art of career reinvention

How To Navigate The Perilous Path of Reinvention

I know a lot about reinvention, and none of it comes from a book, or from someone else’s experience.

I know it because I’ve had to live it.  I’ve had to completely reinvent myself over the last six years from an employee to an entrepreneur, from a lawyer to a writer, from someone who was depressed and disempowered to someone who now has hope for the future and is excitedly building an authentic life.

Many (if not most) people encounter the need for “reinvention”  at some point in their life.  It is very rare to meet someone who doesn’t have to reinvent themselves in some way.

People arrive at the “need for reinvention” for many reasons:

  • Leaving a bad career fit to stake out one that feels more empowering and is more authentic
  • Shifting from being an “employee” to becoming an “entrepreneur”
  • Starting a new business after a previous business failure
  • Starting anew after a difficult (and potentially painful) relationship

There are many other reasons.  None of which are easy.  If you are in the “midst of a reinvention” I feel for you.  It is hard, but good things can come.

For what it’s worth here is some advice from my experience.  Things that I’ve learned along the way, that have helped me out.  If they can help you, that is a positive thing,

1.  Always, always, always, start with what you value, not what you want to get. 

In many circumstances we get ourselves into situations (jobs, careers, relationships) because we focus on an “object” that we want to obtain rather than on what we value.  I’ve learned that this is a mistake.  We always must start with what we value.  Each of us has unique values that we hold dear.  They are what comprise our “authentic self”.  When we deviate from these values we feel inauthentic, out of alignment, and discontent.

If you are going to go through the (difficult) act of reinvention then it is critical that you at least build a proper (and sturdy) foundation.  That foundation is what you value. Write out a list of your values, and use that as the “lens” through which you will evaluate all future opportunities.

2.  Guilt and feelings of failure are not helpful emotions, and they won’t serve you. 

I get it – this one is much easier said than done, and I sure wasn’t perfect in this regard when I was reinventing myself.  I constantly felt guilt – about getting my career wrong, about all the time and money I wasted, about the difficulty of the road ahead.  I also felt like a failure, a lot.  Maybe having these feelings are good, in a slight way, as they can serve as a catalyst for resolve and effort.  But it is a very fine line, and they can be debilitating as well.  So don’t let it go past the line.  What’s done is done.  Lots of good life ahead.

3.  Powerful habits and routines will drive results, channel flow, and keep your anxiety at bay.

Try to get out of your head, and into your feet, as much as you can.  Take action.  Action drives change, and actions are best facilitated through powerful routines.  The stronger your routines, the less you will worry, the less you will have anxiety, and the less you will question your new path, or fear failure.  Lose yourself in your new work or situation – whatever that work or situation may be.  That is the best thing you can do right now.

4.  Many people in your existing social network will reject (at least subconsciously) your attempt to reinvent. 

People know what they know.  You’ve been a certain way, or you’ve had a certain identity (at least in their eyes) for a long time, so don’t be surprised if you get a little resistance from them.  Change can be threatening to them.  They may actually prefer you to stay how you are, because if you change it causes them to have to introspect as well. They may not want to do that (at least yet).

5.  If you know what you want, and you share it with people in your existing social network, there is a decent chance that at least a couple of them will doubt your ability to pull it off. 

You will have doubters and possibly even haters. Your new business…there will for sure be someone who you know that questions its viability.  Going back to school?  I’m sure someone will tell you that isn’t “practical” at least at your age.  In my experience, the most resistance comes from people who aren’t living their dreams. So keep that in mind.  Self-actualized people are usually quite supportive of your new adventure. Try to spend as much time with them as you can.

6.  You will find friends and allies however in your existing social network that you never knew you had (but they were always there).

This was an unexpected, and much appreciated, discovery for me.  There are people, right now, in your existing social network that will enjoy much better the “reinvented you”. This new you is more authentic, less desiring to please people, and more in touch with who they are.  Are you grow into yourself, these new friends will appear. They will be a great support for you.

7.  Don’t stay in your existing social network, use this “reinvention period” to get out of your comfort zone (and house) and meet new people. 

Although you will have found new “friends” from your existing network it is very important that you get out there and meet new people.  This will help to give you emotional support, and the act of meeting new people also has a practical component to it as well. You will meet people who can open new doors for you.  Be sincere though.  Everyone can tell a fake who is just trying to “use” a relationship.  Be yourself.  Be real.  You will attract good people into your life.

8.  Yay!  You get to be yourself now. So be yourself

There is a good chance also that if you are having to now reinvent yourself, that, at some point in the past you weren’t being true to who you really were.  You were either conforming yourself, or masking your true personality because you wanted to “get” something and you thought it would be better to act (or even look) a certain way.  How did that work out for you?  Exactly.  Don’t conform. This principle is as important as #1 (your values).  You cannot reinvent on a shaky foundation.  You have to be true to who you are.

 9.  Don’t have a set timeline for everything to fall into place.  Allow yourself time to “come into” your reinvention. 

Let it happen.  Don’t give yourself a “timeline”.  Allow yourself the freedom to discover, explore.  Be curious.  Learn new things. Expose yourself to new situations and experiences.  You are reinventing yourself right now anyway, so you might as well try things that you always wanted to try, but for whatever reason didn’t go through with.  The process of discovery is fun and engaging.  Also, the more you discover the more you realize who you truly are.

10.  Be grateful.

Life isn’t bad.  I hate the term “life sucks and then you die”.  It isn’t true.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Life doesn’t have to suck.  Life can be really cool also.  Maybe life has sucked up to now for you, but it doesn’t have to suck from here on out. Don’t let it suck. You have control of whether or not it sucks.  You can build an authentic life.  You can reinvent yourself and make life not suck. So instead of complaining, be grateful. Count your blessings.  Stop and smell the flowers (literally).

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