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The key to making life changes? Replace fear with planning

sm_donna2008.jpgAs a new year gets underway, many of us find ourselves making resolutions or vowing to "finally make that lifestyle or career change" we've been thinking about. It's a time of reflection, and of planning for the future.

Now, for those who want to plan their next career or re-evaluate their life path, LearningLife is offering life skills workshops that offer ways to get inspired, think about the future, and strategically plan out a blueprint for true life change. One upcoming workshop, Your Next Chapter: Exploring Life/Work Options, will be led by career consultant Donna Bennett.

Designed to help people think about their future and make meaningful decisions about their next steps in life, the workshop was initially intended for older adults considering an encore career. But now, however, when the job market and economy are tight, it is especially applicable to anyone who is looking to make a change in their lives.

According to Bennett, "When someone is looking to make a major change in life--whether that is pursuing a 'bliss career' or whether it's switching fields either because they have lost their job or are simply unhappy in their current role--they need to be making informed, conscious decisions. The key to successful change is looking at your life, your history and patterns, and seeing where to build and what to change.

"These workshops are designed to help participants identify their core values and then help them discover the steps they need to make informed decisions and choices."

The key, Bennett continues, is to be an active participant in the changes and not simply let things happen. "As a career counselor, I've found that most of us get into our careers more reactively. This workshop is a time when people can take a step back and plan more proactively."

Bennett says that the major roadblock people confront in making change in their lives is worry about whether or not they will be able to achieve their goal. "Usually what stops people is fear: fear and anxiety about 'How could this possibly work?," Bennett says.

Now, with the uncertain economy, people are doubly troubled. "Those fears are very easily intensified when people listen to the media preaching doom and gloom," she says. "And when a job seeker or someone looking to make a change hears 'there are no jobs available' and 'record numbers of layoffs,' it's easy to procrastinate or to make false assumptions about what's out there."

That's where Bennett's workshop can help. "I want to help people make decisions about what's real in their own lives. Everyone's circumstances are different. Yes, the economy is down, and jobs have been cut. But companies are also restructuring and reorganizing, and there are new and different opportunities available. By figuring out your core values and planning carefully, you can see what's possible. Taking an active approach is absolutely critical at this time."

Continues Bennett, "I've found that people who have the kind of planful steps we'll work on in the workshop, who develop a roadmap to achieve their dreams, it really lessens the fear and anxiety because they're taking proactive, realistic steps to achieve what their goals are," says Bennett.

LearningLife's life skills workshops are structured around these questions:
--Are you living and working in accordance with your values?
--Are you getting ready for phased or full retirement?
--Are you needing to rethink the role of work in your life?
--Do you need ways to revive your sense of purpose?

"Everyone wrestles with these questions," says Andrea Gilats, LearningLife program director. "Our hope for the life skills workshops series is that we can help people to find their own unique answers to these questions, and work out a realistic plan of action to achieve their goals."

Your Next Chapter: Exploring Life/Work Options is Saturday, February 21, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Continuing Education and Conference Center on the U of M St. Paul campus. It costs $65 and includes breakfast. Registration is open now, so people can take the first step towards fulfilling their New Year's resolution.

For more information about this or other life skills workshops, please visit www.learninglife.umn.edu or call 612-624-4000.

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