It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. – C. S. Lewis
Both my naturopathic doctor and my physical therapist have told me I have a choice to make – either continue doing what I am doing for a living and be in constant pain or make a decision to reinvent myself once again. Internally, I bawked at the notion and in my head a tirade of thoughts collided – ‘I am NOT going back to school. At this stage in my life, I don’t want to change careers. I am hoping to retire in another 4-7 years. I can’t afford to cut back my work hours.’
I thought the reasons as to why I shouldn’t change were more important and far outweighed the necessity to reinvent myself. I’ve been hoping to just ‘live with the pain’ until I am able to retire. I gave up one career because of physical issues. I certainly didn’t want to give up another! Still, I knew every day I was just getting by trying to make it through another day and make ends meets. One thing was for certain. Hearing an ultimatum from two health professionals forced me to ask myself the question: ‘Why do you continue to live like this?’ Then and only then did I realize this is no way to live. The only way to move forward was for me to take control of the here and now instead of letting my pain dictate how every day was going to be.
In time, I understood I was having trouble moving forward partly because I had no idea how to make things better. What I did know was that “constant pain” was taking its toll and excuses to maintain status quo weren’t helping matters. Change isn’t easy. Change requires reinvention. Each time a major shift happens in our lives — leaving a job or a relationship, moving, losing a loved one, getting married, having children, dealing with health issues — we have to take control of who and where we are in life and who we wish to become. The alternative is to risk never reaching our full potential and setting our happiness aside until later when things get better on their own. Of course, things never get better on their own. This is highly unlikely and hopeful thinking, at best.
Both difficult and positive life paths require us to make decisions and reinvent who we think we are and who we wish to become. I’ve reinvented myself several times in my life. I have gotten married and left my single self behind. I’ve become a Mom; an ever-changing role which has gone from me being a necessary component in my children’s young lives to one in which my sons have become independent adults with lives of their own.
All of the decisions I have made in life have been stepping stones to get me where I thought I needed to be. I moved out of my parent’s home, attended college, moved again and began a career as a recreation therapist only to be laid off from my first “real” job. I thought I had finally arrived and I nestled down in what was a very satisfying career in the medical field. Unfortunately, my career was disrupted due to physical issues. I found I no longer could stand for long periods, handle heavy lifting or keep up with the physical demands of the profession. My job suddenly boiled down to a very simple question – ‘How much longer are you going to be able to continue to tolerate this type of work’?
It was time to make a difficult decision and face a crucial question – ‘what are you going to do now’? And so, I left a career I loved and returned to school to become a graphic designer. My children were young and it was very difficult attending college while raising my family. At one point, I held down three part-time jobs just to help make ends meet. Had it not been for my loving husband who took care of the kids, the house (and everything in between) while I attended classes, studied and worked, I am not sure I could have done it. No one said change was going to be easy.
When it comes to reinvention I have learned that when I have waited for my future to find me, I’ve waited in vain and ended up finding myself ‘stuck’. That path is easy but ‘stuck’ isn’t the best place to be. When I’ve chosen to reinvent myself, I chose to forge a new path deliberately and with foresight. I have learned that having a plan and taking action is the only way to initiate change and become who I wish to be. This path has proven to be much more difficult but much more rewarding in the long run.
Here are five steps to reinvent yourself: (excerpt from WikiHow.com)
- Write about your goals in a journal.
- Take at least 10 minutes out of your day to write about how close you are to achieving your goals, and chronicling your process as you make the big changes. You’ll feel more confident about your goals once you reflect.
- Write down at least three reasons why you want to reinvent yourself on an index card. Carry it around with you at all times so that you can pull it out and stay pumped in a moment of weakness.
- Stay motivated
If you want to get closer to reinventing yourself, then you need to stay positive and motivated throughout this journey, even if you’re not feeling energetic or hopeful on a particular day. Staying mentally strong means winning half the battle to becoming a better person. Here are some ways to motivate yourself:
- Surround yourself with images that remind you of your vision for your future. If your plan is to devote yourself to gardening full-time and to expand your property, then surround yourself with potted plans and images of beautiful gardens.
