Thursday, November 15, 2012

Oh, the places you will go: A book review

I was compensated for the following BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own.

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I had my life all figured out. I was going to go to college, where I would major in journalism but most importantly meet a very nice guy. We would date for several years before getting engaged, and we would be married after graduation. We would buy a nice house and have good jobs. I would have our first baby at 25.

I was 16. And oh so naive. I might have met a nice boy in college but we broke up before either of us were ready to put a ring on it (despite four years of dating). I graduated but had a mediocre job - two actually - and rented a house that was never described as nice. 

Even then, as my life dreams seemed so out of reach, I still made a plan. I was going to work in Sandusky for two years, before moving to a bigger newspaper. I would become a news editor and then set my sights on becoming a managing editor. All before I was 40.

At 31, I can check some of those things off my list. I left Sandusky. I moved to a bigger paper. And, for a couple years, I worked as a news editor. However, as everything seems on track, what I want out of my life has never been so cloudy. I need direction.

"My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future" helps people at any stage of life create a visual road map of both their past and their future in major life areas such as family, work, play, friends, and education. Charting the past highlights patterns you may not have noticed before. Seeing the years ahead encourages you to set goals and shape a future with intention and purpose. This interactive self-help journal includes innovative mapping and chapters on Creating Your Maps (warm-up exercises for envisioning your future and tips on how to fill out your maps); Sample Journeys (completed maps of fictitious people at different stages of life); My Life Maps (blank whole-life, ten-year, and subject maps to fill out); Putting Your Maps into Practice (tips and tools for establishing next steps and annual checkups); and Reflections (blank pages to record discoveries, challenges, or promises).
"My Life Map" is broken up into sections: Past, Present, Reflecting on Past and Present, Future, Maps and Putting Life Maps into Practice.

When I got the book, I instantly found myself journaling in the fifth section: Your Future. Well, my future. I have no idea what your future holds. I'm not Dionne Warwick. I went through the warm-up exercises, answering questions about places I could see myself living, activities I enjoyed, what I considered important. I found these exercises to be thought-provoking, and they allowed me to put on paper the things I've thought about but don't dare talk about - teaching fitness classes more than once a week, getting my personal training certification, doing a triathlon.

The book also gives you the opportunity to map out your life and set a timeline for things you want to happen, as well as things to think about when setting goals to make things happen. It can be a bit overwhelming to lay out your life's dreams on a piece of paper but the writers suggest setting three to five goals for a year and committing to make them happen. If I want to do a triathlon, I can register for a race, buy a training book and find a tri group. If I want to be a better wife, I can hide my iPhone at 8 o'clock every night, make sure to book a baby-sitter once a month for date night and stop calling Mark fat.
The key to the book, of course, is knowing what you want. There were a few sections - family, specifically - where I felt frustrated that I couldn't answer them. Do I see myself with a second child? If I did, when?  It also forced me to face the reality that some very special people in my life might not be with me in 10 years.
The book is not intended to be a downer - rather it's to help you organize thoughts and encourage you to actively pursue the things you want out of life. I found it to be a fun exercise in challenging myself not to accept the life I have but create the one I want. 
You can find out more about Kate and David Marshall's "My Life Map" in BlogHer Book Club. Read her bio, read and excerpt of "Matched" or join the discussion here. If you are interested in following the Marshalls via social media, you can find them on Facebook page  and Twitter

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