Being the Architect of Your Future

Invoking positivity into your life through mindset change
by Dr Tshepiso Matentjie (PhD.) & Semukele Lynnette Murape

What happens when the changes you need to make in your life are rooted in trauma and evoke a deep sense of pain?

Pain and trauma taints our perspective towards a difficult situation; it makes change overwhelming, which makes us feel helpless and hopeless, and traps us in a state of trauma rather than giving us an opportunity to heal and overcome it. This is not to minimise the problem, but rather to challenge ourselves to change our perspectives from problem-based to solution-focused.

Building on the Wheel of Life discussed in the previous article, use the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) 4D Cycle to tap into your resourcefulness and assets that have enabled you to achieve scores of above 5 on the wheel, and then use those as leverage to teach you how to strengthen the areas in which you rated yourself less than 5.

Essentially, the AI 4D Cycle facilitates a change in mindset, allowing you to view any issue of contention as an opportunity for personal growth and restructuring. 

The four key phases of AI are:

The AI ‘4D Cycle’

by Cooperrider & Whitney (2000)



Discovery: reflect on the areas where you have rated yourself highly. This entails investigating and identifying the behaviours and habits that have allowed you to achieve; the type of thinking that led you to success; as well as your feelings towards how you managed to achieve success and what sacrifices you may have had to make.

Dream: formulating a results-driven vision of the best-case scenario; of rating every facet of your life highly. Think about what behaviours you would need to incorporate; the mindset you would need to adopt; and how you would feel about the choices you would have to make.

Design: articulating a plan of how to achieve your best-case scenario by building on the assets you have found in the Discovery phase.

Destiny: embodying the "I was meant to do this" mentality as a means of strengthening your confidence in your capability by acknowledging what is possible and how you can control. This will entail envisioning a balanced life; when all the facets of your life are scored highly. This will encourage further positive change, relinquish the feeling of hopelessness and sustain high performance.

Expanding on the example used in the previous article, I Discovered that my strength areas are 'Career/Job' and 'Wealth', and my weak ones are 'Family and Friends', 'Personal Space', and 'Playtime, Hobbies and Fun'. Reflecting on these aspects of my life has brought me to a common underlying factor: Black Tax. Black tax is an issue that many young people of colour face today; it entails financially supporting both immediate and extended family members while trying to manage their own expenses; which leaves them with little to nothing at the end of the month. Although it has become the 'norm' of black culture, it is essentially a form of trauma, and this is the reason why I work so hard and have very little time for myself.

From this, I can envision a Dream of putting the same energy and time that I put into my job, and redirect it to dealing with this underlying issue of contention.

From this, I am able to Design a plan that involves applying these factors to the goal of elevating my black tax. This means that I firstly have to deal with the fact that I am feeling resentful toward society and even my family. I need to have an honest conversation with your family about the pain and the burden I carry about having to be the provider, the guilt it generates when I am unable to provide, and the fear of me possibly not being able to provide for them. Only then can I begin to put a plan in place to make at least some of my family members self-sustaining and financially independent. Putting this plan into action involves creating a short- and long-term plan, and having measurable milestones with timelines to keep me – and them – motivated and reinforce progress. It is important to always have a budget, and to constantly inform my family of this, as well as the boundaries about funding and my personal limitations. Remember, if the trauma remains, you will not be able to execute your plan.

Lastly, I live out my Destiny by implementing the plan, getting myself help and reinforcing my boundaries when there is a new project at work; to avoid falling in the same trap.

Here are some questions that could facilitate your process. Then ask yourself the following questions about what you have learnt about your life:

  • Throughout your life, when did you feel as though you were at a highpoint? When did you feel most alive, excited and engaged?
  • What do you value most about yourself at your highpoint?
  • What are the common positive factors that stand out about you when you are at your best?
  • Picture your life ten year from now, when everything has gone according to plan, what will be the difference between your life then and now? What will be your legacy?

It is important to recognise your struggles, but it is equally important – if not more so – to acknowledge the fact that you have the power to overcome them. Always remember that the words that you speak, become the house you live in.