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The Courage to Take Next Steps

Krasi Shapkarova is exactly who we need in the world right now. Self directed, courageous, living her life to the fullest, and constantly growing, Krasi embodies the spirit of OutGrowth through and through. It was a treat getting to interview Krasi this month and learn her perspective on resilience. You'll want to take notes on how Krasi is crafting her life, and living a life aligned with what matters most to her.

This month's theme is all about resiliency. Tell us about how you interpret this theme, and how it has played a role in your personal or professional life.

I used to think that resilient people were fearless and intentionally sought out challenges because they knew they could handle them. I also thought that the people who were constantly on, hustling to do more and achieve more, were true models of being resilient. Burnout? Stress? These didn't stop true resilient people from moving forward!

This is why for the longest time, I didn't consider myself a resilient person. Early in my career, I tried to do as much as I could, and more. I said "yes" to any new project or event or engagement that came my way. Seeing female leaders I admired maintain a rigorous, what seemed like 24/7 schedule, I thought that was the way to grow, to develop, to succeed. That approach, however, didn't feel good. Instead of making me feel accomplished, it made me feel like a fraud because I knew I didn't want to keep going that way; I knew I COULDN'T keep going that way.

It took a global pandemic to teach me that success is personal and it doesn't have to involve doing more and more in the hopes of growing professionally (which in traditional work environments means moving to a higher position). Having the opportunity to work remotely from my home country of Bulgaria, closer to family, allowed me to reflect on what truly matters to me. I still enjoy being engaged and taking on new projects, but these days, my physical and mental well-being are priority, and it's what truly makes me resilient. I made the not-so-easy decision to leave my full-time job and have a professional gap year of intentional exploration and experimentation. I have no idea what the future holds but I do know that I can manage it because I know what's meaningful to me, I have the right support, and I prioritize well-being. I also remind myself I've done hard things before so whatever happens, I'll figure it out.

At OutGrowth, we believe in designing the space and time to reimagine the path forward. What are your tips on growing our capacity to be resilient so that we have the courage to take the next leap?

In my piece, I list four critical items to grow one's capacity to be resilient, but I know that prioritizing mental and physical well-being is the most critical. Challenges and uncertainty are inevitable, but when we take care of ourselves, we not only have the courage to take the next step; we also will ensure that however hard that step is, we will have the mental and physical strength to fully embrace it and whatever comes with it.

Tell us about your most significant professional moment since the start of the pandemic.

Love this question! I have to say that the most significant professional moment has been making the not-so-easy decision to leave my full-time job of eight years and dive into a professional gap year of intentional exploration, experimentation, and stretching myself - personally and professionally.

How did this experience change the course of your life, your career or your outlook from pre-pandemic times.

To be honest, as the new year approached, I told friends and family that if at any point I realized that I'd made a wrong choice, I'd immediately go back to full-time employment. Four months in, however, I am truly embracing my decision and growing tremendously in the process. I'm working on projects and opportunities (paid and volunteer) that I would not have thought possible before. I've also realized that I enjoy having a few projects that may be small in number but allow me to fully immerse myself, intentionally and sustainably. I used to savor being busy, taking pride in checking items off my list, because I thought that's the way to grow and move forward. Now I know that busy-ness is a delusion tool. It's what prevents us from reflecting on what truly matters. 2022 is the year of more substance and less meaningless busy-ness for me and so far, I love it.

What is one competency or skill you hope to develop in 2022? As I've been slowly traveling through the Southwest U.S., working on my few projects remotely, I've come to really enjoy making Instagram reels, which reminded me how much I actually enjoyed creating video content for work when the pandemic started. So one skill I'd like to further develop in 2022 is video making and editing, in different formats. I'm really excited about it, actually.

What inspires you these days?

What inspires me these days is pursuing opportunities that allow me to apply my professional skills in contexts that align with my values and priorities. For example, one of the highlights of 2020 was joining StepUp as a mentor - StepUp is a fantastic organization dedicated to empowering girls and gender-expansive teens through opportunities for mentoring and education, guiding them to explore and reach their career potential. The organization was on my radar pre-pandemic, but when opportunities to mentor became virtual, I was finally able to join. Every event I join, I learn more from the teen participants than I could ever share. They are the ones who inspire me!

At OutGrowth, we believe in preparing the next generation of leaders. What is one resource (book, podcast, article, anything!) you'd recommend to those looking to carve out the time for growth in 2022?

What? You only want me to share one?!?!? If I have to only share one, I'd recommend a podcast I recently became obsessed with - Amazing If. Forget it. I can't just share one! I'll also add the Good Life Project. In fact, I wrote an article for the Quarterlife Center blog recently with my podcast recommendations for quarter lifers. I think everyone can benefit from listening to these podcasts.

What's next? What are your next steps toward growth in 2022?

One immediate step is to spend the summer in Europe, hanging out with my nephew. I will also use the summer as focus time to design and build a couple of online courses I am interested in and excited to teach in the fall. I also want to challenge myself to grow as a writer, so I look forward to sharing more regular content on LinkedIn and Medium. Last but not least, I'd love to finally get my own website going.

Krasi is a life design enthusiast who uses strengths-based insights, writing and storytelling to empower meaningful career exploration and growth. She loves hiking, reading, listening to podcasts, walking, traveling, and chasing after delicious pastries.


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