I am in a brand new phase of life. I never thought I would arrive here, but here I am.
I could have chosen to resist, to cling to the status quo, but instead, I’ve decided to embrace the change and set off on a new adventure.
As of last week when my youngest daughter graduated from high school, I am officially an empty nester. She heads off to college in a couple of months, and her departure marks the official end of my day-to-day parenting role. It is a bitter-sweet phase, one that is natural and expected but tinged with sadness nonetheless.
When you’re raising children, parenting pretty much defines your life. The person that I was for over 20 years is no longer relevant, and now I’m creating a new me. I’ve been preparing for this transition for a while now.
Over the last year or so, I’ve been getting my house ready to sell, and my life partner (Ron) and I have been researching where we want to live. We’ve settled on Asheville, North Carolina, where we are building a house. We’ll be living in temporary digs in Asheville while we wait for it to be built.
As I’m writing this post, I’m surrounded by packed boxes and lots of memories.
I’ve been sorting through photos, reviewing the life of my family captured in momentary blips of time.
I’ve been discarding things I once treasured, and releasing my attachments to the past. The entire process has been a necessary part of letting go and moving on to the next adventure.
I’ve learned so much through this life transition, and I’m grateful I’ve taken my time and prepared myself for both the highs and lows that come with the passage.
Do you want to start over in life? If so, here are 10 ways to reinvent yourself and prepare for change:
1. Lean in.
Change is inevitable. Transitions will happen in life with or without your consent. Children leave home. People move. Relationships end. Don’t make it more painful or difficult by resisting the change.
In fact, lean into it. Embrace it. Try to view change as a vital part of your personal growth. Even if you aren’t in a phase of transition right now, mentally prepare yourself for the changes that will come down the road.
2. Expect fear.
Even when we mentally prepare for change, it is perfectly normal to be afraid. Letting go is scary. The unknown creates anxiety. Whether you are starting over with a career, a relationship, or a new home, leaving the comfort of the familiar (even if the familiar isn’t what you need) is daunting.
Be kind to yourself about feeling afraid, but don’t allow fear to stop you. Your fear rarely reflects the truth about the change you’re about to undertake.
3. Take your time.
If you know that a big transition is on the horizon, don’t wait until the last minute to plan and prepare for it. For my upcoming move, I spent over a year decluttering my house and simplifying all of my material possessions.
In fact, I used this experience as the testing ground for the new book I just released with my co-author Steve Scott called 10-Minute Declutter. This preparation allowed me to sort through my possessions and my emotions about moving at a leisurely pace. Now that I’m a week away from moving, virtually everything is done, and I feel ready and relaxed about the move.
4. Allow grief.
Even if you are reinventing yourself for the most exciting reason, you will feel some sadness about letting go of the status quo. Saying goodbye to the old you, a life partner, a job, your children, your friends, your home — whatever it is you’re leaving to be able to begin again — holds a certain amount of pain and sadness.
Don’t stuff down those feelings. Let yourself feel the grief and acknowledge that starting over cleanly requires you to express your feelings.
5. Get excited.
Create a vision for exactly what you want with this new adventure. Now that you’ve decided to start over, be clear about what you are moving toward.
Even if change has been thrust upon you, you don’t have to sit in the back seat and guess at the destination.
Get very clear about what you want and how you’ll get it. When I decided a couple of years ago that I was going to move, I sat down with pen and paper and wrote down exactly what I wanted in a new city and a new home. I recently found that written vision, and I’ve made it happen just as I planned.
6. Get support.
Setting forth on this new adventure of leaving my family home (and the city I’ve lived in almost all of my life) has been much less daunting and a lot more fun with the love and support of Ron.
When you have the support, participation, and blessing of those you care about, you have a lot more courage to take bold action and embrace change. If you don’t have a support person in your life, then find a coach or counselor who can help you navigate your reinvention.
7. Communicate well.
The people around you will be impacted by the changes you are making. Some people will be happy for you and support you on your journey. Others in your life may be intimidated, fearful, or even angry about your decision to start over or reinvent yourself.
Be sure you communicate early and often with the people you care about, and let them know how they might be impacted by your change. I let my young adult children know more than a year in advance that I planned to sell the house and move. At first, they weren’t happy about it, but over time they saw the positives of this big change.
8. Take detours.
Even if you have carefully planned out your life reinvention, you’re bound to encounter detours along the way. After we had decided on Asheville as our new home, we visited two other cities (Charleston and Savannah) that made us pause and rethink our decision. We spent time looking around both cities, investigating the lifestyle, and weighing the pros and cons. Although we ultimately decided on Asheville, we were prepared to change our minds.
If life presents you with alternative opportunities, explore them. Don’t stay so rigidly devoted to your plan that you miss something that could be even better. Remain open to all possibilities, and check out those detours you encounter on your journey.
9. Expect setbacks.
I’ve been fortunate that things have gone fairly smoothly with my big transition. I attribute that to the time and planning I put into it, along with some plain old good luck. But I’ve certainly gone through other transitions that were fraught with challenges and setbacks.
Certainly preparation and planning can help minimize these, but sometimes life just throws us an unavoidable curveball. Maybe the deal falls through, the loan isn’t approved, the job doesn’t materialize, the people back out. Whatever the challenge may be, don’t view it as a sign that you shouldn’t move forward. Just deal with the challenge, go to plan B, and keep your eye on the prize.
10. Have fun.
That period of time when you’re transitioning from where you are to where you want to be is uncomfortable and even scary. Will it all work out? Will I be happier than I was before? Will I have regrets? Sometimes we get so caught up in the uncertainties that we fail to enjoy the process.
As you are going through your transition into reinvention, be sure you celebrate every step along the way. Acknowledge your courage and boldness at recreating your life and controlling your destiny. It takes guts to start over and implement big life change. Be proud of yourself! View the process as a grand adventure and have fun with it.
Once you have reached the other side — to the new you, the new home, the new job, the new relationship — you will experience a sense of freedom and empowerment you didn’t know you possessed. You’ll understand how full of possibilities life is and how many times you can reinvent yourself if you choose.
Become a master of starting over. Become a disciple of change. With every new beginning, you’re becoming more of the person you were meant to be.
Have you started over in your life? Are you in the process of reinventing yourself or going through a life transition? Please share your experiences in the comments below.