Victoria here. . .
The secret to successfully reinventing yourself is first to be clear about who you want to be. Then, implement each step outlined below, and do each step well, one at a time, until completion. Each step is important, and the steps must be taken in the order they are presented.
I realize that 7 steps can be overwhelming at first glance. As you can imagine, reinventing yourself at any age requires time, attention to detail, repeated practice, patience, and follow through. But the effort is worth it! For best results, grab a notebook and keep a written journal as you work your way through the outline below.
I want you to be successful, so I am happy to help if you have questions. Feel free to write me with your questions or concerns, either in the comment box at the bottom of this page or on the Contact Page of our website.
7 Steps to Reinventing Yourself
1. Realize that you are suffering. All too often, we hang in there trying to make the best of a situation that will never, ever get better. We have our reasons: We’re loyal, we’re strong, we’re afraid of change, we don’t want to hurt our family, or we fear ending up alone.
Lord knows it takes courage and effort to change the status quo, whether it’s work, your spouse, or how you live. But sometimes, we are left no choice but to start over and reinvent ourselves. If you stay too long in a deadening situation, you run the risk of becoming physically ill. When this is the case, put pride aside and admit you are miserable. Be honest with yourself that no amount of effort on your part will change the situation and it is time to start anew.
The good news: It’s never too late to reinvent yourself.
2. Clearly define what to change. Is it a physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual limitation? Is it a situation involving others? Once you clearly identify the problem, write it down in your journal. Now, make two columns and clarify what you can realistically change and what you cannot.
You want a comprehensive description of what is limiting you, specifically what you want to change, and whom you want to become. In your journal, make a sheet with three columns: 1) why you are reinventing yourself, 2) what you want to change, and 3) who you want to become—the qualities you want to embody in the future.
3. Create a new identity. Behavioral change will not happen until your self-image and self-talk are aligned with the person you want to become. For example, if you want to be a good dancer, you won’t get far if you tell yourself you are too old to learn to dance. Better to begin thinking of yourself as a dancer—someone who loves to dance, takes classes, and is always improving, someone who will be a good dancer with time and practice. It’s OK to be a work in progress, as long as you keep your thoughts positive.
Write a detailed description of who you want to become in your journal—who you will be after reinventing yourself. Create and routinely practice the self-talk that defines your new identity, such as. . .I am a dancer, I am someone who loves dancing, I am a person who enjoys taking classes so I can become a better dancer.
4. Create a written action plan. Writing down your goals and creating an action plan to achieve them vastly improves your chance of being successful. When you keep your plans in your mind and don’t commit them to paper, they remain only thoughts. Writing an action plan encourages you to implement them daily, as well as giving you the impetus to do them.
You can find hundreds of action plan templates on the Internet. I prefer to keep it simple, so I recommend Turn Your Goals Into Action: A Simple Guide To Tracking Your Success by Anjelica Alam. The organizational tools and daily inspiration she offers are just enough to keep you focused without over-structuring and undermining your individuality. If you prefer more structured plans, many free ones are available online.
5. Build good habits to support your New Self. If you rely on doing things as you’ve always done them when reinventing yourself, nothing will change. As we all know, old habits die hard, so you have to build new ones. Throw yourself into this adventure by creating new routines and habits that reinforce your new identity.
The best book I know on habit building is Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear. He makes it clear that motivation alone will not be enough when reinventing yourself. Creating and maintaining good habits are how you will pull off the conscious changes needed to create your new identity. I listened to this book on Audible and was continually inspired to use his habit-forming strategies. Not only do they really work, but they are fun and simple as well. Highly recommend!
6. Face the fear and do it anyway. Let’s face it, you are going to have doubts and dark moments of indecision when reinventing yourself, maybe even despair. There will be times when your confidence is so low that you doubt you’ll ever accomplish the goals you set for yourself.
Hanging in there during times of doubt and doing it anyway is how successful people improve their lives. Although it may look like it from the outside, no one glides easily to the top.
Some tricks I learned along the way to keep going when I lose hope:
- Understand that low points and doubts are part of the process;
- Instead of being surprised by the low times, anticipate them and be prepared with specific strategies;
- Outline strategies ahead of time to buoy yourself up during the down times, such as listening to upbeat music or watching fun movies, calling friends who support your efforts, getting out into nature, reading inspirational authors, taking daily breaks when your work schedule is intense, and whatever else picks up your spirits;
- Recover as quickly as you can and pick up where you left off, not skipping more than 2 days of practice; and
- Use positive self-talk to remind yourself you are on the right track.
