Moving Forward — By Asking Questions
If you’re on Facebook at all regularly, you’ll no doubt have seen more than one of the plethora of quizzes and questionnaires that are so popular there. I admit I have fun with them. You may be interested to know that if I were a children’s book character, I’d be Max from Where the Wild Things Are; the classic author who is my soulmate is Henry David Thoreau; and the Broadway musical that best describes my life is The Sound of Music (I kid you not).
Such quizzes are fun, but they’re not the sort of questions I want to talk about in terms of moving forward in my life.
When I turned 50, I sensed that I was on the brink of a time of growth and possibilities. I began seeking out ways of discovering more about myself, and about how I could express that self in various facets of my life and being. I asked myself questions, I filled out questionnaires and pondered the answers. I looked back at a couple of those questionnaires recently, and they are proving to be a good catalyst in moving forward in this phase of my life as well.
In 2008, a book called Style Statement by Carrie McCarthy & Danielle LaPorte was published. It is designed to help people discover their true inner self and express that inner being in how they dress, what they surround themselves with, etc. To do this, Carrie and Danielle lead the reader through many thoughtful questionnaires on “Spirit & Learning,” “Service & Wealth,” “Creativity & Celebration,” and other topics. All the answers become a toolkit through which one determines one’s style statement — two words that describe one’s basic style/way of being. The first word expresses 80% of what one is, the second word is the 20% icing on the cake, so to speak.
In 2008, when I went through the book, I determined that my two words were Elegant Creative. I wasn’t ready to embrace more than 20% Creative (although “Elegant” seems a bit of a creative stretch, if you ask me! 😉 ) Recently, I went through the book again, simply because I wanted to see how I would respond to the questions given the gap in years and experiences.
It was interesting (and gratifying) to see how differently I answered many of the questions and how much I have changed over the intervening years. Now, I’m more inclined to choose Creative as my 80% word, although I haven’t settled on a 20% icing on the creative cake word as yet. It helped me see how I want to live the next decades of my life — in a creative, open, vital way.
Although I don’t think Carrie and Danielle are still collaborating, the Carrie and Danielle website is still online, and you can find some interesting questions to ask yourself (not the questionnaire of the book) at this link.
As I thought about creativity, I thought about another life-encourager, writer, artist, and deep thinker who exudes creativity. She’s known as SARK, and her website, “Great Life Letter” weekly emails, and her books — such as Make Your Creative Dreams Real — provide fun and thoughtful exercises to get in touch with one’s creativity. I can confidently predict that SARK’s books will be coming off my shelf again this summer.
Another book, and another questionnaire that I’ve revisited is — on the surface, at least — about transforming one’s home into a place that reflects one’s inner self, Apartment Therapy by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan. My answers to Maxwell’s questionnaire were different this time, as well. I noticed particularly that the role models I mentioned were chosen because of being older but still vital, vibrant, active and creative. Do we see a theme developing here? My home will be benefiting from this as I move forward. AT also has a website, by the way.
One final book that I want to mention is another that meant a great deal to me in that transition time as I moved into my 50s, and I suspect I will be revisiting it as well. Live A Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You by Dr. Susan Biali is a fabulous guide to doing exactly what the title says. Her questionnaire isn’t contained within the book, but instead is a 52 page e-workbook that one downloads after purchasing the book. I haven’t ferreted out where I’ve filed my original workbook, but when I find it, I will go through the questions and exercises again. I expect I will again find that I am moving forward.
What books, exercises and role models are catalysts for you in the moving-forward process?
The question you pose at the end of your post is one to which I’ve not given much thought. I do love people who keep reinventing themselves. I seem to do that. Something will capture my interest, something seemingly out of character to others, but for me a challenge or goal. Going back to school and obtaining my BS, participating in the biggest roadrace in Atlanta, even attending a writer’s bootcamp, have been exercises of pushing myself to the next level. I think my time in school influenced other areas of my life. All of the textbooks offered something beneficial to my grown up life. Who’da thunk it? Before reading this particular post, I would’ve have said, “I can’t pick one thing, one person, or even one situation that offers as the catalyst.” However, as I write this, one of the major decisions that has gotten me to my new happy place is joining 12 x 12 in 12. Through this community, I’ve met some amazing people (the hostess of this blog for sure) who have become role models offering such wisdom and compassion. Thanks for making me think about this. Sorry I talk to much.
Thanks for such a detailed and thoughtful response, Pamela! I love the way you’ve articulated the ways you have reinvented yourself. And BIG kudos to you for doing those things! Yes, 12 x 12 has been a marvelous catalyst in so many ways. And I am so glad to be walking on this journey with you, because of 12 x 12. (You don’t talk too much, by the way! I love this response!)
I look a “class” with a bunch of friends (led by another friend) using Julia Cameron’s Vein of Gold book to guide us through a particular spot in our personal journeys. It was fun to be creative and introspective with good friends, but it’s not something I usually do. I have intentions to read books or do exercises to help me grow and move forward in life, but I usually just end up hobbling along. I talk to myself a lot and incorporate interesting things I read (like your post) to help me reach conclusions and decide what would be the right next step(s) to take, so I suppose that I could consider that an effective (more or less) strategy? 🙂
I really like the sound of the books/sites you mentioned though.
I’m not familiar with the Vein of Gold book, although I know Cameron’s Artist’s Way. I’ve just googled it, and it looks like one I will want to look into! Thanks, Teresa. I definitely think I would prefer doing this sort of exercise on my own — I don’t know if I’d be comfortable doing this sort of introspection in a group. It sounds as though you’ve found a strategy that works for you — we all have different paths. Thank you for sharing, Teresa!
Great post! 🙂 So why would you be Max – just wondering? 😉
I wondered about that myself, Erik! Maybe the imagination? I don’t think I’m the wild rumpus type… or am I? 😉
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