Reinventing yourself and your life can be hard!
Sometimes it can be terrifying to think of what or who you might be, if you no longer had the label or title that has shaped a part of your identity, and how you see yourself.
I went through a period of shame and hiding when I left my corporate career a number of years ago.
Suddenly I didn’t have the flashy title. I didn’t realize how much internal real-estate it had taken up over the years, in influencing how I saw myself.
So, when I suddenly no longer had that identity, who was I?
There was definitely a huge part of me that knew that I had made the right move in choosing a new direction.
That however didn’t stop me from experiencing feelings of being deflated, like I didn’t belong anywhere, feeling like I was maybe lost, drifting at times.
If you are feeling anxious or worried about how you can prepare yourself to best deal with the changes that are starting to happen in your life, then keep reading because I have a powerful 1 step strategy for you to take, that will forever change the way you feel about change, and get you over to your new life faster, without the anxiety and worry!
Leaving a life that feels solid, with titles, benefits, pensions and other such perks can seem both exhilarating and terrifying, both at the same time.
Depending on your mood, who you are in the company of, who you are comparing yourself to, it’s easy to get pulled onto either side of the riverbank – that of fear, or freedom, or anywhere in between.
This is fine. This is part of the process.
This is how you navigate the unknown waters so that the currents of change can eventually carry you to the big wide ocean, and the bigger playground that is waiting for you.
I love sharing personal stories because I believe they can play a huge role in healing the disconnection many of us feel. I want to share a story with you about my dad. In honour of father’s day, and because it’s a powerful story of reinvention!
My dad had has had to reinvent himself, his identity and his entire life three times – and all in very drastic ways.
He started out his career in Sri Lanka where my family is originally from, in the telecommunications industry. He belonged to the average, hard working middle class in Sri Lanka and worked hard to do his part to support his huge family of 9 brothers and sisters, after the death of his own father.
There was a huge cyclone that hit Sri Lanka in 1978, that caused a whole lot of damage throughout the country.
I believe every incident of pain has a present or a gift hidden within it. This is a core and foundational element to my coaching work with clients.
One of the gifts that my dad received from this experience, is that he got to be part of a foreign aid team from Japan to help rebuild the communications infrastructure (think 1978, telephone lines etc.) He gained some amazing skills and even got to improve his English language skills.
His experience allowed him to be hired by the government of Botswana (in Southern Africa), to do similar work improving that country’s telecommunications infrastructure. And so he moved continents for the first time, leaving his wife and three children initially, and his huge extended family to start a new life, that he believed would improve life significantly for his loved ones.
And it did! It took just under 3 years for the five of us to be fully reunited in Botswana. And some of it occurred in stages with my mother and little sister moving first, and myself and another sister staying behind with family for another 2 years, until they could get us into a good school at which point, we were all reunited.
I am not glossing over the details. This was a hard period in my own life when I was separated from my parents from about the age of 6 to 8 and a half. The story I am sharing today though has to do with reinvention…so we’ll stick to that one!
The reinventing part was difficult for my dad.
Going from a little town where he knew everybody to an entirely new continent and country where he was still only learning one of the languages spoken had its own challenges. Yet, he quickly had to learn to work with people from the local culture and many other expatriates from around the world. He did it and he did well!
Almost a decade later, there was change was looming in the horizon. My dad saw it coming.
He knew that one day his job in Botswana would end, and that he knew he couldn’t go back to his home country with his family. A civil war was rampant there and he needed to proactively plan the future.
And so my dad applied to the Canadian consulate for visas to immigrate to Canada. The options were Australia or Canada…and Canada said yes first! And so we left our comfortable life, the private schools and other lifestyle comforts we had become accustomed to, including the amazing dry, warm weather to move to Canada where it’s cold 9 months of the year, with freezing snow and sub zero conditions.
This reinvention was even more difficult for my father. The weather alone was a challenge. I still remember my parents during our first winter and not having or knowing how to dress properly for the weather, and not having a car, walking home in a snow storm with tears in their eyes, freezing and carrying bags of groceries.
I think my mom and dad cried many times during those initial years in Canada.
Having given up up his corporate job in Botswana where he managed teams of people, to suddenly working 2-3 jobs, pumping gas at times, working in a factory and doing what he needed to, to support his daughters; my dad didn’t have it it easy. My mom did the same. It was a big hit for my dad’s ego. He took it, and kept going!
