Do a google search on the phrase reinvent yourself and you quickly realise that this is a pervasive and perennial question: google tells us that related searches include how to reinvent yourself at 30; it seems we are still looking a decade later as another related search is reinventing yourself after 40; and again ten years later we want to know the answer to how to reinvent yourself at 50; and finally we ask the question how to reinvent yourself at 60?
Many people dream of a future that is radically different from their present: they want to quit the big city commute and live close to the beach; they want to get off the corporate treadmill and build a passion business as an entrepreneur; they want to move back to or away from family and where they grew up; they want to write novels rather than conduct endless business meetings or they want to leave a loveless relationship.
The challenge, though, is that getting to the point where they are fulfilling this dream can be tough. There are significant forces that contribute to this inertia and which can prevent reinvention. For example, we tend to exert more energy dealing with issues closer to hand: immediacy wins out over future concerns and dreams; we find it easier to simply deal with the day to day than plan for and progress towards achieving future-oriented goals. This is exacerbated when the future we dream of is very different from our present.
We may see a misty, day-dream-like version of ourselves doing something else, but we may have very little understanding of what it would take to actualise this dream. The stark reality is that we are likely to end up in an alternative, less fulfilling future before we know it: if we don’t achieve absolute clarity on where we are at today and where we want to be in the future ; if we don’t also implement an operating system that empowers us to crystallise goals, set clear objectives for achieving them and generate results-oriented data that ensures we are on target.
We all undergo some level of modification of our identities, both personal and professional as we traverse our lifespans. But there can be an underlying angst for people who are not fulfilled in their lives. They may want to make a radical change, but for whatever reason hold back on doing so. This increases their level of angst.
“What if I leave it too late?”
“I’ve been a software programmer for 30 years, it’s all I know, how can I now expect to become a musician?”
The good news is that it is never too late to reinvent ourselves. With sufficient intensity and resolve we can undertake significant positive change at any age. That being said, we do need to acknowledge that reinvention can take time. Learning a whole new discipline may take us years and we need to make allowance for the time it takes to get up to speed with our new goals. Being on the path to achieving such life changing goals will us new meaning, which in and of itself is a major benefit. After all, reinvention is more journey than destination.
Jim lost his son to an aggressive form of cancer and was then retrenched from his executive position at a multinational company. Instead of jumping back on the corporate treadmill, he drew inspiration from the fight his son had put up before succumbing to the cancer that ravaged his body; Jim decided to realise his passion for storytelling and wrote his first novel. Three years later he has published eight books and is well on track to publish many more.
There are four steps we can take that will help us achieve a successful transformation:
1. Finding Passion
In order to truly reinvent ourselves we need to find our passion. This requires a process of self-inquiry or self-evaluation: the aim is to determine our underlying drivers, strengths, fears, weakness; we cobble together our narrative, our story; we find out what intrinsically motivates us; we discard the blinding, extrinsic indicators of shallow success. We focus on what really drives us at the soul level: which unlocks a much higher probability of fulfilment, ensures we are less depressed; builds our resilience so that when things get tough and distractions and obstacles arise we can still achieve our goals.
2. Slogging It Out
And things will get tough. We have a tendency to be overly bullish about the future, overrate our abilities to make the necessary changes to reinvent ourselves and underrate the amount of effort this will take. We may think about the future for over 10% of our waking hours, but putting this into action is not something we necessarily excel at.
3. Connecting Before Committing
Once we know what area we will focus on in our reinvention we need to make a point of getting to know people in that space who are already achieving the kind of results we aspire to achieve. What do they see as the challenges, how would they go about entering that space if they were to do it again. Be inspired and then go ahead and commit.
4. Building a Reinvention Operating System
As we embark on the journey of reinvention we should implement a system that helps us change our habits, set objectives, track our behaviours and results so that we can determine how we are progressing. This can be a multiple year journey and it can be far from linear, we need to ensure we have the right practices and tools to assist us.