REINVENT YOUSELF FOR THE NEW YEAR
“Every step you take should increase, not decrease, the breadth of your opportunities.”
-Andy Tuck, singer, songwriter
Two weeks ago I spoke to a group of people who have, basically, been forced into retirement. Some were ready; some were not. Some were relieved; some were scared. One individual told me that he still wanted to do something, to be productive but, after twenty-five years in his job, what else was he qualified to do?
Last week I went for a walk with a friend of mine who is a star in product development. I was relating a few of the conversations to him. After listening for a while, Jack said, “You know, having change forced on you isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It may be painful but it can open up a lot of possibility.” He went on to explain that in his career he had been let go from a couple of jobs. Both firings were due to his unwillingness to go along with what he felt was unethical behavior. He explained that, in retrospect, both experiences forced him to reinvent himself and grow.
As a business speaker, I’ve had to reinvent myself a number of times in my career. When I say, “I had to reinvent myself,” I mean that the choice was to either be stuck, ineffective, bored and possibly unemployed or – to learn, grow, make sure I was playing to my strengths, rediscover my passion and continue to add tremendous value to my programs.
Was it uncomfortable and scary? Sometimes. Did I see a clear path as to what to do? Not always. In fact, I had to work through some feelings of discomfort to deal with my frustration and, sometimes, even anger. Always, there was the undercurrent of my self talk saying, “Listen, you. If you are going to teach other people how to create the best life possible, you had better bloody well take your own advice and do it.”
What kept me going was the absolute belief that I could do it. I had to embrace risk, be flexible in my thinking, and overcome the fact that what I came up with might not work. I created a new internal vision for myself and I was able to live with and even enjoy a feeling of being uncomfortable with the change.
Early in our lives, many of us were pushed on to one particular path Perhaps it was playing the clarinet when you really wanted to play the guitar, being an athlete when you wanted to be an actor, studying chemistry when you wanted to paint or doing accounting when your desire was to design. There were also the labels that others attached to us like, smart, lazy, unnoticed, shy, outgoing, athletic or a computer nerd. These labels then became our identity and we didn’t realize it until many years later when we saw that they manipulated our choices as to career and even relationships. Or, perhaps what turned us on earlier in our careers but now bores us, or the things we have done in the past no longer interest or challenge us. But, how do we really know if we need to take a serious look at making ourselves over?
Here are some questions that will help. Your answers will be a giant blinking neon sign as to whether you should consider reinventing yourself. Are you dissatisfied with where you are in your personal and professional life or are you stimulated and joyful? Are you living a life that plays to your strengths or do you spend time and energy attempting to fix your weaknesses? Are you stuck, feel helpless or are you flowing, seeking, challenged, turned on and creative? Those are the questions I continually ask myself.
Now, I know that nothing is perfect all the time but I can honestly say, as can many people I know, that I am constantly challenged, continuously leaning and passionately involved with my relationships and my career. The clients who come to see me may not have the tools to reinvent themselves but they are committed to go for it. How about you?
Why is it that many of the major programs on both radio and television are about physical ‘makeovers’ but so very few are about life makeovers? I believe it’s because reinventing yourself can be unsettling, but it can also be exciting.
Reinventing yourself can be scary. You can come up with a zillion reasons to stay where you are and even justify your dissatisfaction. That’s ok as long as you have the courage to look at your deepest truth and be accountable for your choices. I’m not suggesting that you jettison your life for another one. I’m only urging you to consider the possibility that you can create a more exciting, passionate and interesting life for – you.
- CHECK YOUR VISION. Make sure your vision of the future, your mental movie, is vivid and compelling in all areas of your life. If not, readjust it. Rewrite the script. Ask yourself, “What do I want in my life that I don’t have and what needs to change for me to have it? Rather than run away from something you don’t like, run towards that which excites you. Look at where you want to go. If you’re not clear as to where you want to go, seek out someone to help you define your vision.
- EMBRACE RISK. It’s natural to be afraid of the unknown and change is difficult for everyone. It’s part of our genetic wiring but for most of us, most of the time; we give far too much power to the unknown. Put your fear into perspective and write down the pros and cons of going for your new vision.
- BE PREPARED FOR FLAK. The odds are that choosing to change is going to trigger resistance from others – colleagues, family and friends. Your change may even trigger sabotage from others. Be persistent in your dream. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Be patient with those who aren’t willing to take the journey with you. In some cases, you may even have to have the courage to leave them behind.
- DEAL WITH YOUR FEAR OF FAILURE. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. You are human. Temporary slips are crucial to your success. Learn from those missteps. Success doesn’t happen in a straight line. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen and can I deal with it?”
- START NOW. If you want to do a little reinvention, start today. You will never be ready until you take that first step. The new vision means absolutely nothing until you do. Are you going to be uncomfortable sometimes? Yes. Is it always going to be fun? No. Will it make you feel empowered and give you new energy? Yes.
- GO AT YOUR OWN PACE. This is not about speed. This is about action. Take your time to plan and prepare. No one can tell you how fast or slow you should go except – you.
No one will do this for you. The universe doesn’t care unless you care. This is the only life you will ever have so make it the very best it can be.
James Mapes is the founder of Quantum Leap Thinking™, creator of The Transformational Coach™, expert on the psychology of “applied imagination,” best-selling author, highly acclaimed business speaker, consultant, seminar leader and personal excellence coach.