- No matter what you feel in the moment—lonely, self-critical, tired, lazy, or disappointed—do something to maintain momentum, even if it’s one small thing. There’s an old adage that says that true courage isn’t about not feeling fear; it’s about feeling fear and acting anyway.
- Choose courage instead of letting your fear choose your future for you.
- Create a Game Plan
Once you’ve written down the changes that will give you a new future, write down a reasonable goal for a time when you can say, ‘Yeah, I accomplished this thing.’ It could be months, or even a year or more away. But once you pick a date, you’ll be closer to your goal. You can make goal dates for the small stuff; for example, you could say, ‘I will read three new books by the end of the month.’ Making a plan is a part of the commitment.
- Break your goal into workable tasks.
What do you need to do—every day—to create that vision? Look for work? Meet new people? Search for a place to live in your chosen town? Make it specific. Make a list of everything you need to do and a schedule for when you’ll do it. Then do it and commit to keep doing it, one day at a time.
Write your goal dates into your calendar, just like you would with any other commitment.
- Break your goal into workable tasks.
- Visualize Your New Future
Before you jump into reinventing yourself, you need to slow down, reflect, and spend some time writing down your thoughts. Ask yourself why you want to reinvent yourself and what you want your future to look like. Make a list of all the things you want to change, and all the ways that you can begin to do so.
- Write down the big changes you want to make.
Maybe you want to lose a considerable amount of weight; maybe you want to learn to be generous; maybe you want to go from working on Wall Street to being a scuba diving instructor. Whatever big changes you want to make, write them down, and make a list of how you can go about accomplishing those goals.
- Write down the small changes, too.
Though reinventing yourself takes big leaps, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the new you won’t be, either. Make a list of small things that can slowly help you build up to your new life. This could be learning to meditate in the morning, volunteering in your community for just an hour a week, or eating more fruits and vegetables every day.
- Write down the big changes you want to make.
- Share your plans to reinvent yourself with others.
Reinventing yourself will be much easier if your loved ones, co-workers, or any other people in your life know about your decision. Sit down with all of the important people in your life and tell them about the change you want to make, and ask for their support during this period of adjustment. They should understand that you’re serious about changing and should help motivate and encourage you as you go through this process.
- If you’re active on social media, share with your online community as well. The more people who know about your plans, the more indebted you’ll feel to making a serious commitment.
- Make sure your loved ones take you seriously. They shouldn’t try to draw you in to the “old you” that you want to shed.
For me, I am working on the steps listed above. Trying to ignore my pain only causes more pain. I am trying to follow my medical professional’s advice. I admit, it is a work in progress and the steps I have taken do not always result in the desired outcome. I am a Type-A personality and it is also very easy to fall back into old habits. I have reduced my work load and I try to take breaks throughout the day. Most evenings I now close up shop by five o’clock so that I can focus on myself and my family. The cutback in hours has resulted in less monthly income so I am trying to find ways to work smarter versus longer each day. I am not going to change careers. I enjoy what I am doing. I am just doing less in attempts to keep my pain level in check. I enjoy riding my trike and working in my flower beds. I’ve know for a long time that even when I am having fun, I have to watch closely as to how much I do. I finally understand that I am not the Ever Ready bunny. Too much of a good thing also triggers the inflammation process and additional pain. I am learning to listen to my body and break up work and fun into smaller time chunks and I now try to stop doing before I get too tired.
By acknowledging my limitations and planning accordingly I am, in effect, putting myself first. I’ve learned that if I don’t push the envelope and, most importantly, accept the fact that I have limitations, I can participate in activities and life more often. Personally, I would rather be a player than watch life pass me by from the sidelines. How about you? Is it time to reinvent yourself and make the necessary changes to improve your life?