Why It’s Time to “Repack Your Bags”

Published: Apr 23, 2019
Modified: Mar 25, 2020

By Richard Leider and David Shapiro.

Why Repack Now?
The tragic events of September 11, 2001,  marked a transformation for people not only in the United States but around the world. Since then, more than ever before, men and women, young and old, are desperate to make sense of their lives. Ironically, more than ever before, people are finding that sense elusive.

People feel worn out by overwhelming responsibilities and nonstop changes. We’re exhausted—weighed down by shouldering too heavy a load at work, in relationships, and in our communities. Above all, people have misplaced their sense of fun and play, their native curiosity, their feeling of wonder about the world. Too many of us aren’t happy—or at least not as happy as we’d like to be. More and more of us feel a sense of disconnectedness with our work, our relationships, and a deep experience of something larger than ourselves.

The good news is we are all essentially hardwired to find those connections. We just need a framework, or guidance system, to do so. We wrote a new version of our 1999 edition of Repacking Your Bags to provide that guidance system in a way that encourages our natural sense of play and wonder, inspiring us all for the journey ahead.

Quite simply, we must continually unpack and repack our bags. “Unpacking” simply means taking a long, hard look at what we’re carrying and why. Seeing if our possessions, relationships, purpose and work are still helping us move forward, or if they’re weighing us down.

“Repacking,” then, is the ongoing and continuous activity of reflection and choice: rearranging our priorities;   reframing our vision of the good life; and recovering a new sense of being alive.

We’ve come to understand that repacking is a lifelong process. We need to be continually engaged in it so as to stay vital, fully alive in the present, and hopeful for the future. We had originally thought of repacking as something people do once (or at most, a couple of times) in reaction to a sense of disillusionment or frustration in their lives. Now we understand it much more clearly as a proactive process. We’ve found that with each step along the way it remains necessary to reexamine what has brought us here, to continue asking ourselves if the choices that have sustained us so far are continuing to do so—or if they’re just weighing us down.

10 Repacking Reflections

  1. Rediscover your hidden talents.
    Life at its source is about creating. Talents are the creative core of your life. What are you creating? Are you expressing your talents fully? If not, how can you?
  2. Reclaim your purpose.
    Talents develop best in the crucible of purpose. When you’re using your talents in support of something you truly believe in, you feel more energetic, more committed, and more enthusiastic about everything you do. Have you reclaimed your purpose? If not, what can you do to own it?
  3. Reinvent your job.
    Satisfaction always leads to dissatisfaction. Most things repeated over and over become mechanical. Even the things we love best become stale if we don’t renew them regularly. Are you regularly reinventing your job? Are you continually looking for new problems to solve, new ways to add value? How can you reinvent your job so you get up every morning (or at least most mornings) excited about the prospects ahead?
  4. Reelect your personal board of directors.
    Most of us can trace our successes to pivotal support from other people. What are the important relationships that have sustained you along the way? Who are the people in your life that you’ve relied on for counsel and advice? Think of them as your own personal board of directors. Picture yourself at a board meeting with these people. You’re all around the table. Who sits at the head? Do you? As you sit there, right now, what issues would you like to bring before the board? How would you like them to react and what kind of support are you looking for?
  5. Resharpen your growth edge.
    If the rate at which you’re learning is not equal to or greater than the rate of change today, you’ll soon be obsolete. Just like a successful company, you need to engage in serious Research & Development activity. Research new opportunities. And develop new skills. Learning brings aliveness. What are you excited about learning? How can you continually sharpen your growth edge?
  6. Repack your relationship bags.
    Many of us, even in our deepest, most personal relationships, figuratively have a bag by the door, partially packed. Consider the primary relationships in your life. Are you and your loved ones having “radical conversations”? Does it feel like you’re creating a “grand dialogue”? The number one cause of relationship problems is suppressed communication. How can you fully unpack with your loved ones and open the door for deeper, more meaningful communication?
  7. Reframe your time boundaries.
    Sit down with your calendar and your checkbook. Review how you’re spending two of your most valuable currencies—your time and your money. Are you satisfied with where your time and money are going? When was the last time you went to sleep at night saying, “this was a well-spent day"? Are you consistently saying “no” to the less important things in your life and “yes” to your real priorities?
  8. Rewrite your own vision of the good life.
    The self-fulfilling prophecy is the surest of all—if you can dream it, you can do it. Beware of waking up sometime in the future and finding out that you’ve been living someone else’s vision of the good life. Look forward. Dream a little. How do you “declare victory”? What does success really look like to you?
  9. Reflect daily.
    Are you “always going somewhere; never being anywhere”? Have you succumbed to the “hurry sickness” so common in today’s society? If your brain is always filled with the noise and chatter of modern living then you’re exhibiting the symptoms. If your heart and mind feel numb, then you know you’ve got it. The antidote: regular time-outs. Minivacations. Appointments with yourself. Even 15 minutes or so a day can work wonders. Have you found a regular time and place to be alone, to put yourself on your own daily calendar?
  10. Rediscover your smile.
    The average person smiles fifteen times a day. Does that seem like a lot or a little to you? Are you having fun yet? Are you experiencing real joy? Fun and joy are different. Fun is an outer expression, joy is an inner glow. Joy is derived from a harmony among place, love, work, and purpose. Are you feeling more or less joy in your life than you did last year at this time? Why or why not?

Learning to pack and repack our bags is a central lesson of our time; but it is a lesson we all can learn by living passionately for today and purposefully for tomorrow, and in doing so, lighten our load to live the good life.

Copyright © 2012 by Richard J. Leider and David A. Shapiro. All rights reserved.
Excerpted and adapted with permission of the publisher from Repacking Your Bags: Lighten Your Load for the Good Life (Third Edition), published by Berrett-Koehler, 2012.

About the Author(s)

Richard Leider and David Shapiro. Richard Leider is founder of the Inventure Group and is a top-rated executive coach. A senior fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, he is coauthor (with David Shapiro) of Repacking Your Bags: Lighten Your Load for the Good Life (Berrett-Koehler, 2012) and the author, or coauthor, of seven other books. David Shapiro is a faculty member in philosophy at Cascadia Community College. He is also education director of the Northwest Center for Philosophy for Children. He is coauthor (with Richard Leider) of Repacking Your Bags: Lighten Your Load for the Good Life and the author, or coauthor, of four other books.