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How to Reshape Your Life 
& Celebrate Your Achievements

By Dominique Carson

   Are you tired of settling for less or going through the motions in life? Do you feel surrounded by people and things that no longer serve you? It’s time to reshape your life and live with truth and courage. Sometimes, we must hit rock bottom to realize that we need to change. Let’s celebrate our victories boldly and take the necessary steps to achieve our goals. 
             In an interview with Preferred Health Magazine, author and Licensed Clinical Social Worker Robert Taibbi shares how reshaping your life for the better is possible and how to make it happen.

Preferred Health Magazine: How do you encourage a person or client to change their life after life has been hit several times in the most disruptive way?
Robert Taibbi:
For some, life is a struggle because of conditions outside their control—health issues, losses, past abuse, financial problems. For others, their struggles are the outcome of their personality, the decisions they’ve made, and the poor relationships they’re not fixing or leaving. What they have in common is the notion that embedded in problems are lessons, that there is a moral to the story of what has happened. Navigating life is a process of learning these lessons, a process of elimination where mistakes teach you something you need to learn.
   I believe everyone has their own Achilles’ heel, the one or two things they struggle to do. It is not about the situation—the bad relationship or job—but how you cope and respond. The most common stuck-points that I’ve seen are people who are afraid of confrontation and become martyrs or victims but never really solve problems or run their own lives; those who struggle to regulate their emotions or are emotionally driven; those who can’t let go of the past and those who are self-critical and afraid to make mistakes. 
I encourage people by helping them focus on these lessons. Reshaping your life is about learning and applying these lessons, knowing what you can’t do, and working to change it. This is about better running your life, not about others or your current problem.

How to Reshape Your Life & Celebrate Your Achievements

PHM: What is your definition of reshaping your life?
Reshaping your life is about seeing, accepting, and applying the lessons that problems are teaching you, about focusing on your stuck point, your Achilles’ heel, so that you can run your life better. It may be about reordering your priorities, being less impulsive or self-centered, controlling your emotions, dealing with an addiction, and changing or getting out of a hurtful relationship. Again, it’s less about the situation and more about making a paradigm shift that enables you to handle life’s problems in a better way.

PHM: Did you have a moment or time in your life where you said to yourself, “Hey, I have to change my life, or is the outcome not going to end well?”
: At one point in my life, my family moved to be closer to our extended family. It was a smaller town, and I couldn’t find a job in my field. I was unemployed for over a year, so I was forced to stay home with my two children and be the “house husband.”
   I went through about six months of depression. I had been a bit of a workaholic before then, and now I wasn’t working and lost my sense of identity. But after those six months, something changed. I used this as an opportunity. I started writing, getting up at 4:00 in the morning before the kids were up, and working on a book and magazine articles. I sent things out and got little response, but I had the time to explore this part of me. I also realized that though I thought of myself as a good dad, I didn’t make my children the priority I ideally wanted them to be. When I finally found a job in my field, I was offered the opportunity to work full- or part-time. I chose part-time. I had slowed down; my writing and time with my children had become important. I cobbled together a life of part-time work, writing, and parenting for the next 15 years.

PHMIn your opinion, when someone is reshaping their life, what do you think are some realistic goals they can set for themselves?
The keys are three: Go where you’re not, take action, and it’s okay to take baby steps and have support. Going where you are not is about approaching your anxiety, going against your grain, tackling those lessons, and breaking bad habits. Taking action is about doing, not just thinking about doing; you only know what works by trying something and fine-tuning. Baby steps are about moving forward, even slowly. There is a Chinese proverb: There is no shame in going slow, only standing still. Finally, you probably need support—from friends, a therapist, maybe even a program or medication. Life is not a solo act. 

PHM: How do you encourage someone to handle the temptations and setbacks that life brings as they’re making changes in their lives?
Two parts to this: One is to expect temptations and setbacks. You’re learning new skills and rewiring your brain, both of which take time; the child learning to ride a bike will fall down in the process. For us adults, this is most likely to happen under stress. Anticipating the stress and knowing when you’re vulnerable lets your rational brain come up with a Plan B so you don’t fall into your old patterns. The key is having the plan in place.
   The other skill is to learn to see the stirring of old problems not as setbacks but as red flags for other problems in the present. If temptations come and go, which they usually do, the question to ask yourself is, why today and not yesterday? It’s not about the temptation or the old behavior but something that triggered it. It may be anger, anxiety and stress, depression. Use the temptation as a signal that there’s another problem lurking underneath that you need to deal with.

PHM: What are some of the ways you can prioritize self-care and being a productive being with balance?
There’s no magic bullet here. Prioritizing self-care and creating balance is about making both a priority. Here, you want to consciously develop new, healthy routines—time to exercise in the morning, having downtime at night, leaving work at a reasonable time—and finding ways to do that—putting the running shoes by your bed before you go to sleep, setting your alarm to get up and hour earlier and going to bed an hour earlier to get up. But the bigger problem is often that we all too easily let our lifestyle run our lives rather than run our lifestyles. I see many couples who complain that they are too busy to have intimate couple time. My response is that you have created your lifestyle that doesn’t give you time because of the decisions you’ve made. You can change that. What would it look like if you were to build your ideal everyday life from scratch today? What do you need to do to get there?

PHM: What words of advice do you encourage someone to maintain a healthy lifestyle and stay motivated about life and the future? 
We each need to discover what motivates us most. For some, it’s being a good role model for our children; for others, it is about avoiding health problems or discovering what makes us feel our best. And over time, our motivators and priorities will change. But maybe the better question is what keeps us from being motivated? The bigger driver here a bigger, more existential question: What is my purpose? Why am I here? You are motivated because you have a sense of purpose; you don’t want to die at 80 with regrets, and you need to realize that time is limited. The motivation, 
I say, is you answering these questions and having a purpose and passion for your life because your life is important. If you feel like it is not, we need to help you discover that.  

PHM: How do you celebrate your plans and achievements along the way?
Like the other question, what keeps you from celebrating? Usually, there are two reasons: You don’t slow down—accomplishing your goals is a forced march, and there is no time to savor and appreciate what you’ve accomplished. The antidote is making the time, being grateful for all you’ve accomplished and the ways you’ve changed. Again, think and appreciate the process, the running of your life – what you’ve done differently—rather than the outcome. Often, the outcome is out of your control.
   The other reason, and more insidious, is that you are self-critical. You don’t celebrate because, in your mind, there’s nothing to celebrate—you accomplished x, but you didn’t do y. This self-criticism is one of your Achilles Heels, a bully in your head that is constantly undermining whatever you do. It’s time to push back. This is not about this situation or goal but how you treat yourself. 

Preferred Health Magazine asks: How do you encourage someone to handle the temptations and setbacks that life brings as they’re making changes in their lives?
PHM: What are some of the ways you can prioritize self-care and being a productive being with balance?
PHM: What words of advice do you encourage someone to maintain a healthy lifestyle and stay motivated about life and the future? 
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