Reinventing yourself is hard, frightening, and risky. But it may be the only way that you’ll find sustainable happiness in the future, so it’s worth all the risks.
It’s impossible for me to tell you how you should reinvent yourself. After all, we’re all different and no one can and should tell you how to live your life. But there are some helpful tips that will make it easier for you to reinvent yourself. This can help you deal with the fear of the unknown and show you why it’s important to reinvent yourself with a positive mindset.
In this article, I’ll share tips and examples to help you reinvent yourself, starting today. So whether you’re unhappy in your career, or you want to change your life completely, you are in the right place.
- The dilemma of reinventing yourself
- Don’t live your life with regrets
- 5 ways to reinvent yourself
- Wrapping up
Did you know that you are happier when you have a purpose and a passion in life? This article is a part of the biggest (free) guide on how to be happy and is covered in the section Purpose In Life. This section teaches you how to be happier by finding your “Why” in life.
The dilemma of reinventing yourself
From the day we’re born, we’re raised to believe that we should find our purpose in life.
At a relatively young age, we’re forced to choose what we want to do for the rest of our lives. What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s such a difficult question, and without ever having actually tried a profession, we’re supposed to study for years to hopefully end up enjoying the career that we chose.
Naturally, it’s easy to see why many people end up making the wrong decision. In fact, only 13% of workers from the United States find happiness in what they do for a living, according to this study.
And for the lucky 13% of people that do get it right, there’s another caveat: What you enjoy now won’t necessarily be something you’ll enjoy in 5, 10, or 20 years.
In other words, even if you feel like you found your purpose in life, your purpose can still change over time.
Your purpose in life can change
We’ve written an entire article about how your purpose in life can change.
The gist of it is that your circumstances in life change all the time. As you grow older, you will learn new things that will help shape your mind.
In my example, I chose to study civil engineering when I was 18 years old. My reasoning? I thought it would be cool to draw, engineer, and build massive bridges and tunnels. I spent 4 years in school to get my Bachelor’s degree, and eventually found a job in offshore engineering.
I initially liked the job, but it had practically no overlap with anything that I studied for. Yes, it was still “engineering” but I could easily forget 95% of everything I ever studied for.
Flash forward to a few years later and I’ve completely reinvented myself, or at least my entire career. I quit my engineering job to focus working on Tracking Happiness (this website!).
Long story short: your life purpose can (and probably will) change over time.
But this may actually be a good thing. If you want to reinvent yourself and have no idea what you want to spend the rest of your life on, then you can rest assured knowing that your purpose in life has probably changed. If you accept the fact that whatever you choose to do is not definitive, it will be easier to accept something new and move on from something that’s holding you back.
What’s keeping you from reinventing yourself?
If you want to reinvent yourself, you can experience all kinds of conflicting thoughts.
For me, these thoughts mostly consisted of:
- Why the hell did I spent all this time studying for something that I’m never going to use again?
- How the hell am I going to find a job with no education and zero formal experience?
- How long will I last before I desperately have to try to get my old job back?
Most of these doubts are caused by the fear of the unknown, the fear of failure, and the sunk cost fallacy.
In order to reinvent yourself, you need to listen to yourself and not focus less on these negative thoughts.
Dealing with fear when reinventing yourself
It’s important to remember that all types of fear serve a purpose – to protect us from potential danger and keep us alive. So to an extent, it’s normal and even beneficial to be afraid of the new and the unfamiliar.
The fear of trying something new is often called neophobia, especially if the fear is irrational or persistent.
Fear of failure, also known as atychiphobia, is fairly common. I’m willing to bet that you have experienced it, too. Whether it’s not applying for a new job or not taking dance lessons for the first time, most of us have been held back by the fear of failure at some point in our lives.
Sunk cost fallacy
The sunk cost fallacy is also a common blocker for people trying to reinvent themselves. Most commonly, it keeps you from changing careers because you spent all this time, effort, and money trying to climb the ladder of your current job.
- Throwing away a bit of your career progress, or…
- Be stuck in your soul-sucking job for the rest of your life?
I am purposefully making this look like an easy decision here, but I’m fully aware that it’s not.
I’ve been in this situation myself, and choosing to leave the career I spent over a decade working for (including school) was a really tough decision. Ultimately, I’ve never regretted this decision, but every case is unique. For example, if you’re already close to retiring, then your situation is completely different from mine.
The question that you need to ask yourself is: How much am I really “throwing away” vs. how much life do I still have to live?
Don’t live your life with regrets
One of my favorite articles online is called “Regrets of the Dying”, which covers the most frequently quoted regrets of people on their deathbed. It’s a fascinating story since it uncovers what most people regret the most as they are near the end of their lives. Here’s the gist of it:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
The first one is especially powerful.
If you keep yourself from reinventing yourself, you’ll risk a life of regrets. Sure, there are lots of valid reasons to never leave your comfort zone, but what would you rather want? A safe life or a happy life?
I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.Diane Ackerman
5 ways to reinvent yourself
Whether you’re afraid or worried about what others will think when you reinvent yourself, here are 5 actionable ways to help you get started today. Don’t worry: reinventing yourself doesn’t happen overnight, and these tips are not as definitive as you may think.
