Every month Generation Fabulous hosts a bloghop for midlife women bloggers. This month’s topic is Reinvention. To participate all you need is to be a midlife blogger and follow the BlogHop Linky Tools instructions located at the bottom of this post. Remember, your contributing post must be about Reinvention, or it will be removed.
The Story of Allison and How She Reinvented Herself in 5 Easy Steps
Allison was born to be an aesthetician, and she knew it. She loved skincare, make-up, and helping her friends feel more beautiful. Plus, she had a natural knack for listening to people’s problems. But Allison’s problem was that she already had a steady job as a busy full-time manager at an internet cafe.
Middle-aged and divorced, pursuing her dream career would mean stepping out on quite a limb for Allison. With nobody to financially support her through the aesthetician program, she had no idea how she could afford to go to school. And with the economy as it was, quitting her job seemed entirely out of the question. And money wasn’t her only obstacle. Growing up, she hadn’t been a good student. The mere thought of going back to school gave her an anxiety attack. On top of that, Allison had never been anything other than someone else’s employee. She didn’t know the first thing about being in business for herself.
Like many people, Allison wasn’t really happy about her current life, but she didn’t know how to make the leap from where she was to where she dreamed of going. She knew she was stuck in a rut, but she couldn’t see a way to unstick herself. Not easily, anyway.
Then the unthinkable happened.
Three weeks after her big 50th birthday party, the owners of the cafe called Allison into the office and told her they were selling out to another franchise, and the new owners planned to bring in their own manager. And just like that, Allison was down-sized. This was a disaster!
Or was it?
When Life Hands You Lemons
Allison spent the first six weeks of her unemployment sitting in front of the TV in a daze wondering what she was going to do with the rest of her life. She desperately needed a life makeover. And quick!
One day, growing tired of watching daytime TV with its endlessly depressing commercials aimed at the unemployed, Allison woke up and decided that nobody was going to come rescue her. She needed to make serious choices if she wanted her life to resemble her dreams. So she got herself dressed, went down to the Beauty School and enrolled in the aesthetician program. She was scared, and money was very tight, but Allison made it through the program, and passed her licensing exam with flying colors.
Today, if you want an appointment with Allison you’d better call weeks in advance because her calendar fills up quickly. She says she’s happier than she’s ever been now that she’s finally doing something she loves. And instead of earning $15 an hour making coffee, Allison now makes $75 an hour helping women feel good about themselves.
I’m telling this story today because I think Allison has a lot to teach us about how to reinvent ourselves. Whether Allison knew it at the time or not, she took the five important steps to reinvention.
How to Reinvent Yourself
1. Reinvention Demands a Decision
Reinvention doesn’t happen by accident. You will have to make a conscious choice to start, and continue making these conscious choices right through your entire process of reinvention. That’s because reinvention is hard, and the opportunity to quit and go back to the way things were is always a huge temptation.
Isaac Newton understood this principle when he wrote his first law of motion:
An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.
According the very Laws of Physics, your life and my life will continue on its same trajectory, or languish at a standstill, until either we do something about it, or some outside force acts upon us, forcing us to change.
Allison would have stayed at her safe job if she’d had her druthers, but suddenly the job went away and she was faced with decisions. She could have made many different choices, including staying in her pajamas all day and watching Dr. Phil, but Allison used the unwanted job loss as the impetus to make a decision to go to beauty school and become an aesthetician.
2. Reinvention Begins on the Inside
After the 5th week of watching old reruns of Bonanza, and commercials about what she should do if she ever was lucky enough to receive a large disability insurance settlement, Allison’s head started to clear from her grief over losing her job, and she began imagining what she really wanted to do with her life.
She truly didn’t miss being a barista. What she did miss were the people who came to the cafe to see her. Many people came every day, not just for the coffee, but to get a hug and a listening ear from Allison. Knowing she could really help people as an aesthetician, Allison resurrected her dreams. She stopped focusing on the job she lost and began visualizing what her life would look like if she were doing what she’d really wanted to be doing all along.
