Have you ever found yourself at that sweet scary crossroad in life, facing a huge decision to make?
Maybe something unexpected has happened. And all of a sudden, you have an opportunity appear in front of you that will mean huge changes in your life. Do you take it? Or let it pass?
Or, as it happens far too often, perhaps life has begun to feel cramped somehow. You’ve started wondering whether “this” is all there is.
Your heart says you want ”more”. You’re antsy to do something different.
Oh my. Should you take the path of least resistance (aka, same old same old)?
OR do you cross your fingers, make the leap, and go towards that life you’ve been imagining in your head?
Reality check: Going towards the exciting unknown is always a scary proposition, no matter our age. But when we’re thinking of doing this after we’ve lived a life, we’re talking a different level of daunting altogether.
Deliberately choosing to reinvent yourself IS A BIG DEAL. All sorts of feelings, like fear and guilt and doubt and second-guessing yourself, come out of the woodwork.
Oh, I know! I felt all of those when I faced that dang crossroad myself. I made the 2-steps-forward-1-step-back dance many times.
With a few false starts and lots of debates with myself (never a fun thing), I chose a path and made it through.
Here are the 6 steps I took. Distilled and cleared of all the mental debris that accompanied the journey.
1. Know that it’s okay. It’s part of growing.
First: Forget feeling guilty about wanting something different or “more” out of your life.
There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re not being ungrateful for all your current blessings.
It’s normal that your interests and priorities have evolved. So, whatever it is that was ALL IMPORTANT ten years ago, may not mean as much to you now.
It’s part of living and growing.
Don’t be embarrassed to say that your current life – no matter how hugely successful it is – no longer fits.
2. Notice the discontent.
It’s a sign. It’s your spirit, mojo, gut, whatever you want to call it – telling you about the parts in your life that need some attention and tune-up.
What about your current life feels empty? When do you feel this way? Where do you feel crappy?
Listen to your gut. There is a reason you found yourself at this crossroad. It’s important to understand what got you there to avoid designing it into your new life.
3. Flesh it out.
This is about putting meat to the bones.
What’s your new, ideal life all about? Picture it. Design it in your head.
Imagine you living it. Imagine a day in that life. What are you doing? Where are you living? Who are you hanging out with? How are you feeling?
This may take more than one attempt – so be patient with yourself. AND expect the picture to change and evolve the more you tease it out.
As you begin to re-imagine your life, you’ll notice things will naturally become clearer.
Your initial vague statements about that new life will get more focused. Refined.
You’ll begin to identify things (people, situations, stuff) you don’t want to have around anymore. AND, you’ll begin to figure out what to fill your new life with instead.
4. When you’re ready, tell someone.
I am a big fan of incubating ideas. I believe in nurturing an idea before you show it to the world…because, let’s face it, the world can be confusing and downright mean sometimes.
Much like a small bird coming out of it’s shell. Its wings aren’t strong yet, so you’ve got to protect it. You won’t just throw it out into the wind and expect it to soar just then, right?
Choose carefully, who you talk to first.
And set the right expectations for yourself before you do so. Are you telling this person for buy-in? For approval? For ideas? For support, financial or otherwise? Or simply, for his/her information?
To be clear, this doesn’t mean find people who will say “YEAH” no matter what you tell them. That’d be cheating.
Talk to people who will support your desire to redefine your life. And who, if they have feedback to give, will give it constructively, without the intent to bring your spirit down.
5. Get ready to go to school again.
This isn’t about college or university, unless that’s what you want or what’s required for you to get to your second act.
It’s about general learning. Acquiring information that you’re going to need for your new life.
Your existing talents and skills ARE transferable. AND you’re going to marry those with newfound tricks you’re going to learn.
This could be figuring out new tools for your new life. Or new habits you’ll need to pick up. Or new networks and associations you’ll need to join. Or new skills that you’ll need to hone.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you focus on what appears to be a “mountain of new stuff” to study.
Just remember this: You don’t need to learn ALL of everything right away. Most things in life can be learned bit by bit, and stacked on top of each other to form the mountain.
The point? You’re going back to learning and growing. And isn’t that great?
6. Take the next concrete step.
No need for one giant leap. It just needs to be a step towards your re-imagined life.
“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness with no action.” – Benjamin Disraeli
We’ve got to get out of our heads at some point, bring that re-imagined life into reality, and take action.
Are you thinking about going back to the workforce after being a stay-at-home mother for a long time? The next concrete step could be preparing your resume and working on your Linked In profile.
Are you thinking of switching careers? The next concrete step could be attending a webinar or a course about your new desired career.
Are you thinking of starting that business you’ve been thinking about forever? The next concrete step could be simply talking to someone who’s done a similar thing and picking up pointers.
Get out of your head and take a small step forward. Then take another. Then another. Before you know it, you’ll be halfway across.
Okay, YOUR TURN
Have you ever found yourself on that crossroad, deciding which path to take forward? What did you do? How did you make the decision?
Lou Blaser is the founder of Second Breaks, a digital learning center for career advancement and the pursuit of a rewarding and fulfilling career.
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