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How to Courageously Redesign Your Life

Image: Source: Aleksandrdavydovphotos/Canva

Written by: Robin Stone, LMHC

Reprinted from the Psychology Today Article, Published 12.22.21

We’re moving into year three of the global pandemic and all of the sadness, anxiety, division, and death that has come with it. And as new variants emerge and stalk us, we’re also coming to terms with the reality that this virus may be a part of our lives for some time. As a result of the pandemic, many of us are also reflecting deeply on what truly matters. We’re determining what we want—and don’t want—in our lives and what things we might want to shift or get rid of altogether. And one of the biggest shifts has been our relationship to work, causing more folks to call it quits than ever before.

“The Great Resignation” is upon us. This term—attributed to Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University—has been used to describe the mass exodus of people from their current jobs in 2021. In April 2021, 2.7% of the U.S. workforce quit their jobs, which was the highest ever recorded at that time, according to recent stats from the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Since then, that number continued to increase as 4.3 million Americans, or 2.9% of the workforce, quit in August.

Some are changing companies, some are changing careers, others are taking less money for more flexibility or taking time off from work completely if they can afford it. For frontline workers, leaving their job was a matter of safety or a reprieve from high levels of stress. As two who were among the reported 552,000 Black women who left the labor force in the past year described in Barron’s, it meant liberation. The women, Jarie A. Bradley and Kristina C. Dove, who chose entrepreneurship as part of their next chapters, shared: “We both left notable careers and leadership positions in 2020 to launch our own businesses. We yearned for the ability to make our own decisions and have ownership of our time and energy.”

The desire to evolve is natural, and goal-setting is an important part of that process. Perhaps you’re looking for a career that offers more flexibility so that you can be home more, or perhaps you want to pursue a degree or a certification to level up in your industry. No matter the impetus for your next move, it’s important to be holistic when designing your new path in life. Think about not just what you want to do, but how you want to live.

And as we move into an uncertain 2022, one way to help you find clarity and certainty is to reflect on your dreams and write your answers to a few pointed questions. Here are three key considerations for mapping out possibilities for what’s next in work and life.

1. How do I want to live my life?

This is a good time to think about what you value and how you plan to craft your next move. List your top 10 most important factors, such as more time for your children, or caring for your parents, or making a difference in your community. You might value being able to have three days off in the middle of the week, or perhaps you need more time to work on yourself. Whatever you value, make sure you center that.

2. What is the logical path for me to accomplish my goals?

Is it going back to school, pursuing a credential, or securing an apprenticeship? Once you know what’s most important, consider the possible paths that can get you there. Keep an open mind—the right path might be something you hadn't thought about or something that surprises you.

3. What are my sources of support?

Sometimes making a big move in your life causes well-meaning people to project their fears and doubts onto you and try to talk you out of what you know is the right thing to do for yourself. Those seeds of doubt can wreak havoc on your confidence. That is why you need encouragement and support. This support could be a professional organization, former colleagues, mentors, and like-minded friends. Find a tribe of people who have your back so you don’t feel alone. They’ll help you navigate the ins and outs of your new journey.

As you consider these questions and look within for the answers, be inspired by the poem below by Mary Oliver titled "The Journey."

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice–

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do–

determined to save

the only life you could save.

Robin D. Stone, LMHC, is a psychotherapist in private practice at Positive Psychology Associates in midtown Manhattan, where she helps couples and individuals overcome challenges and reach their life goals. She is trained in trauma-informed creative arts therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), as well as couples therapeutic frameworks and holistic health coaching. She also facilitates workshops engaging the power of storytelling to promote self-discovery and wellness.

Stone is the author of No Secrets, No Lies: How Black Families Can Heal from Sexual Abuse, the lead writer of the Essence book, The Black Women’s Guide to Healthy Living, and creator of THICK, a mini-documentary about Black women, body awareness, stress, and self-care. Currently a contributor to the AARP's, Stone, a longtime journalist, has written about mind-body health, nutrition, and lifestyle for more than 25 years. She has also edited for publications including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and Essence and Health magazines. She holds an MA in Applied Psychology from New York University, an MA in Health Arts and Sciences from Goddard College in Vermont, and a BA in Journalism from Michigan State University. She is developing Muse & Grace, an expressive arts wellness center in Harlem.


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