It is not too late to take another path.
Let me start with this very important declaration:
You do not have to remain the same person throughout your entire life.
Who you are now does NOT equate to who you can be tomorrow.
Actually, the chances of you staying the same as you age are rare. We all go through changes over the course of our lives. My philosophy: change is good. It can freshen up some aspect of our life that’s starting to feel stale OR it can provide the catalyst for totally new lines of thinking that lead to innovation. It can shake out the cobwebs and set the stage for whatever comes next.
But there are moments when every day, minor changes—the kind that are part of the natural ebb and flow of our daily lives—aren’t enough…when you’re facing a significant fork (or boulder) in the road (or a big challenge) where a minor tweak alone won’t get you past that point.
There are moments in our lives when we realize that who we are right now isn’t who we want to be. We realize that we want and need to become someone different. And that’s where reinvention comes in.
Why Reinvent Yourself?
Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
—George Bernard Shaw
(One of my favorite life quotes by the way!)
First let’s start with defining reinvention. Reinvention is not pretending to be someone else. Rather, it’s finding a way to get closer to the person you want to be at this point in your life. The stage for reinvention is set when you realize that you’re restless or unhappy—and that you’re ready for a change.
Reinvention doesn’t need a massive jolt to our regular, everyday lives (although it can be kickstarted by a big life change). Sometimes, it’s just realizing that you’ve hit a wall. Possibilities include (but certainly aren’t limited to):
- A lack of interest or motivation in your work (same for your personal life)
- Creative stagnation
- A feeling that your professional goals will never be within reach (or not feeling excited about what’s next at your current employer)
- A classic midlife crisis
These are all examples of the sorts of things that can’t be resolved with simple fixes but demand big changes. Sometimes a tweak just isn’t enough on its own. Sometimes you need to raze everything to the ground and start from scratch to build something completely new.
The 3 Steps of Reinvention
Don’t ever feel like your best days are behind you. Reinvention is the purest form of hope. Make today your best yet.
Step 1: Recognize the need.
Usually this starts with some feeling of dissatisfaction or sense of unhappiness. Perhaps it’s that voice inside nagging you that it’s time for something else (or if you’re asking yourself “is this all?”). Pull on those discordant threads to see what’s connected to them. What are you unhappy about? What things do you want to change in yourself? (Habits? Personality traits? Skills? Ambitions? Your career trajectory?)
Step 2: Visualize who you want to be.
Imagine that you are writing a script in which the main character is the person you want to be. What are they like? What do they do? How do they stand out from a crowd? How are they successful? Consider, too, how other characters in this script interact with this person. What do they admire about them? What do they tell others about them?
Step 3: Make the leap.
Here are few ideas:
- Locate the resources you need to achieve your goal. Want to build up your work-related skills? Talk to your boss about professional development opportunities. (And if your boss isn’t much help there, find or make those opportunities on your own.) Does your path to reinvention include pursuing certain hobbies or interests? Look to MeetUp and local community organizations to find the French conversation groups, baking classes, ballroom dance lessons, and other personal growth opportunities you want.
- Relocate. Changes in geography can expose you to new professional and personal opportunities. (If you’re hoping to reinvent yourself as a cattle rancher, for example, that will be very difficult to accomplish if you’re living on the Upper East Side in New York City!) I took this path in January of 2016 – after 18 years in NYC, I made a sudden decision to relocate to New Orleans. As someone who is single, no kids, no pets and no plants, it was “easier” to do (although the inertia to take a big leap was strong!). Sometimes you just have to push yourself to “just do it” as Nike proclaims. I knew a month in I had made the best decision of my life (and 8 years later, it’s STILL a FABULOUS decision!).
- Scare yourself. Sometimes the only way to get yourself out of your comfort zone is to scare yourself so much that you jump right out of it. For example, last month I went to Disney World with my twin nieces, who insisted that I ride on the roller coaster with them. I am terrified of roller coasters—but I love my nieces. So I embraced this scary experience and in so doing reinforced myself as the World’s Most Awesome Aunt (self-titled of course). OK, so perhaps that’s not such a big leap (although the picture below shows the terror I was feeling!), however, in 1996, I quit my stable job to move from Indiana (where I was born and raised) to Los Angeles, CA. I wanted to switch careers from engineering (which I had gone to college for) into film/television entertainment and after interviewing for multiple positions, it was clear no one was going to hire me until I actually moved to LA (I knew no one in the area so I couldn’t lie and give a friend’s address!). I quit my stable engineering gig with Rolls-Royce and made the move with no job and no permanent address (but a boatload of resolve to make this work). It all worked out (knock wood) and I worked in the entertainment business for 12 years before pivoting again. Sometimes, the only option is to scare yourself!
- Get your ducks in a row. If your reinvention involves a big change in your work (new company? completely different field?), be sure to line up all the pieces you need to facilitate this: tidy up your resume, update your LinkedIn page, obtain strong references, sign up for classes in your new field, whatever it takes to get your ducks in a row for making the change. Oh, and don’t forget to network, network, network! You never know where you’ll find an open door (or notice an unlocked window to sneak in!).
I’ve reinvented myself three times:
- After 11 years working in an engineering capacity for Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis, I quit my job and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television (I knew NO ONE when I made this move!).
- I worked in entertainment for 12 years, helping to found two companies along the way: Interactive Corp (IAC) and the Oxygen Channel (the latter took me from LA to New York City).
- After Oxygen sold to NBC Universal, I then founded my own company in 2008. I specialize in elevating employees from tactical thinkers to strategic leaders through keynoting, training and coaching. This is the longest and best job I’ve held (15 years in September!) although who knows what lies ahead?!?! Perhaps it’s almost time for another reinvention…
You may find that even though you have a clear picture in your mind of where you want to be, you can’t quite get there—at least not yet. Don’t give up! Persistence can pay off. In the meantime, though, focus on something over which you can exert a great deal of control: your mindset. When you find yourself in a less-than-optimal situation, focus on the positive and remember that reinvention can also take the form of finding ways to achieve the change you want using the circumstances and opportunities given to you.
I believe that one defines oneself by reinvention.
As you work to figure out who you want to be and how to get there, find inspiration from others who have trod similar paths, seek advice from those you trust, and lean on those you love. Above all, show yourself grace. Reinvention is a big undertaking, and you are brave to tackle it.
Reinvention isn’t always an easy path.
And it is very often not a linear path.
But as long as you keep moving forward, you will get there.
Share your reinvention stories in the comments below! How did you achieve this? Would you do it again? Share your advice so we can all learn (and live vicariously through you!).