“I believe that one defines oneself by reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. To cut yourself out of stone.” – Henry Rollins
It happens so gradually…
One day you realize the work you’ve been doing doesn’t fit. The path you’ve been on is no longer the right path for you. If it ever was.
What do you do?
Do you try to make the best of things and continue along the same path? Or do you wonder if it’s possible to reinvent yourself in some way?
How do things go so wrong?
When you first started out in your career, did you consciously decide what you wanted to do with your life? I sure didn’t. I had no clear idea what I wanted to do and kind of “fell” into my first career. Then I stayed in it because it seemed like the practical thing to do.
My career “choice” came more from external influences than from any authentic desire on my part. I let other people convince me that this particular career path made good sense because it paid well and offered future advancements. When we base our decisions on what other people think is good for us, we’re bound to get off track at some point.
Reinventing yourself is an opportunity to get back on track, to express yourself more authentically, and make your own choices this time around.
So yes, reinvention in midlife is possible…
If you do the work. And if you’re prepared to change some of your habits and old ways of thinking. Because reinvention is going to pull you right out of your comfort zone.
The rewards are tremendous. You feel more vital and more centered when your work is in sync with who you are. Starting over isn’t for everyone, though. You may find that you prefer to make the best of your current situation. But if you’re ready to write a new chapter in your life, here are some steps to get you started:
First, get out of your own way
Where do you tend to hold yourself back? We all do this in one way or another. Maybe you wait for things to be perfect, because you’re afraid of making a mistake. Perhaps you worry about a lack of money or about what other people might think. Or you’ve made up your mind you’re too old, and therefore it’s too late to make changes in your life.
Reinventing yourself requires that you let go of the things that used to define you, as well as the beliefs that no longer serve your growth. As long as you stay attached to these things or these ideas, change won’t have a chance.
Do the work
Remember back in grade school – how we had to practice our multiplication tables and spelling over and over? We started by learning the basics. Any new endeavor requires practice. Make it a point to keep learning and updating your skills. Soak up as much information as you can about the field that interests you.
If you’re thinking about a career change, begin doing your new work now, even before you’re making any money from it. There’s no better way to learn something new. Start a website or blog to explore and demonstrate your new knowledge and skills. Look for volunteer opportunities or part-time work to help you gain experience.
Go with your type
Discovering my personality type made my career change so much easier. Having spent almost 20 unhappy years in a career that required analytical skills, I had begun to define myself as a logical, detached, numbers person. It was a huge relief to find out that my personality preferences were the complete opposite, and I was able to identify careers that were a better fit.
I encourage you to take a personality assessment like the Myers-Briggs or the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. The results will help you understand why your career doesn’t feel like a good fit so you can be sure that the next one is.
But don’t go it alone
Get to know people who are doing the work that interests you. Find ways to meet them in person, or interact with them online by commenting and sharing your thoughts on blogs, forums, and social networks such as LinkedIn. Growing and tending your network will make your journey much smoother.
Support from family and friends can be important, too, but you may not get the support you’re hoping for from them. They may be frightened, even threatened, by the idea of you starting a new chapter in your life. They’ve grown used to defining you in a certain way.
And have patience with yourself
To reinvent yourself takes work, and it isn’t going to happen quickly. But stop for a moment and think about other times in your life when you really wanted something. Maybe it was marriage, a new home, a vacation trip, or a certification you earned. You probably put a certain amount of thought and planning into how to make them happen.
This transition asks even more of you – that you let go of what you used to do and redefine yourself in your own words. Trust in yourself, and trust that the answers will come. Reinvention is exciting and scary at the same time. It won’t always be a smooth path. You’ll have your share of missteps and mistakes along the way, just as I did (and still do!). But that’s part of life, isn’t it?
If you’ve decided that finding a more authentic path is something you really want, commit to taking one small step right now to move yourself forward. Decide that your happiness matters.
How would you reinvent yourself? Share your thoughts and dreams in the comments.