Life, Interrupted


I was moved this week by a Dan Harris’ 10% Happier podcast episode titled Life, Interrupted with Suleika Jaouad. You might recall the NY Times column by the same name written by Suleika.

While Suleika is a leukemia survivor (many of you know that I was treated for AML Leukemia), that is not what is at the heart of this compelling story. The lessons shared are a guide for each of us to find our own joy, happiness and fulfillment (that’s a go-big-or-go-home statement!).

Suleika found certainty out of an ocean of uncertainty by way of:

⁃ Finding her agency.

⁃ Creating the narrative of her life.

⁃ Asking for what she wanted.

What does it mean to have agency?

Agency is one's independent capability or ability to act on one's will according to the Google dictionary. Having agency is rooted in being deliberate around who you are and what you want. With no job or career as life was interrupted, Suleika went in search of creating just that. She figured out how to have a sense of agency for herself when so much was out of her control.

Too often, your days are spent in a default mode simply responding to what is in front of you, and to your unmanaged mind and calendar. Leading yourself from a place of deliberation on what’s important to you is central to leading with agency.

When things felt most out of control in the ocean of uncertainty, Suleika took to journaling every day from the hospital. She viewed her journal as a reporter’s notebook recounting the day’s events and unloading all of what she was feeling. She looked forward to journaling. It became her job. Her writing the daily narrative allowed her to take back agency of her life. It gave her the gift of clarity she needed to move forward with agency each day.

When she read her journal back, she found good material and wanted to share her experience more broadly. She started a blog which shortly thereafter got the attention of The New York Times.

Journaling is an expression of your thoughts in its rawest and most personal form. I use journaling with my clients as a strategic tactic to help find, write and listen to their voice. Journaling is a proven practice to listen to your thoughts and to explore, recognize and become aware of your feelings. Your thoughts and feelings are what create your results, and we need to see and listen to them for clarity and action toward what we want most. Agency begins with clarity, and the art of journaling never fails to provide it. (that’s a go-big-or-go-home statement!)

When The NY Times asked Suleika to write an essay, she responded with her own proposal of a weekly column and accompanying video series. Go-big-or-go-home with that ask, right!? She had nothing to lose and so much to gain by simply asking. This was agency taking hold. No time to waste is how Suleika referred to it.

She asked. They accepted. And, Life, Interrupted is a legacy of support and inspiration in words, video and now a new book.

Here’s the thing: You go willingly into your daily default instead of seeing, feeling and acting on your greatness. You question your belief in your ability to go-big-or-go-home.

What would you do if you were not afraid?

-Karen Sullivan, Kick Start Your Edge

Don’t wait for something bad to happen or a cancer diagnosis to find your agency, write your narrative or ask for what you want.

-Define your agency.

-Start journaling as a source of inspiration, clarity and to write about what you want for yourself.

-Then go ask for it.

I love the section where 10% Percent’s host Dan Harris shares how he mentors women by cajoling them to be more obnoxious. Too often women fall prey to imposter syndrome using language (thank you, apologies and !!! In our emails). Women too often use language to mitigate coming across overly ambitious or brazen. Language matters. Let’s use it to become more vocal to stand in our agency and ask for what we want.

There is no time to waste. Go-big-or-go-home.


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