One of the first bits of advice I received from a writer friend when I began to publish these newsletters was to “write what you know.” It made a lot of sense to me back then, and it still holds true today. In each of my newsletters, I write from a very personal point of view about issues that I have experienced or may still be experiencing in my own life. It seems to add a level of authenticity to my writing, and also helps me to take a more objective view of my own life and to maybe even see things from a different perspective. In that vein, I wanted to take this opportunity to write about something I have a great deal of experience with in the last few years – the idea of “Reinventing Yourself.”
There are many people who are struggling with this very issue right now – some of them are my friends. Some are probably your friends or family, as well. All around us, people are still being downsized, furloughed, laid off, and their jobs eliminated. No matter how you choose to spin it, the truth is that people are losing jobs, taking massive pay cuts, or have been unsuccessful in finding new employment. I heard someone remark recently that the new definition of an optimist is someone who takes their lunch to work!
What are they (or we) to do? Let me share some of my story of personal transformation with you, in the hope that it may inspire you to see yourself differently, reexamine your assumptions about who you are, and maybe even start you on the path to reinventing yourself.
Prior to becoming a sought-after coach, trainer, and speaker, I spent more than 25 years working for a world-class manufacturing company. I was accomplished, well known, respected, liked, and – dare I say – comfortable. I figured this was my end-game, and that I would work there until retirement, enjoying the perks of the job and living a very contented lifestyle.
Well, all that came to an abrupt end in November of 2008 when I was told my services were no longer required. 25 years. Gone. Suddenly everything I knew was thrust into uncertainty. What would I do? So much of who I thought I was, my internal sense of identity, was tied to what I had been doing for all those years. Who am I without my job? How will I support my family? How will I recover from this massive blow?
I had some hard choices to make. The first one was, what will I do with the rest of my work life? I had for many years joked, “I hope I never lose this job, because I don’t know how to do anything else.” Well, now it was time to figure it out. I had to ask myself some powerful questions and determine what was next for me – I had to reinvent myself. Here are some strategies I used to find my way, discover the previously unseen path, and eventually find not only a new career path, but also my true passion in life.
Find Your Strengths
What are the things that you love to do? What are those things that you are really good at, and when you do them you feel like you just are “in the flow?” When you can identify and connect with your strengths, you can use them as a guide for finding your way. There is great truth to the notion that you will never become a peak performer by working to improve your weaknesses. You become a peak performer by improving upon your strengths.
Look to Your Values
Values are intrinsic. They are those things that you can’t live without. They can also give you great insight into your direction for your life. People who live in alignment with their values tend to be the most balanced, fulfilled, and happy. Pick out a path that you love, because in it you will find the energy to sustain you as you move forward, even when you encounter challenges. When you pursue something you love, it becomes easier to take the inevitable bumps and bruises. Use your values to give you guidance in finding what you really want for your life.
Don’t let Circumstances Control Your Thoughts and Feeling
We tend to see our thoughts and feelings as being caused by the events that occur in our life. What really happens is there is an event, we interpret what it means to us, and then we form our thoughts, which create our feelings. You need to anticipate that there will be challenges and struggles. When you recognize them as part of the process, they lose their ability to rob you of your momentum. Did you know that the Chinese symbol for “crisis” contains the dual symbols representing both danger and opportunity? Where do you choose to focus your attention? Don’t let circumstances control your feelings.
Self Care is Important
It can’t be stated emphatically enough that a strong, healthy body can help you produce better results. Take care of yourself, eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise. It will have a direct impact on your state of mind.
What do You Need?
If you find a new path that you want to take, do your research before you leap. What skills, knowledge, or education do you need to take on this new career path? When you learn what is needed to pursue this new direction, you can plan your next moves and provide yourself a greater opportunity for success.
Nothing great was ever achieved without effort. If you continue to focus on the end goal, it will give you the motivation to keep going even when you meet challenges. Being persistent means not giving in when you hit an obstacle. Find a way to get over it, under it, through it, or around it. In the groundbreaking book, “Think and Grow Rich,” author Napoleon Hill emphasizes persistence so much that he devoted an entire chapter to it.
Reach for Support
Who are the people in your life who can give you the support you need to take on the new challenges you face? What others do you need to bring into your life to help? Who can give you insights, knowledge, or contacts to assist? Look for support, because the world is truly filled with people who want to help you. It’s up to you to reach out to them and ask. Don’t let ego get in the way. Ego stops you from looking outside yourself for answers. The same thinking that got you here, won’t get you to where you want to go
What is Your “Why?”
Your purpose must be stronger than your challenges. I ask clients all the time, “What is your “why?”‘ Last year, I wrote a newsletter about my friend, Keli Wilson, who decided she wanted to take a stand in the fight to beat world hunger, focusing specifically on children under 5, who comprise the largest at-risk group for starvation. That is what I call a powerful reason, or “why,” for her to get up and do something every day. What is your why?
Overcome Self-Limiting Beliefs
I remember seeing an old Clint Eastwood movie, I think it was one of the Dirty Harry movies – and in it he says, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Well, you also have to know that whatever limits you perceive in your life, they are a creation of your own self-limiting beliefs. Most of us formed the majority of our beliefs at a very early age as a result of our experiences with parents, siblings, friends, peers, teachers, etc. However, most of us carry those with us throughout our lives and never stop to ask if those beliefs still serve us. What is the evidence that supports those beliefs? If there is no longer any evidence to support them, then the beliefs MUST change!
Play All Out
When you discover something that is important to you, don’t be afraid to play all out! Sometimes you have to let go of that notion of embarrassment or humiliation in order to push yourself beyond your perceived limits. Remember that embarrassment is an inside job. It’s a function of ego, and it has no place in the journey you’re going to take.
What Would You do if You Knew You Couldn’t Fail?
There are clues in the answer to this question, too. This isn’t about fantasizing or thinking unrealistically. If you’re 55 and think you always wanted to be an astronaut, well, that door may be closed. But if you always wanted to open a flower shop or start a childcare facility or become a dog groomer – the possibilities are there for you. Take the previous steps we talked about, and put your plan together.
Remember to Laugh!
Why do we take ourselves so seriously? There needs to be some room in your life for laughter and joy, regardless of what’s going on around you. If you can find the courage to laugh at yourself and remember that there is joy in the world, it will make a difference in how you go about the process of reinventing yourself. Again, ego takes center stage when we can’t find the ability to laugh at ourselves. If you’re not having any fun, then you are trying way too hard and taking it all far too seriously.
Why Would I Look for Fulfillment in my Work?
Why wouldn’t you? You spend about 1/3 of your life working, maybe more – if you are not doing something you love, then you are selling yourself short. The thing is, you are selling your life for that paycheck. Is it a fair trade?
Now I’m not saying that if you do all of these things, your life will magically become better, you’ll find that dream job you’ve been looking for, and all your worries will cease. But what I am saying is that if you do these things, you stand a far better chance of that happening than if you don’t. There are many choices you will make as you continue to live your life. Think about the impact that this decision will make on your quality of life.
Maybe you don’t need to reinvent yourself professionally. What about personally? Sometimes the transformation we need the most, is the one we fear the most. These strategies will hold true whether the change you seek is personal or professional.