A common concern I hear from coaching clients who wish to change something about their personal or professional lives is that self-reinvention is indulgent. After all, shifting from what people know and accept about you requires time and introspection. You must explore all possibilities, even those that make you uncomfortable or fearful of what others might think. But this is what learning how to reinvent yourself is all about. And let me assure you, reinvention is not a luxury. It’s a necessity for your personal well-being and professional growth.
Why is Reinvention Necessary?
It’s human nature to focus on what could go wrong if we venture too far from what is “safe.” Ironically, this desire for safety puts us at risk of becoming professionally and personally stale, or worse, obsolete. Why?
The Rapid Pace of Change
Many of us grew up believing that we would get an education, build a family, and choose a career that would carry us through to retirement. Yet this mindset reflects an archaic reality, one with a rigid definition of “family” and pensions for employees who would only live to about 73 years of age. That time is long past.
Now, we are in a period of unprecedented volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. The underlying calculations behind the traditional “safe” choices no longer apply as entire industries, professions, and communities shift, redefining what it means to be part of a family and a productive member of society. How we navigate these changes in the context of our life is crucial.
We are Evolutionary Creatures
In today’s world, many of us live into our 90’s and we are not the same person at 6, 18, 33, 45, or 72. Our lives are flush with new people, cultures, norms, and a fluid definition of what it means to be part of a family and community. This means, we must evolve as we deal with life’s challenges, whether we’re facing a job change, moving to a new community, or coping with losing a loved one.
Although we have a natural resistance to change, change is unavoidable so we must learn to adapt. Anything less, can make us feel stuck and incapable of moving forward. Regularly examining and redefining what it means to live a “good” life is necessary so we can step into each stage of our life with a sense of purpose and passion.
What Does it Mean to Reinvent Yourself?
In some ways, reinvention is a process of aligning ourselves and our mindset with who we have become.
Reinventing yourself doesn’t mean you have to throw everything out and start over. Instead, it can be an iterative process where you examine your identity, experiences, and cultural conditioning so you can pinpoint how these things have shaped who you are and your outlook on life. In doing so, you start to recognize what works, what doesn’t, and where your strengths lie. From this framework, you can explore all possible paths forward and choose a future that will be meaningful and satisfying to you.
The interesting thing about reinvention is that it is both necessary and achievable for everyone. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what gender you identify with, or what kind of circumstances you face. However, to reinvent yourself you need to adopt a growth mindset. You must be willing to surrender to the process and step outside of your comfort zone so you can live the life that’s right for you.
Since I realize this can sound daunting, let’s look at some strategies.
How to Reinvent Yourself: 5 Tips for the Journey
Although I wish I could give you a step-by-step process to guide you through your reinvention journey, in reality, it’s rarely a linear path. Instead, it’s more of a cycle.
Reinventing yourself is about building an awareness about everything that is contributing to your sense of discomfort and deciding what is true, what isn’t, and what that means for your life choices. Then, you align your new viewpoint with your personal and professional goals so you can create an action plan. This process inevitably leads to new revelations or levels of awareness that start the cycle all over again. Below are a few tips my clients find helpful.
1. Expand Your Mindset to all Possibilities
When I start working with someone new, I’ve learned that one of the first exercises we must go through is one that helps them understand that anything is possible. This is critical to our work together.
If someone comes into the reinvention process with a narrow view of success, for example, they will perceive anything short of that as a failure. This viewpoint means that they must execute their plan with utmost precision, which creates the kind of pressure that would make anyone miserable.
In this case, I would help them reframe what it means to be successful. In doing so, they become aware of a wider range of possibilities. This exercise is tremendously helpful, especially to people who don’t know exactly what they want. By expanding their definition of success, they begin to create a vision and open themselves up to evolving into something even better than what they could imagine.
2. Give Yourself the Gift of Time
As Einstein stated, time is relative – our perception of time depends on our frame of reference. Many people feel impatient when reinvention doesn’t happen immediately and give up within the course of a month. But once you accept that reinventing yourself is a process and that you have the rest of your life to complete it, a sense of ease will set in as you surrender to the experience.
When I coach people through a transformative journey, they often check in later to share how their lives have changed. More often than not, they also tell me that they realize now that the coaching was simply a catalyst to a longer process. Even clients who manage a rapid reinvention (within a six-month period) report that the change had been a “long time coming.” They just needed the right coaching and tools to make it happen.
3. Reimagine Your Stories
We have all had a mix of good and bad experiences that come together to influence our outlook and choices in life. When you’re learning how to reinvent yourself, examining such experiences and reframing those narratives can be a powerful technique.
For instance, if you are considering a career change, but are finding yourself hesitant to take the plunge, write down all the stories you’re telling yourself about that potential change. Then, dissect each one to determine where it came from and whether it’s still true for you today.
Perhaps you choose your current path because it was the “safe” route. It was a job you knew how to do or it satisfied your family’s expectations. In other words, you compromised. If you acknowledge that this is what happened and that your life is different now it will be easier to give yourself permission to pursue other avenues.
4. Explore Possibilities on a Small Scale
I mentioned earlier that reinvention doesn’t have to be a complete do-over, but rather a series of iterations that take place throughout your life. In this vein, it can be helpful to step into certain changes one at a time. Look for opportunities to try things on for size and to give yourself a safe place where you can experiment and make mistakes before going full bore.
Going back to the career change, a great way to explore alternatives and pick up new skills is to take an online course. There are hundreds of great options, such as those offered through LinkedIn Learning or through specialty sites like Coding Dojo. You could also consider joining an online or offline community where experts in your field of interest hang out. This will allow you to post questions and get to know people in that space in a relaxed way.
5. Give Yourself Permission to be Uncomfortable and to Ask for Support
Everyone struggles with change, so it’s critical to be kind to yourself as you examine the possibilities and to take mental breaks whenever you need them. However, it’s also important to understand that some level of discomfort is normal, even desirable because it means you are going through a meaningful change.
But, remember, you don’t have to do this alone. Find a friend to confide in, an advisor or therapist, or even a transformational coach to help you navigate this journey. When you tell others about what you’re trying to do you’ll find that it’s easier to stay the course because they will hold you accountable.
The Bottom Line
Learning how to reinvent yourself isn’t an exercise in self-indulgence. It’s a necessary skill that will help you adapt to our changing world so you can live a happy, fulfilling, and productive life. If you find the idea of doing this alone overwhelming, don’t hesitate to ask for help. And you’re welcome to browse through my resources where you’ll find an informative quiz and helpful worksheets.