I’ve always considered myself a fairly reasonable, forgiving, and open-minded person. I try my best not to jump to conclusions, generalize situations, or get offended when I encounter rude strangers because everyone is going through something difficult, at any given moment. What was particularly eye-opening about my Designing Your Life (DYL) Digital Journey facilitated by Fieldbrook Advising, however, was the realization that I don’t often give myself the same grace or benefit of the doubt that I quickly bestow upon others.
When it comes to myself, I have overwhelmingly all-or-nothing thinking. If I accidentally leave a few dishes in the sink overnight, I say “screw it,” and let housework build up over the next few days since I’ve already lowered my perfectionist standards. If I fail to go to bed at my designated time, I say, “oh well,” and proceed to stay up even later, since I’ve already disappointed myself and know I’ll be tired either way. And if I’m ever feeling unhappy or stuck at work, I have the urge to drastically upend my whole life, move to Europe, and write books for a living (which sounds quite lovely, aside from the part about needing to make a living).
I first learned about the DYL framework in early 2017, when Shankar Vedantam interviewed Dave Evans on the podcast Hidden Brain. I immediately read Dave and Bill Burnett’s first book, Designing Your Life, How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, and imagined a myriad of incredible other lives within me, then got a bit discouraged since my top choice of becoming the next J.K. Rowling seemed pretty unrealistic. Because of this, I was hesitant to sign up for the DYL Digital Journey. I was certain that the outcome of examining my life under a magnifying glass would lead to drastic changes that I wasn’t yet ready to face: quitting my financially secure job, disappointing my family, dealing with the pressure of trying to “make it” as a writer, and worried that writing for money would diminish its luster and romantic appeal.
If reading the DYL books was eye-opening, taking the Digital Journey was like stepping from black-and-white Kansas into color-saturated Oz. Everything came to life in large and small group discussions under the deliberate care of Joan Cheverie, Michael Cato, and Heather Shaughnessy-Cato —our thoughtful and engaging coaches. They helped me identify unhealthy all-or-nothing thinking and re-frame my dysfunctional beliefs that were keeping me stuck (“I have to quit my day job in order to consider myself a writer” or, “If I’m unhappy today, that must mean my whole life needs to change”). With their encouragement to brush off setbacks, course-correct, and maintain a “bias to action,” our homework and discussions led to multiple “Ah-ha!” moments: I realized I actually quite like my current job if I tweak certain energy-draining factors and build in more creativity (and get more sleep). I even wrote the first four lines of my children’s book the morning after my favorite day involving a digital, interactive whiteboard session, which is something I’ve only ever thought about but didn’t act upon.
It’s also not an exaggeration to say that I made new friends for life. I bonded with one woman in particular over our desire to live in other countries for a month or two every year, and now our plans are slowly shaping up to switch houses next May (the universe is watching out for me: she lives in Europe)! We’re also in a virtual monthly Mastermind group together that formed after the class wrapped up, and I’m in constant awe of the strength, diversity, and creativity of our members, and the genuine support and accountability we give each other as we tackle our action plans. Private and group coaching is never cheap, but it tends to attract people who have worked very hard to set aside the time and money to make it a top priority, really investing in themselves and committing to a lifelong journey even after the paid class has ended.
Let’s be clear: I am still a work in progress and will always be. I still get frustrated with myself if my house isn’t always perfectly tidy, if I miss my bedtime or workout, or if the pace of all the changes I want to make isn’t at top speed. This blog post is not saying, “learn from me, because I totally have it all together!” It’s rather saying that only YOU have the power to incrementally shape and design your life in meaningful directions, but without coaches and a community of “radical collaborators” to help you reframe your thoughts and put plans into action, it’s really easy to get stuck inside your own head or think that you’re alone. If I learned anything from the global pandemic, it’s that being alone and isolated for many days is terrible, but thinking you’re alone is worse. Here’s to reframing our thoughts for the better, then building something great together, one small step at a time.
- Megan Takagi is the Director of Business Development for Takagi & Takagi, a multi-generational family business that helps clients lead intentional, fulfilling, and empowered lives through goals-based financial guidance. She loves to read, dance, write, sing, and explore new places and wild ideas.