Andrea DeWitt was always a rule-follower; she stuck to a tight script of academic and professional achievement her whole life, earning a master’s degree from UC Berkeley and building a successful 30+ year career in academia.
“I pretty much did everything right and felt I had done everything I wanted to do,” said DeWitt.
Yet a few years ago, DeWitt began to feel antsy, dissatisfied. It was time for change – a departure from “a stagnancy of a life that was no longer working,” as DeWitt called it.
It took a personal financial crisis – and her fear surrounding it, ironically enough – to give DeWitt a new perspective, along with the courage to leave her academic career and forge a new path to become a life coach. That journey also led her to write her recently published book, Name, Claim and Reframe: Your Path to a Well-Lived Life.
“I wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t afraid,” said DeWitt. “As I say in the book: fear and curiosity can’t exist together. If you’re afraid, just get curious; you’re going to learn something.”
Life’s disruptions (or “rogue waves,” as DeWitt calls them) such as divorce, illness or job loss can be major catalysts for change.
“When we’re off track, the universe gives us opportunities,” she said. “Great change is always preceded by chaos and confusion, and our darkest moments can have great purpose.”
People who have experienced life’s “rogue waves” are one audience for her book, as well as “anybody who wants to take their power back in a resourceful, intelligent way,” said DeWitt. “It’s about responding to life instead of reacting.”
While “reacting” and “responding” may seem like synonyms, DeWitt defines them very differently.
“When you’re triggered by a painful event or series of events in your past, you react in a wounded way,” said DeWitt. Some examples of self-limiting reactions are anger, defensiveness and violence.
By contrast, “A response means you have taken a beat to think about how you want to respond in a thoughtful way,” said DeWitt. “Such a response is visionary, resourceful and open-minded.”
The framework of DeWitt’s book explains the process of learning how to respond instead of react. It also includes a chart of corresponding behaviors to consider in the context of one’s own life. This process involves three steps:
• Name the triggers and limiting beliefs that are causing you to react instead of respond;
• Claim resonant actions that align with your core values;
• Reframe your thinking so you can proceed with strategic and visionary optimism.
“It’s a structure that’s simple, but it’s not easy,” said DeWitt. “It’s about taking your power back in a graceful, optimistic way. Reframing is your opportunity to choose again.”
DeWitt calls employing these techniques the way of a “gentle warrior.” Of herself, she said: “I’m a recovering warrior. My natural response is to go for the sword. A gentle warrior can be powerful and graceful at the same time, but much more versatile. If more people chose to respond instead of react, we’d have less conflict in the world.”
A key component to becoming a gentle warrior is practicing self-compassion – being kind to yourself and knowing how to replenish your resources when you’re depleted. Instead of listening to the omnipresent inner critical voice, DeWitt suggests taking on a different perspective: “What if you treated yourself like someone you loved and wanted to help?”
In coaching her clients and writing her book, DeWitt applied all of her life experiences.
“In my role of a reading specialist, I helped emergent readers crack the code of print. Now I am helping seekers crack the code of themselves,” she said. “I help them understand what’s not working so we can find a pathway forward and they can find new ways of thinking and being.”
For more information, visit www.andreadewittadvisors.com.
Kathy Cordova can be reached at email@example.com.
DeWitt’s three best pieces of advice for people who want to make a change in the new year:
• Take a leap and tell someone what you want to do in the new year. Tell them one goal and have a witness.
• Take one action towards that goal.
• Celebrate yourself for being brave and just keeping going.