Faculty Member's New Book Helps Readers Find Their Path

Monday, September 16, 2019
Risa Stein in her office with students

It started with a period of uncertainty.

After 15 years in the classroom at Rockhurst, Risa Stein, Ph.D., professor of psychology, just wasn’t feeling as inspired as she once was. It was part of a larger feeling that she was living according to what was expected of her, not what she found personally fulfilling.

She wasn’t alone — in her discussions with students, Stein said  many reported feeling like they were living out  others’ expectations, rather than  their own desires.

“Far too often, we  aren’t guided to develop authentic lives. Instead, our lives are built on messages we’re given as we’re growing up — stay between the lines, don’t rock the boat,” she said. “Rarely are we encouraged to  take the time to experiment and grow comfortable with failure in a way that promotes  learning - not just about the world, but about ourselves. As a result, we ultimately fail to appreciate and integrate the various facets of ourselves into everything  we do.”

Stein said she reviewed the available literature and didn’t find anything along the lines of a therapeutic approach to working through such a crisis. On one side were self-help aphorisms, and on the other, research-based works intended for academic audiences. Stein said she aimed to create  an empirically-sound therapeutic approach for the layperson.

 “It’s really intended to fall between a pep talk and full-blown therapy,” she said. “It’s a self-guided and structured approach to personal development.”

She applied for, and was granted, a sabbatical in fall 2018 to finish Best Damn Life Workbook, which Stein said she had begun working on  several years  prior.

As its title implies, the book requires active participation. Each chapter is a unit  involving prompts for the reader to work through. It is linear and purposeful, meant to get the reader to find their own path in life by recognizing the patterns in their own thinking and behaviors that might be holding them back, and  to facilitate their finding a path that’s suited for them. It’s a distillation of Stein’s work in the classroom, through Active Minds,   through her innovation and creativity efforts at Rockhurst University, her academic research, and her own personal experience and clinical training.

“I bear my soul in it,” she said. “And in my way, this is my pièce de résistance of being vulnerable, which was crucial to promoting my personal growth.”

She said she hopes the result helps others who find themselves in that place of uncertainty, no matter their stage in life.