I’ve never had a burning desire to skydive.
I can’t imagine stepping to that open door thousands of feet off the ground, with a parachute strapped to my back, looking down, and thinking:
“Yeah, I should jump, this is going to be awesome.”
My oldest daughter is turning 18 this weekend, and that is exactly what she wants to do. I guess I can be proud to say I have raised someone with that brand of courage.
Even though skydiving is not something that appeals to me, as someone who is newly divorced, I have found myself comparing this “I have no idea what the rest of my life is going to look like” feeling to staring down those thousands of feet and knowing that I have to jump, or I will find myself incredibly disappointed with myself and my life circumstances.
Although I wouldn’t consider myself a risk-taker, I have arrived at a point where it seems playing it safe is not an acceptable option.
I can’t escape the knowledge that the examined, self-reflective life is the only one worth living and it requires continual striving for hard fought growth.
The older we get and the more set in our ways we become, there is not a lot of comfort in the process of unlearning the patterns that created the need to reinvent in the first place. There is, however, sweet satisfaction in the striving and small victories that grace our lives when we embrace the need for often dreaded change.
Two years ago, I found myself staring down the proverbial drop, armed with my parachute of friends and family, a roof over my head, and four amazing kids.
Although it’s been a process marked by high highs and low lows, today I find myself taking note of the lessons learned along the way that have made beautiful moments out of tumultuous times.
1. Tap into a strength that is greater than you.
Change can be a crazy, exciting process, but most of the time it’s scary, challenging, and tiring. Knowing that there is something bigger than us out there guiding the universe, that it doesn’t all rest on our shoulders, and that we have somewhere to turn when our strength is waning helps us to take ourselves a little less seriously and give us the room to know that we are not in charge of everything.
Belief in a higher power is instrumental in the most successful rehabilitation programs, and when we are trying to break old habits that have brought us this far—not just rehabilitate our old life, but rather create one that is even better—belief in a higher power will help us tap into new energy and give us peace to help sustain a new path.
2. Set a routine.
I figured out through my own reinvention that I’m not a wallower. Lack of action makes me anxious and fearful and gives me too much time to overanalyze and feel sorry for myself (which is the kryptonite of reinvention).
Even though my heart was broken and I felt alone, I looked for a few simple things that gave me peace, and I began to set a routine around them.
Routine is designed to keep you moving, almost without having to think about it, on those early “one foot in front of the other” days of change. Through routine, we gain clarity and through that clarity, we can see what we want out of our lives.
I felt that peaceful energy in church, in the ocean, and at yoga. So there it began: I would practice yoga, go to church every week, and get in the ocean every day—and my routine grew from there.
3. Adopt optimism and a growth mindset.
No situation was ever made better by a pessimistic outlook.
I started my blog, “The Optimists Journal,” because I believe that the root of all success is planted in optimism. Not blind optimism, (the kind that just expects the best to happen no matter what), but rather optimism that is grounded in good intention and some seriously uncomfortable work.
For some of us, optimism comes a little easier because we were born with that outlook—but make no mistake, as life goes on and challenges, tragedies, and hardships come our way, optimism is a choice that must be made to live our best life.
If you like the idea of being an optimist, but are having a hard time making the jump, there are lots of podcasts and books out there that can help inspire a healthy and optimistic growth mindset. I’d highly recommend the book You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero and the podcasts “Impact Theory” or “Finding Mastery” for starters.
4. Embrace the strangeness of it all.
Change, especially for rule-following habit seekers like me, is never easy, but I do remember the day where the dread of the unknown became the promise of the possible.
In the beginning, it’s hard to hold on to those moments, because we want to fall back into our comfy, even if less-than-ideal, lives. If you get a glimpse, though, of one of those moments where you see the infinitely possible—draw it, write it down, do something to capture it, and cling to it like crazy while you take the small steps forward that will get you there.
For me, the only thing I knew for sure about myself was that I was a great mom. I had to turn the hard fact that I wouldn’t have my kids 50 percent of the time into the opportunity to learn, write, and take time for myself, which, after getting married at 22 and having my firstborn at 25, was a completely foreign experience.
The foreign experience is exactly the place to start when you are trying to create something new. Newness can never begin from our old patterns.
5. Use only what you need.
In almost every yoga class I attend, there is a mantra or a concept that I carry home with me. In the middle of an intense power flow class one day, the teacher spoke these words in the middle of her sequence:
“Use only what you need.”
Knowing we were being challenged, she was encouraging us not to spend unnecessary energy as we flowed with her words. My body was sweating and shaking with the challenge, but I immediately saw the parallel. When reinventing at midlife, a lot of energy goes into changing our long held patterns and habits. Stressing about things that are out of our control and feeling sorry for our current circumstances takes our energy, and it results in us having less vibrancy to create our new story.
6. Don’t be a perfectionist—there will be setbacks.
The thing about recreating at midlife is that we have more to “unlearn” about ourselves than your average 20 or even 30-year-old.
Because of this simple fact, there will be setbacks.
Old habits die hard and we have to prepare ourselves for a lot of repetition and some mistakes. My setbacks have come mostly because I let other people’s judgments get in the way of my own powerful intuition. When people have been used to us living and being a certain way for a long time, our change often looks foreign and even threatening to them.
I remind myself that they are operating from their own point of view and have a limited view of my experience. In these moments, I also work hard to remember that I am the only one who limits my own potential and validates my real plan. I don’t expect instant results—and to get back on track, I return to writing down my grand vision when I make a choice that sets me back.
7. Forgive and accept.
This is a big one, and it can take some time.
Forgiveness comes in the form of forgiving ourselves, someone who has hurt us, or even that higher power that is pushing us out the door of that airplane, straight into the uncomfortable free fall.
The truth is though, without forgiveness, our spirits cannot be set free to create something new. We will remain stuck in the loop of our old story, looking for just one more chance, or another explanation that pulls us away from the journey that is meant for us. We have to let it go, let ourselves, or them, or him, or her off the hook, and find acceptance. From this pure and weightless spot, our victimhood is released, our story belongs to us, and our potential is unlimited.
My daughter has plans with her dad to jump out of an airplane for her 18th birthday, and although I won’t be joining her on that outing, I’d like to think that my story plays a small role in the courage that she feels living her life every day.
Our choices belong to us, but they affect so much more in this crazy, mixed-up world we live in.
When life calls us to reinvent, it is our chance to offer the world something great—the best of ourselves—and see what kind of ripple effect that it produces.