Who Defines YOUR Life?
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Widow. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear that word? I asked over 80 people that question, and answers ranged from: sad, lonely, empty, and displaced; to awakening, beginning, resilient, strong and courageous, with everything in between, including “spider” (aka Black Widow). Many explained that the word they chose reflected their personal experience, perceptions or fears about widowhood.

As a recent widow, I’ve been reflecting on what this change means and how to boldly venture into this new chapter of my life. At times, this transition has felt like walking through a dense fog. There are many considerations–financial, legal, purpose, identity, and some big questions: Who am I now? How will I move forward through grief, fear and uncertainty and begin to find joy and renewed purpose? What’s important in my full life, and how do I evolve that into a satisfying future? How will I thrive, not just survive?

We all take on various roles in the course of our lives, some by choice, some not. Each role brings a set of expectations-from ourselves and from others, many of which hold us back and cause us to take actions that aren’t congruent with what we really want or need. The question that comes to mind is:

Who defines YOUR life?

Who determines how you live your life; how you move through and own each chapter? Many people go through life being influenced by and allowing others to determine the course of their lives. Fear and uncertainty can keep you stuck in the past – when “things were good”. To move forward, it’s important to choose to live rather than just exist, to be open to possibilities of what can be and to focus on future “good things”.

As you step into the possibility of a new chapter, consider the following:

Focus on Your Core:  Get clear on what guides you in your full life–what you want to be known for and your top 3-5 values. Prioritize what you want and need rather than what others think you should do or be.

Look Back and Reflect:  Identity 3-5 accomplishments you are proud of and the skills or attitudes that helped create them. Identity 2-3 disappointments you’ve experienced and why they bother you. What did you learn about yourself?

Look Forward and Live with Intention: What’s most important to you now? What will be different for you? What obstacles – people or circumstances could get in the way? What do you have to DO to move forward? Who do you have to BE in this new chapter – brave, open, etc?  What steps are you willing to take in the next 6-12 months to move forward? Who can hold you accountable and/or give you support?

Leverage Your Resources: What financial, legal and other organizations can provide tangible support, advice or feedback? Who’s successfully navigated a similar transition? Build a network of trusted advisors who will be straight with you and hold you up when you struggle.  

Moving through the fog of transition can be scary and requires a strong inner core. Taking charge – defining and owning YOUR life is an important first step. Practicing self-awareness, intention and gratitude during the journey can help keep you on the path to a bright future.

Deb Hornell is a visionary whose personal brand of “Cultivating Environments for Growth” extends into her consulting practice, her family and friendships and her book “Good Things for a Full Life”.

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