Explore The Next Chapter
by Cindy Clemens
You and you alone are the only person who can live the life that can write the story that you were meant to be.
— Kerry Washington
This idea that we are meant to live a meaningful life runs very deep. It is not uncommon for people in the 30’s and 40’s, who have reached a career goal and settled into a comfortable life, to ask “is this all there is?” I myself asked that very question when I got to the top of my career, as a successful trial attorney, only to discover the ladder was against the wrong wall. It wasn’t a bad wall, it just no longer fit the person I had become. My heart called out to me to write a new chapter in my life – one that would be self-directed, purpose-filled and supported by a high-quality lifestyle.
Over the past fifteen years, I have done just that. I downsized and bought a small home in southern Utah, learned to take good care of myself, and launched my life coaching business. Now my focus is helping other people launch their own next chapter. This has led me to create a six-part series of articles to help you explore your next chapter. In each article I will share ideas and suggest “life work” (similar to homework but more fun) you can do to find your purpose and passion, create a reserve of time and energy to nourish you along the journey, and identify how you can monetize your skill and talents to make money in a more satisfying way. I will also use social media to keep us connected and help you find other like-minded people. So let’s get started.
The first step is building your self-reflection muscle. I remember when I started wondering if I had to continue to practice law and endure a grueling work schedule for the rest of my life. Up to that point I had not done much inner work, but intuitively I knew the answers were inside of me, not in a different law job or acquiring more stuff. I did two things that proved to be very helpful in connecting with my inner wisdom. First, I got a notebook and made three columns – What I Like about My Job, What I Don’t Like, and What New Kinds of Work I Want to Do. I kept the notebook in my office and would rate and record the actual work tasks I had done over the past few days. I kept this for about six months to get an accurate picture of what needed changing and what could stay. These three questions can be used to get data to assess a job, a relationship, a self-care plan, or even a circle of friends that need an upgrade in your next chapter. Try not to judge the data too quickly – observe your preferences and what new interests are emerging.
The second thing I did was to get to know myself and develop criteria for what I wanted my life to look and feel like. I call this getting to know the You of Today, not the you of ten or twenty years ago. We often make life choices about work, partners, and where to live when we are in our twenties, but we change. This is good, but we need to recognize how our priorities, values, and goals have evolved, and lead from this evolved place when making life choices. I know this can be a daunting process. If I gave you a blank piece of paper and asked you to describe the You of Today, that would be difficult. To help you with this inquiry, I have created the Life Compass, which you can download as a PDF file from the Tools section of my website. (Find it at www.cindyclemens.com/tools)
A great way to approach the Life Compass is to set aside an hour when you can be alone with your best thinking. Even better, find a great place to go to – a coffeehouse, spot in nature, or cozy chair by the fireplace. Think back over your life. What have you learned about yourself that are the non-negotiable elements of living your life with energy, zest and deep joy? What do you need to have in your life to be your best in the areas of health, love, money, and time? This is not about what used to be important or what you should do, but rather what the you of today loves to do, what makes you feel filled up and ready to embrace life. After you give it your first pass, put it aside for a while but keep your antenna up for clues. Return to the Life Compass in a few days and continue to fill it out. You might even want to print two copies – one for a draft when you first start and one for the final version.
In my next article, I will explain how to use the Life Compass and continue the discussion of the You of Today. We’ll look at how to identify the personal standards and values that will guide your future decisions and the kind of person you want to be in your next chapter. Plus, I will have the details for how you can join the Next Chapter Community. I look forward to partnering with you in creating the next greatest version of you!
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