03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Hamlet Secret: Joyful Living!

This week I'm 'out and about' so I'm sharing a chapter from my book, The Hamlet Secret: A Self-Directed (Shakespearean) Workbook for Living a Passionate, Joy-Filled Life.

The format of the book includes quotes from the world's most famous play, as if the world's most famous playwright did in fact leave us a series of 'secret' messages buried in his text. I then 'translate' the quote into a life coaching lesson and add an exercise to 'land' the message. Here's the excerpt and I hope you enjoy it.

The time is out of joint. O, cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right.
Hamlet, Act I, Scene V

Take responsibility for change in the world.

Mahatma K. Gandhi said, "You must be the change you wish to see in world," and there is no more damning indictment in the world. In this scene Hamlet gets it that he's been hiding from life, from the truth, from the responsibility of action, and he's been called on it. It's a play, by the way, and you may not get a chance for your dead father the king to come back as a ghost and kick you into action. Instead you could move to "The Land of 100 Percent Responsibility." Here's how to get there.

The Land of 100 Percent Responsibility
is a made-up world; it's not true, it's not real, and you will argue with me, unless you get it, that it is a place to "come from" or be but not a literal occurrence. Simply stated: it is all YOU, no matter what. Whatever the result, whatever happened, it is all your "fault" (read "responsibility"). By adopting this stance, you become empowered to take on any situation no matter what. Let's say you ask someone to bring home milk, eggs, and flour and he or she forgets, even though you wrote the list down and stuck it in his or her pocket. You have the option of being upset, blaming the person, reinforcing whatever negative opinion you have of him or her (gathering evidence is always GREAT) or taking 100 percent responsibility for the event. In the non-make believe world you are right that you took appropriate action if you say, "Well, I wrote it down and stuck it in his (or her) pocket and he (or she) still screwed it up." You would have the right to be disappointed--but you would still be out of milk, eggs, and flour. Taking 100 percent responsibility gives you the chance to consider how this could have happened and how you can assure that in the future you'll get what you need, when you need it, with as much of a guarantee as is possible in this world.

Consider this: when you are driving down the road and someone pulls ahead of you and into your lane, cutting you off, and you have an accident, the other driver is clearly to blame. But you BOTH have dents in your car, right?

Out of Joint Exercise:
Do this writing exercise in your journal. Take a simple breakdown that has occurred lately to The Land of 100 Percent Responsibility and, no matter how far you have to reach, figure out how you yourself caused it. See if you can find a solution you previously didn't think possible. Be super creative and, remember, this is not a reality-based exercise (though the solutions I've come up with using this seem to be very practical and real). If you do this a few times you may, like Hamlet, see that you have been choosing to bury your head in the sand and not seeing what needs doing. You may be "bearing those ills" instead of being in appropriate action. The time is "out of joint," and it is up to you to set it right. And the time will always be "out of joint" even though the world is just perfect as it is, as there is something for you to care about and care for: people, places, or things. It is time for you to consider the Jewish "tikkun olam" principle of "healing the world" as each and every individual's task here on earth. And don't forget that taking 100 percent responsibility for your life is a happy task, one that gives joy, returns more energy to you than what you expend. It is a key to happiness in this life, and this is the only life we know for sure, isn't it?

This excerpt is from The Hamlet Secret and you can find it on major online book sellers, including Amazon if you're interested. If you're interested but can't afford a copy (about $16), email me at and I'll arrange to get a copy to you.

See you next week!