The power of imagination and visualization, and their role in reinvention, isn’t some New Agey psychobabble mumbo-jumbo. Even Solomon wrote in Proverbs 23:7, “…as a man thinketh, so he is.”
Reinvention always begins in our imagination.
What would your life look like if it was how you wanted it to be? Most importantly, what would it feel like being successful with your reinvention?
Start imagining yourself getting up each day and living your reinvented life.
Imagination and visualization aren’t just important for getting you motivated towards your reinvention, but necessary when the going gets tough.
3. Reinvention Takes Intention
Allison didn’t just wake up one day and find herself in her dream career. She made a written plan on how she was going to get there.
Are you looking to start a new career? Do you want to have a new outlook or attitude? Do you want to become a person who exercises and takes care of themselves physically? Would you like to see changes in the relationships in your life?
What steps do you need to take to get to your reinvention? Do your research and write down what it would take to achieve your goals.
Getting your plan down in writing takes your dreams from the theoretical and starts the process towards making them real. And because reinvention isn’t easy, and there will be roadblocks and obstacles along the way, writing out a plan will help keep you track of your progress.
4. Reinvention Needs Support
When Allison decided to go back to school she understood that she needed support. so she shared her plans with family and friends.
Tell your loved ones what your goals are and share with them your plans for how you’re going to get there.
Hearing about your dreams, and seeing your plan on how you’re going to achieve them makes it real not just for you, but for your support people. And people are much more willing to be supportive if they see you’ve already gone to the effort of writing out a plan.
And don’t forget social media when searching for support. Online communities, like Generation Fabulous, can be terrific places to find others who will support your dreams.
Unfortunately, as you tell people about your dreams and plans, know upfront that you are going to face opposition.
Allison had this happen to her. One of her best friends was adamant that Allison give up her “pipe dream”. She told Allison that what she needed to do was take any job she could right away because the longer she stayed unemployed the more unemployable she would become. As her friend talked, Allison grew fearful, and even began second-guessing herself.
Some people feel that they are helping you most by peeing all over your parade. They rationalize this by reassuring themselves, and you, that their negativity is for your own good.
Sometimes people are negative because they are truly concerned for you, or they are worried that you just might reinvent them right out of you life. These people might still become your biggest allies once their own fears for you, or the relationship, are allayed.
But sometimes people are negative towards your dreams because of their own issues about being stuck in their own lives. Misery does seem to love a bit of company. And if you get unstuck what does that say about their own excuses for staying stuck themselves?
When dealing with pushback, try to honestly assess the other person’s motives behind their negativity. Do they have a valid point? Is your goal or dream unrealistic or unreasonable? Maybe you need to flesh out that plan a bit better. If their negativity stems from a true concern then you might be able to reassure them, or at least get them to give you the benefit of the doubt as you move towards your goal.
But if you know in your heart that you are being realistic, and the other person’s intentions are not benevolent, do not be afraid to protect your dreams. Erect boundaries that let the other person know that you’ve heard their concerns, but you are moving forward despite them.
5. Reinvention Requires Letting Go of the Past
One of the biggest obstacles Allison faced was her fear of returning to school. Although Allison was in fact very bright, she’d never been a good student. Her own mother had ridiculed her when she was a child by telling her she was stupid. Allison was terrified of failure. If she was ever going to see her dream realized she was going to have to face down the demons from her past.
Our past experiences definitely inform our present situation, but our pasts only define who we are if we allow it. Reinvention requires acknowledging the lessons from the past, but then letting go of the pain from those lessons so you can move forward.
Maybe you were a poor student in high school, but that doesn’t mean you would be a poor student now. Maybe your career suited you when you were younger, but it doesn’t suit you any longer, and that’s okay. Maybe you have always had a poor relationship with food, or with your body, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change and form a new relationship with food and exercise. People do it every day.
You can reinvent your life if you set your mind to it. Just because you’ve always done something, or been a certain way, doesn’t mean you have to accept that today. We might not be in control over everything, but we are always in control of ourselves and the choices we make.