Creating a Future: Writing Your Unlived Story


reprinted with permission (Winter/Spring 2000)
Laurie Mattila, M.S.Ed., Career Counselor

If you’ve received this newsletter for awhile, you’ve seen a variety of people profiled in it. And I hope you’ve reflected on the process and possibility for change, both theirs and yours.

This seemed like the perfect time to invite you to think about the profile you’d like to be writing and creating for yourself in your own future. It’s often easier to think back on what has already occurred in life and to tell that portion of the story. However, to think about your unlived life, and the future story you’d like to live, is just as important. In your imagined future you are still free to incorporate changes that will make all the difference.

I’ll offer questions to guide you along, with the expectation they’ll prompt your own even better questions. Whether you try this in your imagination, in writing, or in conversation, read through the entire list first, listening for one or two questions that grab your attention. Hold those questions thoughtfully as you try to go beyond customary, automatic, safe responses. This is your life and your story, and you can create it, make it up, as you go.

  • How am I being drawn to explore new possibilities?
  • Is there an idea (or more than one) I keep putting on hold?
  • What is postponement costing me? personally, professionally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually?
  • What excuses am I too comfortable using? or secretly glad to have?
  • What am I waiting for? Who am I waiting for?
  • What are the names of all my fears and doubts?
  • What inner and outer resources are available to me?
  • What is the “right” decision for me? the “wrong” decision? the “impractical” decision? Says who?
  • How am I choosing to release my life energy in my world? What risks am I taking?
  • How delighted am I with my choices and my life? Overall and in detail.
  • What might I regret if it is no longer an option for me? Does it truly matter to me now?
  • What are the guiding forces that shape my life and my decisions, day by day?
  • What am I doing that brings me joy, simply in the doing? or the being?
  • What needs to continue? to begin? to end?
  • Who or what supports or celebrates my growth? Who or what undermines it?
  • What opportunities am I most thankful for? How am I living out my gratitude?
  • What calls for letting go? How am I responding?
  • How am I making the world a safer, healthier, more truthful, beautiful, thriving place?
  • What questions still need to be voiced or heard?
  • What needs permission? What needs blessing?

The Risk To Discover YOUR Work


reprinted with permission (Summer/Fall 1997)
Laurie Mattila, M.S.Ed., Career Counselor

I’m not interested anymore in doing somebody else’s work, which I define simply as work someone else wants done that I end up doing. Unless work can somehow engage me enough to become mine too, I find it a distracting waste of my time and I try to avoid it.

For many years it was a different story. What I used to do for forty hours or more each week was somebody else’s work. And I was very good at it too. Many of the things I did really pleased other people and in a sense I was fortunate because most of them let me know it. But doing the work didn’t please me. I knew I was not doing my work, but I didn’t know yet what that meant.

The more I thought about trying to change my life and what I was doing, the more trapped I felt by the risk of giving up what I had but didn’t even want. I was overwhelmed by circumstances which felt totally insurmountable. That’s not at all unusual; many people thinking about and exploring change feel similarly overwhelmed. Although we really want change to happen, we want to do it without RISK. The truth is we don’t want change badly enough yet to risk changing ourselves. We’re still in that critical stage of adjusting to the whole idea that change requires us to change too.

Since reading How, Then Shall We Live? by Wayne Muller, I’ve been reminded of the importance of paying close attention to doing the everyday work that lives. Some of my observations, about what exactly that entails for me, surprise me.

Planting seeds and weeding the flower garden is a Yes. Writing this newsletter is also a Yes. Creating a new presentation complete with handouts, hanging up wet laundry outdoors on the clotheslines, talking in the alley with my neighbors… These all resound with Yes.

As I pay attention to my responses, I am remembering what holds real value for me and what supports my true work. Amazingly, things are quite clear. I feel much joy and power in choosing what I will do and what I will let go. Then it occurs to me, will I simply choose what lives for me? No one else will do it for me.

Searching for and finding Your work happens in the moment, not next month, or next year, or five years from now. It happens today and again tomorrow, and every time you say “yes” or “no” or “later” to dozens of opportunities. Keep holding the question:  Does this live for me?

Every rationalized, practical choice away from your true self costs you. So does every choice you risk to be and do who you really are.

There’s no escaping it; both ways cost you. You can take the risk of living your life a stranger to yourself, or the risk of following the unexplored path your heart is calling you to find. Either way, you pay!

Are you giving and receiving what You value? Are you doing Your work? Is it time to listen more to the things that are alive for you, and less to the demands of someone else’s work? Is it time to let some things go, and to make space for what matters and lives for you?