“Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere and sometimes, in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself.”—Author unknown
In life, sometimes the vacuum experience from a loss can invite positive change. We never truly “figure out” what life’s about. It is dynamic, which in a way is what makes it exciting. One does not have a complete picture of where we are or where we are heading, especially during personal trials and emotionally dark times. If we knew all the answers ahead of time, we wouldn’t have anything interesting on the horizon.
In my journey of healing, I have become some kind of a self-improvement bookworm because I am constantly looking for informative material that could accelerate my personal growth and aid me in inching closer to where I want to go.
I found one that got me started on designing a new kind of life. It also helps you take your life and career to the next level.
The book, “Designing Your Life,” is authored by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, professors at Stanford. It offers more than any traditional self-help or leadership text by applying the well-known concepts of design thinking to finding joy and satisfaction in work, love and play.
The authors define design thinking and provide rich examples of their students who have found their purpose through the concepts and activities presented. Just as in product development, it is important to make an assessment. In designing your life, you need to measure work, play, love and health in this current state and then compare these metrics to a life point in which you, personally, feel balance and joy. For one individual it may be OK to sacrifice play for work, while for another person the health metric is most important.
The authors suggest a very simple mapping to get you going. Some of you might want to do so, so here is the process:
To understand where you are, rate your life on a scale from zero to 10 for each area: health, work, love and play.
Write a paragraph that describes why you chose that rating. What’s going well in each area? What’s missing? Why is it missing? Spend at least 30 minutes on this exercise. This will begin your process of clarifying where you are so that you can start mapping out how that relates to where you are going.
Next, the authors ask us to complete exercises to determine our view of life and of work. This values-oriented activity allows one to gain a better and deeper perspective of their our own morals and desires. In addition, the authors point out that having a “work view” that conflicts with our “life view” will lead to stress. Everyone’s view of why we work is different (the “work view”) and may change at various points in life.
A well-designed life is constantly creative, productive, changing, evolving, and there is always the possibility of surprise. Creating a life that is meaningful, joyful and fulfilling is just like creating a good product.
Fulfillment, joy and well-being need to be aligned so one could have a well-lived, joyful life. Life is a balance across different areas, and one way to think about life is to give importance to what matters to us.
Very few people know what they’re passionate about. It’s only through doing many things and discovering what you like and don’t like that you begin to understand what you might be passionate about. If you find it, take action and begin to create happiness.
The joy of learning and acquiring new skills could enhance our lives. Enjoying an extended vacation here in California, I learned a new skill—choosing a winning horse at Del Mar Fairgrounds. Clearly a beginner, I actually didn’t win a race and chose all the wrong horses to bet on. Joining the excitement during the opening, my Assumption classmate Emilie Petrocelli and I paraded our extravagant hats that could have won in the hat contest.
Counsel vs advice
In difficult times, seeking counsel is important. Counsel is when someone is trying to help you figure out what you think. Advice is when someone is telling you what he or she thinks. My Assumption High School Batch ’81 have been awesome support groupmates, as have the friends of Emilie at Lifetime Fitness gym.
Counsel is more helpful than advice because it helps you clarify your thoughts. It helps you see the insights and inner wisdom that will lead you on the best path. While counsel is incredibly useful, most people will give you advice. They don’t have the skill set of listening without judgment and genuinely stepping into your shoes required of someone who gives counsel. Look for people who can provide you with counsel.
When healing from a loss, support groups are very important. Support groups are designed to help individuals discuss issues pertaining to an illness or life struggle that they may be experiencing, with individuals who are experiencing the same or similar issues. They help participants feel less alone and find additional strength to navigate the complexities of the problem they are facing.
Stress is cumulative, but so is healing! We tend to think of healing as a linear process, going through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) in logical fashion until we come to the end of it.
But in my experience, healing is actually circular. I go round and round this circle sometimes, thinking that I am just digging a deeper hole for myself. Sometimes I feel like I have resolved an issue or accepted a reality, only for me to go back to it again and again.
This week, I realized that while I may feel that I am just going around in confusing circles, I don’t in fact return to the same place! Even if I cycle back, I am not the same person I was the first time, the second or even the third time around. Because healing is cumulative, I am healing as I work on myself even if I don’t realize it. I feel stronger, better, more resilient daily—so I know I am in a different and better place. INQ