The expression “Necessity is the mother of invention” has been around forever. I’m exercising some creative license in this post to paraphrase the statement so that it reinforces one of my foundational beliefs: Reinvention is a necessity.
When I turned 50, I left my corporate career and embarked on the magic carpet ride of being an entrepreneur. I had no idea what I was getting into and, if I had, I probably would have done an abrupt 180! I was naive, uninformed and ill-prepared; I succeeded only out of sheer determination. That was 2000, and in 2005, I was featured in Entrepreneur magazine – “Reinventing Yourself After 50.” Until that article hit the newsstands, I was unaware of the significance of my effort to create a new business; invent a different lifestyle; and take responsibility for my future, my happiness and my financial security.
Since then, I have helped hundreds of women embark on the path of reinvention. And here’s the beauty of the adventure: Whether you’re thinking of starting a business, considering what you want the next chapter in your life to be, looking at retirement, wondering what to do with your time now that the kids are out of the house, or dealing with the end of a longstanding relationship – whatever the circumstances, the steps to take to reinvent yourself are exactly the same.
It’s easy to dream of a future that is different from your present. The difficulty is in taking action to convert your dream into reality. The forces are against you. Human nature, your surroundings, people of influence all team up to keep you exactly where you are rather than where you want to be.
It’s natural for us to take action on what’s right in front of us – the laundry, email, the must do’s and have to’s that keep us in the moment rather than taking action on the future we want. It’s also easier, safer, less scary to stay exactly where we are, to focus on what we need to do today and postpone planning for our future. You could call it the Scarlett O’Hara approach: “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
Tomorrow is here, and it’s time to start taking steps that will turn obstacles into stepping stones that pave the way to living your dream. “We have to modify our identities as we go through life,” according to Ravenna Helson. She directed the Mills Study that followed 120 women over 50 years to identify shifts or pivotal times when reinvention was necessary.
Step 1: Are you living an outdated identity?
You may not see yourself as the cavewoman. But are you living with outdated beliefs and old habits that are keeping you stuck? What used to be a protective mechanism may now be prohibiting you from stepping into your future. The first step on the path of reinvention is knowing where you currently are. Take a brutally honest inventory of yourself, your surroundings, the people in your life. What are your strengths and weaknesses, passions, vulnerabilities and coping strategies? What are you ambivalent about? Be thorough, and go deep. The self-knowledge you obtain in this step will serve as the foundation for each subsequent step.
Next, make a description of who, what and where you want to be in your future. Most important, put a date on it. It’s time to get specific. Don’t worry; you can always revisit this later if you feel the need to do so. Draw a picture, or clip photos from magazines. What you visualize will materialize. Where are you living? What style is your home? Or have you tossed all of your belongings into storage while traveling the world for nine months? Who is with you? What are you doing in your spare time? What color is your hair? Are you wearing jewelry or body art, and are your clothes the jungle look or from the Paris runway?
Step 2: Are your core values in alignment with your future?
This step will determine whether your reinvention is realistic. Some of my clients refer to this as the reality check. Simply stated, reinvention is harder than it looks. If the vision of your reinvented self is a drastic departure from your core values, you’ll be less motivated to take action. We have a tendency to be overly optimistic about what’s to come. A humorous statistic reported by LiveScience is that 70 percent of us believe we are above average. It’s easy to overestimate our ability to change and underestimate the effort required to make and sustain the change.
Taking the time to assess your core values and determine where you may encounter inner conflict will save you from losing your way once you are on the path. Remember, this is not a sprint; it’s a long-distance event that becomes your future. Make decisions today that support who you want to be tomorrow. Being true to yourself and living who you are is easy when you know what that is. Now might be a good time to revisit Step 1 and add more descriptors.
Step 3. Do you have a Reinvention Roadmap?
Setting real goals with a doable timeline ensures that you will take action and build momentum. Having clarity and knowing the next indicated step takes the guesswork out of the equation and greatly increases your chance of success. It may help you to think of this as a road trip with identified spots to refuel, take a rest, pull over for the scenic view. Know where the hills are, so you have energy in reserve. Expect to encounter bad weather, detours and delays along the way. Being flexible and anticipating these events will greatly improve your level of satisfaction and significantly reduce your stress.
One of my favorite aphorisms is from Louis Carroll: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” Once again, it’s time to get specific. When you break down a reinvention plan into actionable steps you can do every day, you naturally integrate your present with your future. Reinvention becomes a habit, a vital component that propels you from where you are and who you are into who you want to be, where you want to be living and doing what you dream of doing.
Step 4. Strategic Reassessments
Periodic assessments of your progress, or lack thereof, are vital to your success. Keep in mind that while you have been on the reinvention road, you’ve gained knowledge, insight, understanding and wisdom. Time to put that newfound knowledge to work. Are you on the right path? Have you encountered unexpected setbacks and lost your momentum? Are you ahead of schedule and need to readjust your goal?
Some clients take this opportunity to fine-tune their plan or even make major changes. The course changes are yours to make; when you consciously evaluate the options, sometimes a change in course is the best action to take. Again, this is where your flexibility will serve you well. The destination is only part of the adventure. The day-to-day experience is the key to living the best life you can.
And there you have it – four steps of reinvention. Simple? Yes. Easy? Knowing where you are and where you want to be is only the beginning of the adventure. With the tools and techniques to design your reinvention roadmap, you increase your ability to succeed. I would invite you to add one additional step, and that to celebrate your incremental steps. Each and every step is progress. A day, week or month of steps deserves recognition and acknowledgement. On the occasions of celebration, take a moment to stop and look behind you to see how far you’ve come in reinventing yourself – and may your adventure never end!
“Just as established products and brands need updating to stay alive and vibrant, you periodically need to refresh or reinvent yourself.” Mireille Giuliani
Question to Ponder: What aspects of yourself, your thinking, your actions, would you like to reinvent? What’s holding you back from taking action?
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