The Two Can Go Together: How Finding New Skills and Direction Brings Out the Best in You
There are many reasons why we seek to “reinvent” or make a change in our lives. Sometimes it’s a profound event, like recovering from a major health threat. Other times, we recognize a need for change upon a milestone birthday (30, 40, 50, 60…) or we’ve been let go from a job or our company is sold.
Positive events prompt us to reflect and change. For parents, each threshold their children crosses prompts reflection, whether their kids are heading off to kindergarten, or to college. We’re also motivated to assess our need for change when a close friend gets a promotion or moves away, or when someone we admire makes a bold change that inspires us.
Here’s the thing about reinvention: Some believe it’s tossing out the “old” — your previous roles, experiences, and even work identity — and exchanging it for something completely new. That’s not accurate.
Instead, the best power of reinvention lies in leveraging everything you’ve ever done – the good, the bad, the ugly, the successes and failures. It taps into the very real (and often unappreciated and unarticulated) skills, insights and expertise you have gained along the way. So you don’t need to try to create a new personality from scratch to reinvent yourself.
And whatever the motivation, it’s essential that we continue to grow and change in big or small ways. Growth is the heart of reinvention and we won’t fulfill our fullest potential without it. In Better Than Before, bestselling author and happiness expert Gretchen Rubin says what we intuitively know: “For a happy life, it’s important to cultivate an atmosphere of growth – the sense that we’re learning new things, getting stronger, forging new relationships, making things better, helping other people.”
Reinvention can begin with small steps or with huge leaps of faith. Here are five ideas for reinventing your work and life, with a few examples of small and big steps to spark the next rewarding season of your life.
Make a Bucket List
If you’re feeling stuck, take some time out for yourself to imagine what your career and life could be. I’ve written elsewhere about the power of asking yourself key questions and writing things down. In the best-selling book Write it Down, Make it Happen, Dr. Henriette Klauser shows how this simple act brings clarity and forward momentum in fulfilling one’s aspirations and purpose.
Other inspiration: legendary entrepreneur, pro sports team (Washington Capitals) owner and filmmaker, Ted Leonsis writes about a potential near death experience that prompted him to gain clarity on his life. In his book The Business of Happiness, he shares how he created his “Life List” of 101 things he wants to do before he dies. He is now well on his way to achieving the big and small things on the list, with family goals being first.
There’s just one step to take here: Take time to imagine what your life could be, then write it down.
Try Something You’ve Always Put Off
Is there something you once passionately thought you’d do, but didn’t? In 1989 I earned a degree in political science from UCLA because I wanted to gain skills to make things better in my homeland and the world. I realized soon afterwards that I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and didn’t pursue a career in policy or government.
But in 2011, after success as a business and nonprofit entrepreneur, I realized that not only was this still a desire, but my experiences of starting, growing, and managing enterprises gave me even more to offer in a public service role. So I ran for the State Senate.
I lost the election, but in the process I met thousands of extraordinary people from all walks of life, including leaders in business, media, nonprofits, and policy. Countless doors of professional and personal opportunity and fulfillment opened as a result of this step.
What are some previous passions or interests are in your life?
- Small Step Idea: Travel to a place you’ve always wanted to go.
- Big Step Idea: Do something you’ve always imagined you’d do, like write a book or start a blog.
Join or Start a New Initiative
This can be anything from fixing a problem at work to working with a local nonprofit that that inspires you. Perhaps there’s a pastime that you’ve enjoyed, but you want to explore it with others.
- Small Step Idea: Donate to various nonprofits, or call organizations to ask how you can get involved with hands-on volunteering. Another idea would be to start a book club.
- Big step idea: Start something a little bigger– whether it’s a group to solve a local problem, or your own business. You can also suggest a new initiative within your company, then lead it.
Explore a Career Change
Everyone gets restless for growth in their work. Many don’t realize how much power they have to move ahead and increase their satisfaction.
- Small step idea: Take a Strengthsfinder assessment or get a copy of the multi-million selling job bible What Color is Your Parachute.
- Big step idea: Hire an executive or career coach to guide you through the process of a career change. Find one who has done what you want to do. If it’s serving in the C-Suite, find a coach who has been there and done that – she or he will have real world experiences that you get only from the school of hard knocks.
“Most of us have two lives: the life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance.” – Steven Pressfield
What this quote is trying to say: Do you daydream about writing a book, taking an exotic trip, or starting a business, but stall out? Have you started a project that’s really important to you, but never finished? You may have hit a wall called resistance.
It’s important to know that whether you want to take a big step or a small step in your reinvention, you will face resistance. It can take the form of guilt, fear, uncertainty, or timidity. It is different from due diligence – resistance is unreasonable, irrational, and full of unfounded fear and excuses. Resistance is the #1 culprit that stops people from making a change.
So when you feel resistance, take it as confirmation that you should proceed. In fact, there is no greater indication that you are on the right track and that your goals and dreams are worth pursuing than to encounter resistance. To push through resistance, you need to challenge your fears and doubts, focus on your aspirations, and do the work.
I hope you have gained inspiration from these five tips — and feel confident to move ahead and live the life you truly want. Through the power of reinvention, you will better understand yourself and what you are capable of achieving.13