Erica Sosna is a coach, consultant and author specialising in transformation and transition in both personal and professional life. A gifted speaker, she combines her creativity and curiosity with her professional expertise to set up The Life Project in 2006, designing curriculums and programmes that help people of all ages find their career direction, plan for their future and design a career that best suits their personalities and working style. In her own career, Erica has worked as a policy advisor for the Labour government, performed as a stand-up comedian at the Edinburgh Festival and operated as a leadership consultant for some of the world's most successful companies.
“The art of navigation is to know where you are, where you are going and how to get there safely.”
Welcome to Your Life Plan. A practical book to help you navigate your life and be the hero in your own story.
How are you feeling today, right now? Disgruntled, tired, curious, excited, neutral? What created that feeling? How are you feeling about your life in general? About your existence, your contribution, your success, your relationships?
Stop a moment. Listen to your environment. See it in action around you.
How much of your life feels like your choice? How close is your reality to the life you would like to live?
This book is a practical course in how to choose and then live a life that is meaningful, exciting and adventurous for you. Everyone's life project is unique. Having a life project – a dream or goal that feels like a real challenge, can give you focus, energy and purpose.
If you set yourself a Quest to start today, right now, what would it be? If you are already on a journey toward a goal, what would be most helpful in getting you to your destination?
These are the questions this book can help with.
My aim is to help you be the hero or heroine in your own life.
When I say hero, I don't necessarily mean the cape, the tights and the clenched fist. Only one of my heroes, Freddie Mercury, came with the full regalia. When we think about heroes or heroines, we think about people who took action on what they believed in, were courageous, determined, creative; people who changed themselves, their world or the environment in some lasting way. All of us possess the capability to do this in the right context and given the right support. If you are going to stretch for your dreams, you are going to need to awaken the hero (or heroine) within.
Being heroic doesn't mean you will always have a happy ending. I can't guarantee that if you use the tools in this book, everything will work out exactly the way you would like it to. What I can promise, is that the experience of setting out on a journey and taking steps to realize a dream or ambition, will bring you all kinds of benefits, adventures and value that you would not experience if you stayed where you are.
As a society, we love the idea of the hero. How many songs, from the sublime to the ridiculous, include this word? How many refer to it indirectly, the experience of doing something remarkable or unusual, perhaps once in a lifetime or as a way of living? So much of our film, fiction and theatre is all built around a central character who we root for and watch evolve over a period of time. And we humans love to share real life stories that speak powerfully about what we can achieve when we put our minds to it.
Over the last ten years, I have worked with hundreds of people of all ages, using the structure of stories, the idea of the hero, and the skills of project management to help them to find their inner hero and create what they want for themselves. I've helped people downsize, change careers, find a relationship, rebuild a relationship with a loved one, relocate across the globe, pass their exams, overcome anxiety disorders, set up a business, and find balance in their work lives.
There is nothing in the world that I am more passionate about, or good at, than helping people clarify and catalyze their own direction. That's my purpose in life …
… to help you find yours.
So, you are in good hands.
As a coach and consultant, I've found that seeing a client's life as a story can be a very effective tool for working on their life path and choices. When you begin to see yourself as a character and your life as a plot, you notice the patterns and the “plot line” in the journey you have taken so far. You begin to empathize with yourself as the hero, on an uncertain path, doing the best you can, and the themes and dreams that surround you take on a mythical quality. This sense of being part of a larger narrative, integral to the world around you, playing a part in the stories of others, connects us both with our ancestors and with the present.
Our story can help us to make choices about the changes we want to make or the adventures we want to go on. I've always loved a good story and I‘ve noticed that whatever age we are, we become as rapt as children when someone offers to tell us a tale. When I trained as a storyteller for grown-ups, I noticed that stories could be educational, inspiring and even life saving. They often reflect universal truths about humanity and how life happens.
In every great story the world over, whether fiction or historical, there are heroes and heroines. Flawed, passionate human beings who take themselves on an adventure beyond the ordinary and every day. They overcome challenges, find love, learn new things and return transformed by their experiences. In this book, I will help you uncover your heroic nature, decide on a Quest and design and implement your own Life Plan. We will work together to find and manifest your very own Heroes' Quest. I believe that inside, you are just as exceptional, able, principled and courageous as your most inspirational role models, from legend or from history, from sport, art or business. You inner hero or heroine is just waiting to be given permission to shine.
As we progress through this book we will look at how others have used similar skills and tools to do things that seemed impossible to them. Heroes, real or imagined, experience struggle or challenge just like you. Their tasks and goals were no less daunting than the mountain you want to climb, the dream job you want to win or the love you long to find. The difference however, is that they had a plan; a method for making their Quest a reality, something doable.
And that's what this book will share with you.
I am a big believer in the value of a practical skill set for managing your life. Whatever we want to achieve in life, having the tools to plan, organize and focus our activity is crucial. Most Quests also require a bit of research, the ability to lead, inspire or influence others and the confidence to stay in the game when things get tough. The skill set you will acquire through this book will help you to get comfortable with change. It will also give you a better understanding of who you are and how you operate so you can find the best ways to be useful and happy.
The Structure of Your Life Plan
We will begin by learning about the Heroes' Journey. This cycle is the foundation of every great story ever told. It follows a simple pattern of ups and downs, of resistance and action and offers a model to help us understand how life happens. Once we understand its structure, we can use it to inform how we operate in the world.
We will then take a look at who you are, in relation to your own Hero's Journey. We will explore how personality, motivations and talent entwine and give you clarity of purpose.
Once you have uncovered your Quest (whether big or small – some of the best Quests are known only to the hero in question – small can be very beautiful), we will move on to how you are going to get there. I will help you develop the project thinking you need to find the right people, process and plans to support you on the journey. I will show you how to build and lead a team, find mentors and champions and inspire others to join you. We will address the hero's nemeses – procrastination, doubt and fear – and you will discover how to break the patterns that keep you stuck and insecure. Together we will face the trials, tribulations and endurance tests that are part and parcel of transformation (and integral to any tale worth telling).
Out the other side, we will explore how to integrate your experience into the “new you” that emerges from the fire. You will also find ways to capture your experience and share it with others, so that you can be an inspiration and support to those that are struggling, stuck or feel that the Quest is out of their reach. This is the legacy of the Quest – once you have taken the journey, you are able to act as a light for others along the way.
As we progress through the book, I will introduce you to former clients, friends and colleagues who demonstrate the Heroes' Journey in action. We will hear stories from our real life heroes and heroines, as well as great examples from fiction to give us pointers about how Quests work. Each chapter will build your self-understanding, confidence and skill set and you will complete the book with a plan of action for your own unique Hero's Quest.
For the purposes of avoiding finger strain and the overuse of brackets, I am going to refer to “heroes” from now on. Heroines out there, know that I speak to you too, just in shorthand. The plentiful tales of kick-ass, inspirational women you will meet in these pages will back me up on that.
As meaning-making machines, human beings seek to live a life of purpose. We want to know why we are here, we want to make a difference, we want to leave a legacy; we want to grow, learn, evolve and overcome. Understanding the structure of our own life story can give us a method to understand why we are here and what we are here to do. It...