There are times in our lives when reinventing ourselves isn’t a choice. After a divorce, we have to move on. If we’ve faced failure in our professional life – for example our company has gone bankrupt – we have to reinvent ourselves. We have to start looking for ways to make money because our survival depends on it.
Failure isn’t the only reason to reinvent yourself in your 30s – or at any age, for that matter. We might want to reinvent ourselves to build on something positive. We read that many successful people became even more so because they wanted to create something bigger and better.
Yet, reinvention is distinctly challenging. We tend to focus on immediate concerns, to chase the wrong dreams, and to have a distorted view of the future. We persist when we should give up and give up when we need to try harder. Without clearer ideas and assessments of the present, we are doomed to keep making the same mistakes over and over again in the future. Without setting, pursuing, and attaining desired objectives, we can end up with a bleak future, in which we are lonely, sick, poor, or simply dissatisfied.
What Does it Mean to Reinvent Yourself?
As we go through life, we are compelled to change who we are according to Professor Ravenna Helson, who directed the landmark Mills Longitudinal Study, a 50-year investigation of adult development that followed 120 women since they graduated from Mills College in 1965. There are countless of publications to read in connection to the study, which began as the first one with an exclusive focus on female leadership and creativity.
It expanded to include personality types, work and retirement, personality change and development, relationships, social and political attitudes, health, and more. The study showed it was never too late to reinvent yourself, but your 30s are the best time. You have enough experience and skills to make the best choices, and you’ve still got enough energy in you to be committed to change. You also have enough time to make it all happen.
Time is of essence because reinvention isn’t something to be achieved in a day or even a year. Having long-term goals is crucial. Without them, you risk your precious time slipping away in watching TV, doing housework, and catching up on social media. While there is nothing wrong with any of these things, they don’t help you take steps in the direction of reinvention. You don’t start working on your long-term goals.
How do you know what you should be striving for in life? Think about your perception, your ideas about the future and ask yourself what you will regret not having done 10 or 20 years from now. Then, work back toward the present to avoid this outcome. In other words, make a retrospective plan.
Our Personal Traits Matter
Before you can take steps to create a new life, you have to know what kind of person you are according to Robert Steven Kaplan. In his book What You’re Really Meant to Do we read thatpeople must know their strengths, their weaknesses, and their personal traits and needs. It is only then that they can start looking for opportunities and moving forward.
How to Reinvent Yourself: Challenges
One major challenge to reinvention is the tendency to believe that our abilities are above average. While that sounds harsh, it is a fact. Not everyone can be above average. That is fairly obvious. You need to be brutally honest as you evaluate your capabilities and skills and assess the effort needed to reinvent. Talk about your dreams with friends and loved ones, who will be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. They will share their thoughts and help you discover your true passions.
According to experts in reinvention, people have to align their goals with what really matters to them. It’s often the case that people around us put pressure and this affects our future plans adversely. A friend begs for a loan for the business he’s trying to get up and running. Your mother desperately wants a grandchild although parenthood isn’t on your list of priorities. Such pressure is frequently most intense when we are in our 30s.
External pressure can distract you from your real priorities and lead you to compromise your values. If you blindly accept others’ decisions, you might wake up 15 years from now with the harsh realization that you are neither where nor who you want to be.
People who are intrinsically motivated tend to be happier with their lives than extrinsically motivated people. Intrinsic motivation is where you align your goals with subjective needs, such as stability and meaningful relationships Extrinsic or externally bound motivation is when we try to impress with a prestigious job, a huge salary, or a new luxury property.
How Do You Really Change Yourself?
You can start your journey of self-reinvention once you are clear on what your goals are. Here are the practical steps to take.
Know your Coping Style
How do you cope with challenges? Avoid them, tackle them constructively, or get angry? If you are aware of how you deal with certain life situations, you will be able to resolve issues more efficiently.
Have a Plan
Not having a plan almost always leads to failure. Planning involves a thorough assessment of your current financial, emotional, and mental state. Plans should be practical and realistic even when our dreams are lofty. You might find George Doran’s SMART way to manage any goal and objective useful – have a read.
