1st Edition

Authoring Your Life Developing Your INTERNAL VOICE to Navigate Life’s Challenges

By Marcia B. Baxter Magolda Copyright 2009

    Who am I? What do I want in relationships? How do I know what to believe? How do I manage the stresses of living?This is a guide to addressing life’s challenges and competing demands. It will help you to reflect on the problems and setbacks you encounter to discover your own voice, uncover your authentic sense of values, build your confidence, and find meaning in your life. This is, however, far more than a self-help book; and it addresses multiple audiences.Because everyone’s circumstances differ, and life is unpredictable, this book does not offer simplistic solutions and steps to follow. Instead, Marcia Baxter Magolda immerses you in the stories of thirty-five adults whom she has followed and interviewed for over twenty years. With her guidance, and using the self-authorship framework she has developed, you will recognize in yourself many patterns and parallels from the protagonists’ stories of emotional and intellectual growth. By reflecting on these life stories, you will gain insights about your individual values and identity, and strengthen your sense of self-reliance to handle significant transitions and unexpected circumstances. In addition to helping you identify the phases of your journey to self-authorship, Marcia Baxter Magolda offers reflective exercises and questions to help you uncover your strengths and identify the barriers that may be inhibiting you from building the internal, psychological compass that will serve as the foundation for your journey. Offering advice on how to be “good company” for those who have set out on their journey to self-authorship, the book is also addressed to partners, family members, friends, teachers, mentors, and employers, so they can offer support to those that face these challenges.Finally, for scholars of adult development, this book offers the latest articulation of the developing theory of self-authorship.

    List of tables and Maps; Acknowledgements; Foreword; Note to Readers; Introduction; 1. Challenges of Adult Life; 2. Dawn’s Story—Bringing Out the Truth in a Character; 3. Mark’s Story—Developing a Spiritual Philosophy of Life; 4. Kurt’s Story—Being True to the Man in the Glass; 5. Sandra’s Story—Living Her Faith; 6. Lydia’s Story—External Chaos, Internal Stability; 7. Evan’s Story—Being the Best You Can Be; 8. How to Be a Good Company for Your Own Journey; 9. Partnerships. How to Provide Good Company for Others’ Journeys; 10. Diverse Self-Authorship Stories; 11. Mapping Your Journey; 12. A Theory of Self-Authorship Development; Longitudinal Study Methodology and Methods; Notes; Index.


    Marcia B. Baxter Magolda is Distinguished Professor Emerita, Miami University of Ohio and a nationally recognized author and speaker on student development and learning. She received the American College Personnel Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014, and the Association for the Study of Higher Education’s Research Achievement Award in 2007, for her outstanding contribution to advancing student learning. Her scholarship addresses the evolution of learning and development in college and subsequent adult life, and educational practice to promote self-authorship. Her seventh and eighth books respectively are Authoring Your Life and Development and Assessment of Self-Authorship.

    Sharon Daloz Parks is Associate Director, the Whidbey Institute. She was formerly an associate professor at the Harvard Divinity School and the Weston Jesuit School of Theology. She has also served in faculty and research positions in leadership and ethics at the Harvard Business School and the Kennedy School of Government. She is the author of Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Young Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith (Jossey-Bass, 2000) and co-author of Common Fire: Leading Lives of Commitment in a Complex World (Beacon Press, 1996).

    Matthew Henry Hall is a cartoonist whose work appears in Readers Digest, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Adjunct Advocate, and many other publications, including the the "Teachable Moments" column of Inside Higher Ed.

    "Geared for a popular rather than an academic audience, this book is designed to assist young adults in moving from dependence on external authorities to taking charge of their own life decisions. Secondly, the book serves as a guide to significant others who wish to help these individuals more effectively address the challenges that life brings.

    As in her earlier work, Baxter Magolda relies extensively on quoted material from her participants' interviews as the foundation for Authoring Your Life. As a result, Baxter Magolda's discussion is richly textured and her theoretical concepts and applications are well-supported.

