Taking time to design your life

June 21, 2023
May Samali session for Startmate Women Fellowship - Designing your life


It's one of my favorite words — it's such a nice sounding word for what it means; a fortunate accident.

(Oh you better believe I started this article with a direct quote from the 2001 Kate Beckinsale, John Cusack rom-com).

Serendipitous it was, that in the very same week, I wrap up my role as an EdTech marketing lead and enter mini-retirement (more on that later), I find myself in a session with May Samali titled Designing your life  — ✨ahh, goosebumps✨.

And so here I am, cross-legged on the floor of my apartment at 8 pm on a Saturday night, chopped-up bits of paper strewn in front of me with words like “authenticity” and “understanding” scribbled on them. These words represent my values — I count them, there are 94 — May asked us to narrow it down to just two.


Auditing your life

May Samali, a Harvard-trained and certified leadership coach (among many other things), is speaking to us as part of the Startmate Women Fellowship.

“Ask yourself, ‘where am I now?’ If we’re deciding where we want to go, we need to first start with where we are currently at”.

Referring to the Wheel of Life coaching tool, she asks us to consider where we’re at across each facet of our life (I’m feeling personally 💅attacked 💅).

The timing of this session is absolutely bonkers because a wee while ago I made the decision to forward plan a short commercial break from the career I’ve spent years building. Well, that time has finally arrived.

I started my very first job on the very day I turned 14 and nine months, and I have been working full-time for the best part of the last 18 years. I love working — and herein lies the challenge, I love working — at the expense of most other things.

And so, I’m stepping into mini-retirement 🍹.

Coined by Tim Ferriss, mini-retirement is an intentional respite break throughout your career, spanning anywhere from a couple of months to years. Career break, sabbatical, extended-vacay — the operative term is ‘break’ and it’s about moving away from your typical work routine to re-focus.

Or, in my case, to capture those experiences that might otherwise pass me by — spending time with my parents and galavanting across Europe (awful, I know).

Decision fatigue, a valuable lesson

It's a funny thing — we bumble through life barely thinking about, or in many cases over thinking, the 35,000 decisions we make every-single-day. Some decisions are as simple as ‘how many Weetbix will I have, others, have the power to alter life as you know it and throw your entire Wheel of Life out of whack.

“We get to design and redesign our lives and careers, but a huge part of that is being really conscious of what we say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to”.

“When you know what your core values are, they become a filter for decision making throughout life — they act as your anchor, your internal compass”. 

Do you mean, I have my own personal Cosmo Quiz for navigating through life? Stunning 💄.

Values ground who you are while propelling you forward towards who you want to be. When we make decisions aligned with our values, the choice not only becomes easier, we also boost our feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment 😌. 

Reflecting on my moral code could not have come at a better time — validating my decision to sit this one out, and providing the rule book for when I’m back in the game. It’s never too late to revisit your soul, as May reminds us we are ever-changing, multi-faceted humans — and so, it makes sense that our vision and the beliefs we hold should change too.

(Italian) food for thought

Mini-retirement is a privilege — I’m completely aware of that — I am grateful to be in a position where I am able to stop working (even if it is for just a moment). I am also aware that some may consider 18 years not nearly long enough to warrant a career break.

My Dad served in the police force for 45 years straight — no break. His thoughts on all of this? “Go get ‘em kid” — cheers Dad.

And so here I am, cross-legged on the floor of my apartment, now 10 pm on a Saturday night, and I’ve dwindled 94 chopped-up bits of paper down to a final six (four more than instructed, but, that’s just so very ✨me✨ of me) — more is more. Six anchors to ground me and simultaneously propel me forward into the next chapter of life, whatever that may be.

But, for the next couple of months at least, I’ll be focusing on just one value — dolce far niente — the art of doing absolutely nothing.

We’ll be right back after this short break 📺.

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Written by
Written by
Penny HollowayPenny Holloway
Penny is a Marketing Lead and Consultant, hanging out in Brand, Strategy and Creative Development. She is also a Women's Fellow in the W23 cohort!

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