Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A few insights for self-reinvention

So a couple of years ago, I quit my job - well, more accurately, my career of 13 years. My husband was still in business school. We have a very active, then 7 year old son. In essence, I'd truly gone out on a limb. But here's the thing. Every night I'd been losing my mind. Every morning I was dragging my feet. To the world I was calm and collected, but to my family I was Oscar the Grouch. That had to stop. Now before I go on, I want to be clear, my husband and I are not rich. There's no trust fund hidden away. So it all was a big giant risk. But let me digress. The point is that I (well my husband and I) made a decision. We decided it was time for a change. Was I scared? Yes. Did I doubt myself? Yes. Did I cry when I saw my bank statements? You get the idea. The point I'm making is I decided to change, but I accepted that it wouldn't be easy.

So here's what I thought I would share.

1. You're not reinventing yourself. You're just ready to add some more flavor. You're ready to put it all in perspective. You don't have to strip yourself bare. There are some great things to pull from your past. You don't throw it all in the dumpster. It's just time for a little refining. Whether you're starting a new career, retiring after years on a job, moving forward after a divorce, getting back to life after an illness, this is a chance to pull the pieces together. But only those that you're deciding to keep.

2. Consider it a work in progress. When I first left my job, I went into full hibernation. I stayed inside. I rejected invitations. I convinced myself I wasn't ready. I dreaded not knowing what to say. "I'm finding myself" didn't feel comfortable. Once I figured it out, I'd go out again. You know, once I got a new shiny label. "I do this"..."I work for them"... Those were my badges of honor. Until then laptops and emails were my lifelines. Then I realized that life doesn't work that way. It was those moments that I needed to connect. It's OK to say 'I decided I wanted to branch out'. 'I want to do something of meaning'. Conversations at this time are invaluable. Listening at this time is invaluable. You never know how you'll grow in the process.

3. Pull out some old boxes. What did you write in your journals? Old letters? On the back of old pictures? What were the books or movies that used to inspire you? It's not about going back but about reminding yourself who you are - capturing the spirit of what makes you unique. Now is the time. Who is it you want to be moving forward?

4. Paint the walls red. It can be helpful to change your surroundings. Perhaps your life used to be grey, but you're now ready to fill it with color. Be bold. Be imaginative. Have fun.

5. Be willing to think outside the box. If you get stuck on what you 'should do' you're going to drive yourself stark raving mad. It's about what works best for you. It may not be straight forward. You may have to try a few things. But remember: it's not about the destination, but the journey.

6. Consider the total picture. If you have a family, consider them a part of your process. Share your feelings with them. Tell them what's going on. Reach out for support. Also consider them in decisions you make. Make all of it a family affair.
Note: If you don't have the support of your family, try creating a new inner circle. There are women just like you out there, and they're looking for support just like you.

7. Try not to beat yourself up. There's always someone who's doing it faster - someone who seems to be doing it better. Run your own race. It's not about perfection, but progress.

8. Stay focused on new opportunities. Maybe a friend calls you up. They invite you out. GO....I can't stress this enough. You can't spend your life figuring it out. Usually the solutions are outside your door. That's where you see people in motion. Everyone has their own story. Everyone has their own struggle. We're all part of a common community.

9. Let the BS blow in the breeze. Do not. I repeat, do not call people for approval that you know tend to be negative. This is the best way to drive yourself crazy. Everyone's going to have an opinion. Some of them are great; other ones have an agenda. Again, you have to run your own race.

10. Seek out open minds. This is why I chose coaching. At times of change, people need an open ear. They need someone who's not going to judge. They need someone to celebrate them - encourage them - kick them in the butt from time to time. For a lot of people, including me, that support makes all the difference.

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