These tips will mostly help you deal with all the psychological fears that might stop you from reinventing yourself.
1. Accept the fear of starting something new
It’s natural that you’re dealing with the fear of starting something new. Reinventing yourself means that you’ll be stepping out of your comfort zone, into something that’s unfamiliar and new.
We’ve written an entire article on how to deal with the fear of starting something new. Arguably the most helpful tip from this article is to simply accept the fear.
People often think that they shouldn’t be afraid to reinvent themselves in the first place. However, if you’re already scared, thinking that you shouldn’t be scared usually only makes the fear stronger. Accept that you’re afraid and focus your efforts on becoming confident, instead of beating yourself up for having a completely natural reaction.
2. Try to mitigate your risks
The next thing you should do is focus on the things you can control. What things are causing you to be afraid, anxious, or hesitant?
While you probably can’t deal with the source of these emotions, you can still focus on things that are within your control.
If you’re contemplating a career change, your biggest worry might be your financial situation.
- What if you won’t find a new job?
- What if the job market will crash?
These are things that you can’t control anyway, so why not focus your attention elsewhere?
- Make a budget.
- Spend less than you earn, and save money for an emergency fund.
- Carefully plan your expenses for a change in your career and try to cover your risks.
- Keep in contact with your former network.
- Update your LinkedIn profile so that people know where to find you.
You see where I’m getting at. Instead of focusing on negative things that are out of your control, turn your energy into positivity instead.
3. Start small
Reinventing yourself doesn’t mean you have to burn your clothes, show your boss the middle finger or buy a luxury car.
Instead, you should make a plan and start small. Change happens one step at a time.
Let’s say you want to start living a healthy life. This is, of course, a very big and noble goal, but it’s much better if you could narrow it down into smaller sub-goals. Try to figure out smaller, more specific goals, like:
- Stop eating junk food on weekdays.
- Spend 30 minutes exercising twice a week.
- Wake up before 08:00 5 days a week.
- Go to bed before midnight.
- Take 10,000 steps per day.
By making a plan and starting small, you’ll find it much easier to build lasting habits that will slowly transform your life.
These goals can be narrowed down even further. For example:
Want to spend 30 minutes exercising twice a week? Start out by exercising for just 10 minutes tonight. Then, in 2 days, try to exercise for 20 minutes. Next week, try to exercise for 30 minutes, etcetera. Building habits isn’t about reaching your end goal immediately, it is about engraining doing that one thing you want to achieve every day.
4. Start with something new that you always wanted to try
Reinventing yourself is about drastically changing your life. Naturally, you’re going to have to do things you’ve never done before.
In order to help you deal with the fear of the unknown, you may want to start with the most fun and exciting thing you can imagine. This will help you enter the new phase of your life with a bang!
While it may be cliche, a great way to do this is to do something big:
- Go on a solo bicycle touring trip.
- Sign up for a race.
- Go skydiving.
- Plan a multi-day hike through the nature.
- Go on a helicopter ride.
The benefit of doing this is two-fold:
- These are all things you would normally feel nervous about. As we discussed, it’s the fear of trying something new that makes you nervous or scared. But by picking something you’ve always wanted to do, you’ll find it easier to step over your fear and do it anyway.
- Reinventing yourself is easier when you’re having fun! If the first thing you did was something horrible – like quitting your job and being yelled at by your manager – then it’s a lot harder to stay persistent and push through.
5. Keep a journal
If you’re not already keeping a journal, I would highly advise you to start before reinventing yourself.
We’ve covered the benefits of journaling extensively on this site already, but there’s one benefit that specifically helps you when you want to turn your life around:
- A journal will keep you from romanticizing your “old life”.
When reinventing yourself, there will come a time that things don’t go your way. You’ll start to question yourself, and whether or not your old life was really that bad.
By keeping a journal, you’ll be able to look back on your old entries and read about how unhappy your former self was.
In my case, this has helped me stay on track. For example, here’s a journal entry from back when I was still in my offshore engineering job. At the time, I was absolutely miserable.
Today was another terrible day at work… I bet my colleagues don’t even know how sick I am of it.
At work, I’m the hard working, smiling and problem-solving Hugo. But as soon as I drive off the parking lot, my mask comes off. And suddenly, I’m the depressed Hugo, the one that has zero energy left for the things that normally excite me. Fucking hell.
Dear future Hugo, please don’t look back on this job as if it’s something good. You are just a number, you’re not as important as you think, and you will be replaced in a heartbeat. Don’t let your life revolve around some company that you don’t like working for.Journal entry from March 2020
This journal entry uses something called “future self journaling”. This link contains more examples of how future self journaling can benefit you.
While reinventing yourself is not easy and frightening as hell, you have to ask yourself an important question: Do you want a safe life or a happy life? Do you want to live just the length of your life, or also the width of it? While no one can tell you what to do, I hope these 5 tips will help you find the courage to reinvent yourself, no matter where you are in life.
What do you think? Did I miss an important tip? Do you want to share your story of how you reinvented yourself? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!