Try New Things
This is an important step because we don’t know if approaches actually work until we put them to the test. If you are contemplating a change of career, this is especially important. Experiment with new projects. People whose startups have failed went on to start new ones, ran agencies, blogged, or moved abroad. Some of their ventures succeeded, while others failed. What counts is not being afraid to try. Do what you love and enjoy. You’ll learn new things about it and hopefully turn a profit as you go along.
Sharpen your Money Management Skills
You might need to pay for therapy if you’re struggling to cope with traumatic events, like the death of a loved one or an especially nasty divorce. If you’re changing careers, you might need money for training. If your reinvention involves moving to a new city or country, there’ll be the cost of your new home to reckon with.
Do you Really Want to Change?
If your company goes under, moving forward is the only viable step. A lot of business owners have been in hard circumstances like these. Know that you won’t change if you don’t really want to. A new life and future are impossible without effort on your part.
Prioritize your Tasks
Reinventing yourself is hard work. It takes patience and dedication. Take at least two hours a day to work on achieving your goals to make the transformation smoother. Prioritize your tasks and goals by using to-do-lists and time management apps.
Get up Early
They say one thing great people have in common is that they’re up at 5 a.m. You might not be ready to get going so early, but try to get up no later than 7 a.m. every day. When you start getting up earlier, you’ll find you have more time for things that improve your professional and personal prospects. People tend to wake up as late as they can, so you will be less distracted and get a lot more work done. You will have time to fit in some exercise in your daily routine too.
Take an Example
It’s become possible to contact people worldwide thanks to the internet. While we typically associate social networking with finding job opportunities and meeting new people, it’s possible to connect with people who can help you improve your life too.
As you get started on your own reinvention, look for friends or acquaintances who live your dream. In his book Stumbling on Happiness, Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert writes that people who have achieved our dreams can share the positives and negatives with us.
If you want to open a restaurant, sit down with the owners of a few venues, the likes of which you aspire to have. If you want to run a marathon, talk to a few professional long-distance runners before you decide on a training program and diet.
Put your Thoughts in Writing
Write about how you hope your reinvention will play out or just describe a scene from it. Where will you live? How do you spend your day? Who are your friends? Your partner? Keep writing as long as it feels fun and inspiring. Write plans, scenes, lists, even dialogues. Don’t be afraid. Write about how it will all feel. This is how you make your future your present.
Surround Yourself with Reminders
If you know what future you want to create, surround yourself with visual reminders of it. Let’s say you want a new job in a given industry. Place images or objects associated with it someplace where you’ll notice them often. Share images of the house or apartment of your dreams online or put a picture of it up near your front door.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Unknown
Always make an effort to learn new things. Whether it’s attending a webinar, reading, or going to an exclusive event, always look for ways to enhance your knowledge. This will foster professional and personal growth. It’s no accident that the concept of lifelong learning has become so well established. It makes you more motivated, introduces you to new ideas and people, and helps you hone your skills.
Be Transparent about your Decision
If anyone asks you about the decision you’ve made after you’ve set things in motion, be honest and transparent about it without trying to justify it. You have made a conscious choice and decision to reinvent yourself. Nobody’s opinion should stop you from moving forward in your life (you know what they say about opinions). People will have to respect your choice if you have the passion and facts to back it up.
Be Transparent with Yourself
Being honest with yourself is even more important than being honest with others. If you have family problems, you might not be admitting this to yourself, much less be willing to talk about them to someone. People’s ability to solve problems increases when they are open about them because the more others know, the better they’re able to help. In your mind, it may not seem that way, but it’s true – and not only about people around you, but also about you yourself. Face your fears and be honest with yourself.
Leave the Comfort Zone
Like everyone, you are a person of habit. Yet, leaving our comfort zone allows us to meet new people, have new experiences, and learn new things. Breaking your mold enhances your confidence and makes you stronger. Then, you’re able to achieve success on higher levels in your professional and personal life. Leaving your comfort zone, where nothing grows, will help you be more creative and see things a different way. This may help you reinvent in a matter of months rather than years.