Eventually my parents built their own business, worked day and night at it, forgoing vacations and often sleep to do it, scrimped and saved to buy our family’s dream home.
My parents believed in being debt free, and the irony of it all is that the month that they paid off the mortgage to their “dream home,” my mother was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia.
Life changed again. The 3 years of hospitals and chemotherapy, and sleep deprived nights with a newborn in tow, are still a blur to me. I don’t know how my dad still ran his small business, and showed up at the hospital with home cooked meals for my mom, while dealing with his right arm (my mother) not being there to help him run the business. He did it. We lost her. It was even more of a catastrophic loss for my dad.
He reinvented himself again. Within a year, he let go of the business. He went to India for a few months to learn yoga!
My dad, who had never done a day of exercise in decades, or gone to the gym, let alone yoga! He started practising Ashtanga yoga…which if you know the different styles of yoga, is quite a rigorous practice. He still does it! He doesn’t go to a fancy yoga studio, or have a fancy yoga mat.
10 years later, he looks 20 years younger. He now eats vegetarian, does almost 2 hours of yoga each day, without fail and takes daily hour long walks! I can’t even keep up with the man.
This last reinvention was perhaps the most difficult without his co-pilot to help him.
He felt the terrible loss to his life, his identity as a man, his way of being and living his life. My mother was all about the family, her children, her grandchildren, her home, her garden…and my father was the willing participant.
Suddenly he had hours and days to himself and didn’t know what to do with it. He had never had that kind of freedom over his time or life since he started working at 18.
This is the point to this story. Yes, reinventing your life, giving up your identity as you have known it, perhaps even your lifestyle temporarily, can be one of the hardest things you have ever done in your life.
The world is not going to show up at your door with streamers and a party to celebrate you. In fact, most of the time the world won’t notice. The people that do notice what you are doing, won’t necessarily always support you.
Because change is often scary. It can be even scarier for the friends and family around us…because most people like predictable, safe, solid. You venturing off to chart your own career and life can threaten their own sense of safety. Suddenly one of the pieces of the model life they have created is coming loose (think the game Jenga blocks,) and for some people, that can topple the entire construction of their world/life view, and that too can be scary.
Here’s my invitation to you! It is simple! If you want to bring massive, change and reinvention to your life – just do this 1 simple step…every day!!
Step 1: Do one thing every day that’s different, even if it’s the smallest thing you can think of, and even if it feels scary. Because every step you take, is going to powerfully change the neural pathways in your brain and the chemistry make up of your body, and get you rewired to face all the exciting changes in your life. Here are some examples of what I mean:
Drive a different route to work, walk the dog, and go somewhere in your neighbourhood you don’t often go to.
Speak to someone at work that you normally wouldn’t speak to, with a genuine interest and get to know them.
Order in food from a different restaurant you have not yet tried.
Buy an outfit that doesn’t look like the ones already in your closet. Better yet, buy it in a colour you would normally not wear.
Learn 1 sentence in another language and see if you can find someone to practice that one sentence with (think an ethnic restaurant, supermarket in your town)
Dance to a song in your pyjamas, with your messy hair and pull out the funkiest move you can manage to.
Take a bunch of selfies, especially if you don’t normally and and make a collage as your screensaver
Eventually you will be lifting heavyweights of change, that you once never thought possible.
Back to finish up my dad’s story.
Actually this might be your dad’s or mom’s, or grandparents story also.
If you look around, you will find people in your life, that had to give up what was known, familiar and stable; to pursue the unfamiliar, new and scary.
The privilege that you and I have, that our parents and grandparents did not, is that many more of us get the honour of going after our life’s purpose! We even have the luxury in some ways to entertain these ideas and go about creating the lives we want.
I now realize, my dad and I are not all that different. What drove him and his choices, and kept him going during the most difficult times what was also love! However it wasn’t the love for a career, or to get in “alignment” with his life’s purpose. His love was the love for his family. The deep love that created a desire in him to do what was necessary, to create safety and opportunities for his family.
So give it all you’ve got! And as Mary Oliver, one of my favourite poets says,
“Tell me, what is it that you plan to do, with your one wild and precious life?”
I want to hear from you! Tell me in the comments below, how you are doing, taking one small step each day, to pave the way for the amazing things that are coming your way.
PS. In case you didn’t already know, the picture above is of me and my amazing dad this father’s day 2014! Isn’t he so cute!?