Book Review: Becoming a Life Change Artist - 7 Creative Skills to Reinvent Yourself at Any Stage of Life

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The Great Artists Provide Valuable Lessons Today

By Nancy J. Peterson
Editor, Workforce50.com
26 August 2010

"Becoming a Life Change Artist", written by Fred Mandell, Ph.D. and Kathleen Jordan, Ph.D. and published by the Penguin Group in August 2010, is an uplifting and hopeful exploration of the life change process. It can assist anyone feeling tension in their life. Mandell and Jordan have written a unique guide to understanding how to navigate the life change process and to recognize the key skills needed for a successful journey. They have woven stories of real modern-day people who have undergone real life change along with accounts of the struggles experienced by many of the great artists over the past 500 years. We can clearly learn relevant lessons about how to live our lives with intent today from the personal stories of Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Pissarro, Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, Morisot, Degas, Monet and O'Keeffe, to name a few.

Mandell and Jordan remind us that we are not just searching for the meaning of life, but we are searching for the experience of being alive. What makes for a satisfying life? We all need different things to feel satisfied by the lives we are living - that is, jazzed when we wake in the morning not by caffeine but by the promise of the day ahead. When we experience tensions or "that nagging feeling" on a consistent basis, it might be a sign that we are struggling with what the authors refer to as a "creative dilemma". It might be time to admit that some portion of life is not as fulfilling as we would like it to be. Thus we enter the life change process. That is, we enter the life change process if, in our individual circumstance, we choose to push that creative dilemma to the forefront and take steps to resolve it in a different way.

As the authors note, it takes some longer than others to face their creative dilemmas and actually choose to embark on change. The story of Donna Krone who left a successful 19 year financial planning practice to build a life coaching practice illustrates the emotional barriers that we create for ourselves and how change in one area of life can positively impact all areas of life. Donna experienced dramatic improvements in her personal relationships and in her own demeanor. She went from weary to eager.

"Whatever our age, gender, marital status, income, job, or location, we have a choice - to listen to the call of our creative dilemmas, and to use our creative skills to enter the journey we call the dimensions of life change, or not."

A creative dilemma can take root in any dimension of our lives: career and work, relationships, spirituality, lifestyle, a cause or calling, health and well-being, or learning and creativity/personal expression. It is disruptive and unsettling and speaks to us first through our emotions. This book reveals a structure and process that is life change and allows us to examine the things that can unsettle us in the context of normal fear and uncertainty. This is why I believe it is a great tool for facing any life change, no matter how weighty, as the book is calming and normalizing.

The authors take the reader first through the stages of the life change process and then through the seven creative skills that are necessary to reinvent your life at any age or stage. They have included an important quiz in the appendix to help the reader assess their competencies in these seven key skills. This can be a very helpful tool to help the reader recognize his or her weaknesses and to highlight his or her creative abilities. The reader should look carefully at the results in a reflective manner and proudly accept the strengths identified. Then go to work on building up those weaknesses.

"Doubt, frustration, and fear are part of the way of the life change artist, but they are not as powerful as passion, commitment, and purpose." I highly recommend this book. It gives the reader understanding and hope that one can emerge triumphant on the other side of any life change.