Have the Courage to Challenge Self-Doubt
Self-doubt and fear may arise when we encounter setbacks and hardship. Sometimes, they assail us when we decide to take a risk. You shouldn’t let these negative emotions stop you. Instead, have the courage to stand up to them. Courage is not the absence of fear – it is persisting despite fear.
Build a Support Group
Before you get started reinventing yourself, work on building a strong support group. This could be literally a support group based on interests or a group of friends or loved ones. The right support will keep you from making mistakes and lift you up when you start to feel discouraged.
It’s hard to accurately predict the effect reinvention will have on our lives, in part because people are generally not good at affective predicting. This is a future-focusing flaw, which involves being unable to accurately forecast how we will feel at a future point in time.
It is a well-documented fact that people assume success and achievement will make them happier than they end up doing. This is because people adapt to life changes very fast, even to major ones, and then tend to go back to their customary happiness “baseline”. Thankfully, this works both ways. When something awful happens to us, we are not as traumatized as we expected to be. Things are never as bad in reality as they are in our minds.
Imagine your Future Self as You
You should not imagine your future self as a stranger in order to make the best decisions. Instead, imagine this person as yourself. If you identify more closely with who you want to become, you’ll be able to make better decisions for your future self, like deciding on an investment that will pay off over time or saving more money for when you retire.
To be more productive and focused on your future, try creating a virtual image of your future self. This is a powerful aid that gets people to think about their future selves, effectively becoming them. Being more vested in the interests of your future self can also help you counter the urge to undervalue future rewards. This tendency makes quite a few people forgo long-term payoffs in favor of immediate gratification.
Picturing your future self as a successful entrepreneur could well stop you from splurging on a new phone you don’t need. Seeing yourself as a physically active retiree might be just what you need to choose an hour at the gym over munching on pizza in front of the TV.
Set Realistic Goals
This is the final and most crucial step in the process of your reinvention. Be wary of excessive optimism in the planning stage because you might choose the wrong goal. Just like being too negative, being overly positive can be risky because your goal should be unique to you. No goal is valid across the board.
Break up your vision of the future into small, achievable tasks. To create that vision and make it reality, what do you have to do? Look for a new job? Search for a new place to live? Meet someone new? Be as specific as possible. Make a list and schedule for everything you need to do and work on this list every day, one day at a time.
Every night or morning, imagine yourself walking toward your dreams and away from your unsatisfying present. Reconnect with your vision and your reason to move in this direction. This is crucial because reinvention is not always going to be smooth sailing. You will face resistance, perhaps often. It’s in human nature to cling onto what we have, even to things that we no longer have control over or those that cause us pain and suffering. There is comfort even in that.
We struggle with limiting stories or ideas about ourselves that keep us from seeing new and better ones. Even in the throes of struggle and hardship, you can keep your compass pointed in this new direction. How?
Be Kind to Yourself
If you are slipping into old habits—self-isolation, procrastination, making excuses not to look for a job – don’t waste time wondering why or accusing yourself over it. Forgive yourself and ask:
What Can I Do Right Now to Keep Moving Forward?
When you shift your thoughts to something constructive, what you feel in the moment – be it loneliness, exhaustion, or disappointment – will stop mattering. Do something, anything, to keep going. Do not ruminate. It can be something as small as leaving your house to go shopping.
Keep in mind that process or learning goals are more attainable and realistic than outcome-based or performance ones. Instead of saying, “I’m going to be rich in 5 years” say “I’m going to make my business more successful.”
Expect a degree of volatility when you work on changing your mindset and behavior, especially at the beginning. It will take a lot of thought, planning, and adjusting your schedule. Experts advise working on just one big goal at a time. If you work on many at once, you’ll end up achieving none.
Feeling despondent after a setback is understandable. Beware – it’s all too easy to give up in moments like these. Be active, consistent, and positive. You will make it happen.