    Authoring Your Life adds to the growing body of literature on self-authorship. Written in comprehensible language that student staff as well as professionals unfamiliar with the concept of self-authorship can understand, it contains fascinating in-depth narratives that demonstrate the evolution of life during the young adult years."

    Journal of College Student Development

    "This book should be considered an essential addition to the library for the young professional just entering a career in academic advising. The emphasis placed on developing the skills to become a more independent thinker is essential to understanding the needs of college and university students who are in the early stages of understanding the complexities of becoming successful contributors to society as a whole."

    NACADA Journal (National Academic Advising Association)

    "Authoring Your Life: Developing an Internal Voice to Navigate Life's Challenges provides a fine guide to addressing life's challenges and demands, but goes beyond most self-help guides to offer the stories of over thirty adults who she has followed and interviewed for over twenty years. Their life stories are meant to reflect parallels in reader experiences, offering keys to individual values, identity, and how self-reliance may be developed. Accompanying these stories are exercises and questions designed to further break down barriers to communication. Any lending library needs this!"

    Midwest Book Review

    "No one has carried the concept of 'self-authorship' forward more richly, or with greater use for the reader, than Marcia Baxter Magolda. Anyone interested in supporting their own, or others', adult development will benefit enormously from this book."

    Robert Kegan, Meehan Professor of Adult Learning, Harvard University, and co-author of “Immunity to Change”

    “Given today’s complex and ever-changing life demands, Authoring Your Life offers a timely, crucial map of possibilities for helping ourselves and others to grow and to meet the implicit and explicit demands of post-modern life. In a highly accessible manner, Baxter Magolda consciously, thoughtfully, and gently teaches us about her robust ‘cyclical model’ for how to authentically grow from life’s challenges and experiences through what she calls ‘learning partnerships.’ By sharing real life experiences from courageous adults, and how they made sense of and navigated their way through them, she illuminates the internal landscape of personal growth as a developmental process. This book, informed by constructive-developmental theory, will enable us to nurture adult development.”

    Ellie Drago-Severson, Associate Professor of Education Leadership, Teachers College, Columbia University, and author of "Helping Teachers Learn" and "Leading Adult Learning"

    “Learning how to listen to ‘our own insides’ and how to consciously and responsibly make meaningful sense of self and world is a kind of journey. This map will provide some confidence, comfort, and cues. Better yet, it generously and respectfully provides true stories of real and diverse people who have traveled through the same territory. The stories take you inside the stress of the kinds of real dilemmas and dramas that are similar to your own, and can serve as a flashlight—illumining your own path as they shine light on familiar feelings and boost your courage.

    Following this path, we discover that our journey—our life—is a part of a bigger story. That bigger story is the story of human becoming, a story that moves through uncertainty, pain, and shadowlands but doesn’t have to stop in those places. The tension, bewilderment, and hurt of those places may be resolved within ourselves in ways we couldn’t have expected.

    There is also a story within the story. That deeper story is about how we become one of the authors of our own story, our own life—how we become self-authoring. Like authoring a book, writing a play, or composing a song, authoring our own life requires learning and practice, practice, practice. It helps if we don’t try to do it entirely alone. Marcia Baxter Magolda provides good company on the path of learning and practice, whether you are just setting out or have already been on this path for a while. In either case, this book will make the journey less lonely. It will assist you in finding learning partners, mentors, and guides—and help you become the same for others.

    But this is not simply a self-help book. We live in a time when we need more grown-ups. We need citizens who do not just ‘go with the flow’ and who can think for themselves about the questions of not only our individual lives but also the changing life of our society, our world, our planet.

    As we live in this hinge time of great cultural change, Marcia Baxter Magolda reminds us how much is at stake in the journey toward full adulthood—toward a more meaningful and purposeful life for each of us as individuals and for all of us together, as each of us is invited—called—to participate in the composing of a more sustainable, just, and prosperous world. This book matters for all of us.”

    Sharon Daloz Parks, author of "Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Young Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose and Faith"; and "Leadership Can Be Taught: A Bold Approach for a Complex World"