I am writing this post outdoors on a wooden bench next to a small lake. Natural sounds and sights surround me: trees, grass, birds, and insects…lots of insects. As those who know me can attest, I am generally not an outdoorsy person, particularly when the temperature is above 85 degrees as it is right now. But I do experiment with possibilities. For example, is it possible writing outdoors will lead to increased focus and fluidity?
Moreover, my experimental writing location is part of a larger intention to shift how, why, and when I work so I can be more present in my work and my play.
This is not the first time I have felt the need to change how I engage with the world. I feel pulled to reinvention every four to six years usually after I have achieved a life goal or felt forced to alter one. Some reinventions have been seismic, like leaving the business world to pursue psychology. Some have been subtle, like broadening the focus of my writing through blogging.
The commonality among my reinventions is purposefulness—(re)making the choice to bravely explore what my spirit seeks whether that is a profession that aligns more closely with my sense of purpose or a more public platform for improving the well-being of others.
My reinvention process usually starts with feelings of restlessness. Through practice and support I have learned ways to increase my courage, comfort, and patience with this process. Instead of running from these feelings as I did in my youth, I now engage them. I acknowledge them (sometimes grudgingly) as a sign I am ready to risk embarking on change.
If you have recently experienced an event that has left you unmoored—career promotion, health crisis, personal loss, household move, marriage or divorce, LBGT coming out, birth or adoption of a child, retirement—I invite you to open yourself to the possibility that a reinvention, a change, is in order.
Fortunately or unfortunately, there are multiple paths toward self-reinvention. Below is one set of practices that might make finding your path easier.
When “negative” emotions like restlessness or anxiety come up, it is natural to avoid them whether through artificial busyness, distraction, or disconnection—think scheduling every second of your time, overeating, excessive alcohol/drug use, or zoning out in front of the TV/tablet/phone. Instead of squelching your feelings, choose to engage them by creating time and space for silence and non-judgmental reflection. Sit (or squirm) with what surfaces.
Underneath the feelings are messages about what you need that is presently absent from your life. Journaling, meditation, and nature walks are helpful ways to bring these messages forward. Listen to these messages to determine what need they are pointing toward. If you identify more than one need, consider which one feels most pressing.
Explore what is possible if you courageously choose to walk toward fulfilling this need—a hard exercise for many even in fantasy. If you want help imagining, respond to the questions below. Caveat: give yourself permission to embrace honestly, without censure, your initial responses.
The distance between wanting to change and actually doing so can be wide. Hold close that every journey begins with a first step. That step need not be long; it just needs to be. What can you do now to take one step toward exploring your need? Once done, what can you do now? And now? And now?
P.S. Sometimes we need guidance with one or more of these practices. That guidance may be a coach, therapist, group, practice, or location. For my most recent transformation, my guidance came in the form of an amazing writing retreat where I was showered with support from Michelle Boyd, retreat organizer extraordinaire and friend and a group of other amazing women retreatants. Together they helped me slowly exhale into imagining and responding.
In peace and solidarity