because I am inarticulate. Here are some regarding simplification and time.

    You mentioned Thoreau. Here is a quote from him:

    “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify ”

    Another from Antoine De Saint-Exupery:

    “Perfection is finally attained, not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.”

    To distill it down to the vernacular, here is an anonymous quote:

    “If you kill time enjoy it, because time is surely killing you”

    The last one kinda brings things into focus.

    Best regards and Happy New Year.


  18. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau January 1, 2014 10:56 am

    Thanks, Claire. I suppose the acid test of living deliberately, would be getting off facebook. 🙂

    The problem with the Internet though, is that it is simultaneously a bad habit, and the best thing to ever happen to humanity (with the possible exception of invention of personal weapons attainable by anyone).

  19. The Boot-Strap Expat
    The Boot-Strap Expat January 2, 2014 4:16 pm

    Although I stopped making “New Year Resolutions” long ago, I realized as I read your great essay that I’ve replaced them with simply “Resolutions,” without any connection to an arbitrary contrivance like a calendar. To my mind, Resolutions are not trivial matters or more accurately about trivial matters. They tend to be grand.

    In the fall of 2011 I resolved to leave the US and settle in another land where Liberty is still revered (unlike the USSA) and began laying the groundwork. I was working as an IT Project Consultant to a regional bank and calculated that within a year of that time, autumn of 2012, I would have enough banked to make my move. But Life is a bit of a trickster, six months later I learned that budget cuts had forced an end to my service. So I lived off my Expat fund until I lined up a part-time gig with a start up that only provided a fraction of my professional income, but was slated to last through the end of 2013. After phase 1 of the project was completed, the clients decided to hold off on further development until…?

    So I turned my Resolution into a Business Opportunity by creating the Boot-Strap Expat Adventure and began sharing my plans and experiences via WordPress at . The support has been invigorating and encouraging to the point that I launched an IndieGoGo campaign for the Boot-Strap Expat adventure just hours before the stroke of midnight New Years eve. (

    I didn’t think of it as a New Year’s Resolution but it sure became one.

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