7. Surround yourself with friends who support your growth. None of us can realize our dreams on our own. We all need supportive people to congratulate us when we do well and cheer us on when we falter.
Most of us would like these supportive people to be family, but this is often not the case. Loved ones can feel threatened when your relationship with them changes as a result of reinventing yourself. So if you’re not encouraged to be your best self by family members, look elsewhere for support.
The best idea is to connect with others who have similar values and life aspirations, and who are actively working to make their dreams a reality. For example, if you want to become a good dancer, take dance lessons, and make friends with the other students. Research local dance events and get together with your new friends there. Go to meetups, watch dance exhibitions on YouTube, and listen to dance music whenever you can. In other words, surround yourself with dancing, and let the music carry you away.
When you put the first six steps together and then surround yourself with encouraging, supportive people, you are bound to reinvent yourself in ways you only previously imagined.
A real-life example
One of my clients, whom I’ll call Cindy, was having problems with her knees. Both were extremely painful when she walked, which drained her energy and limited what she could do. To make matters worse, she was putting on weight from being inactive.
Her family physician diagnosed her knees as being osteoarthritic and referred her to physical therapy. But after a few visits, she stopped going. When I asked if she was doing the exercises they recommended, she mumbled, “Oh, I don’t think they do any good,” and added with a shrug, “Maybe they’ll get better on their own.” Cindy was in denial.
But her knees did not improve, and the pain intensified. She became less mobile and more despondent as the weeks passed. Finally, one day she broke down in tears and had to admit she was miserable—the pain was excruciating, and she could barely walk to the car.
The time had come when she had to acknowledge that ignoring the problem would not make it go away. She had to do things differently—she had to change. But Cindy grew up being called clumsy by her older sister and never took an interest in sports or working out to improve her body.
Although she knew surgery was an option, she eventually decided to try to rehabilitate her knees with the exercises from physical therapy. She described how she had always loved to hike in nature and dance, that she loved the sensuality of movement. As we talked more, Cindy began to understand that she had always secretly wanted to be an athlete but never dared because her sister made fun of her clumsiness.
So, I had her clarify exactly what she wanted to change and what her new identity would be. She wanted to walk again with ease. She wanted to dance and hike again, and she would no longer think of herself as clumsy. Now, she would define herself as a woman who loves moving her body. She would give physical therapy her best effort, and if that didn’t work, she would opt for surgery. Either way, she was a woman who enjoys the sensuality of moving her body.
I encouraged her to write her thoughts down in a journal. She picked out a notebook with women walking through a park on the cover and began filling it with descriptions of who she was becoming—her new identity.
She repurposed a second bedroom, which her grandkids had used when they were younger, into a personal space she dedicated to reinventing herself. She repainted the walls bolder colors, covering the pastels associated with childhood. She tore out the old stained rug and replaced it with a tight weave better suited for exercise. She chose photos of happy, active women hiking, working out, and dancing and pinned them to the wall.
The next challenge was how to build the habit of exercise into her life. It was clear she would have to exercise every day to bring about the change she desired. A daily workout would be a new habit for her, but Cindy already drank a green shake every morning, which she loved because it made her feel healthy. So, we used a strategy called habit stacking to establish the practice of exercising daily. The plan was that every morning after drinking the shake, she would go into her room and exercise. We reasoned that following her established habit with the new one would increase its chances of sticking.
And, it did. Doing the exercises after her morning shake was easier than Cindy had imagined. She was surprised by how much she enjoyed paying careful attention to how her body moved. She had never spent time alone getting to know her body. The little bedroom became her sanctuary, the place where she devoted time to improving herself. As she continued, she found she enjoyed adding new exercises to her routine, which strengthened her body in other ways as well.
Eventually, she reduced the pain in her knees and improved her mobility to where she can take long walks again. But much more than mobility has changed for Cindy since she reinvented herself. She now thinks of herself as a woman who loves exercising and takes every opportunity to be outside walking and hiking. Dancing is still a ways out, but she feels so much better about herself that I know she will devote the time and effort to improve her life once again. I cannot say this will work for everyone, but aren’t you worth the time and effort it takes to reinvent yourself?
Have you reinvented yourself to overcome injury, loss, or set-backs? If so, let us know in the comments below!