how to reinvent yourself

[Note: This is a long article, but it covers a lot of ground. I hope it helps you make the most of your metamorphosis.]

Ideally, we change easily as situations warrant, with clear eyes and a fat bank account. More often, a layoff, a divorce, a move, or the call of a dream so strong you can no longer resist involves reinvention at a deep level. In such times, you enter a world of unfamiliarity and shifting sands, where the map is missing the “You Are Here” dot, or it whips away in the wind, leaving you stranded in a strange land.

What can make this process of reinvention easier?

1)  take the hit

Whether you’re going willingly or with trepidation, facing forward helps. Lamenting what might have been or running away from the problem at hand creates a rut that’s harder to move beyond the longer you linger.

So dare to stand firm and take the hit. Yes, maybe the layoff was unexpected. Or the new business you’re starting is taking more work than you’d imagined. Or your commitment to finding time to really write means giving up more than you’d expected. But you do have tools that can help.

Remember daydreaming? Lying around on the couch staring out the window and being Merlin or Charlie in the chocolate factory or Fern in Charlotte’s Web, or whoever it was you admired. Maybe you still do this. Things we imagine may be intangible, but – like sound waves – they can be deeply affecting. Daydreaming that you’re a character or a person you admire can really help you take the hit – a you try on characteristics and skills that help you weather the changes you’re going through. And it’s relaxing.

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming,
we lose the excitement of possibilities.
Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”
Gloria Steinem

So who do you most admire for their ability to forge ahead or to get huge things done or to prioritize in situations like yours now? You don’t need to tell anyone about this, so choose honestly and make it a warrior who truly speaks to you. It could be an historical figure who spoke up for what they believed during tough times. Or someone you know who went bravely through fire or into a deep darkness. It could be a business person or writer who’s successful in a way you want to be, or a fictional character from a movie or a novel who speaks to you of the qualities you most need right now.

As you hold your ground and face forward, taking the hit, imagine yourself in the stance of this role model you’ve called to mind. Try to set aside feelings of self-consciousness for a few moments and really allow yourself to embody this idea and this person. You can actually stand up and practice the physical movements of the role model you’ve chosen. Feel their determination and motivation, their courage and conviction flow into your body. Imagine them facing danger and taking a hit. Imagine being them, facing danger, taking a hit – and surviving.

2)  look for signs

When searching for a way forward in a strange land, we need all the help we can get. Opening wide to signs of encouragement and directional markers brings surprising results. If you’re willing, and if you look around with the expectation and intent of receiving guidance, you’ll see.

In a surprise sideswipe a few days after I’d been offered a promotion, I was once laid off from a job I loved. Effective immediately. An hour after arriving for work, I was on a bus headed back home, in a daze, fighting tears, hanging tightly to my belief in a beneficent universe. I scanned the passing city for hope and help. Almost immediately, a van pulled up next to the bus at a stoplight, giving me a good long time to get the message right outside my window, printed on the side of the van: “The future is friendly.” I was reminded then that I had a future. In that moment, the weight began to lift as it occurred to me to point myself forward and to find things to look forward to. Interest began to replace anguish.

On that bus, I reached out with a request for help right now. You can toy with timelines. You can declare a desire for direction receivable now, in the next five minutes, during this walk, before you go to bed tonight, or this week.

Looking with the expectation of finding is important. Open as wide as you can to receiving help. Once you’ve opened wide, see if you can open even wider. That day I was laid off, I went for a walk and heard a child on a playground across a field yell out, “You just have to believe in yourself.”

Encouragement wants to find you. Notice. Let yourself find comfort in the love available from the world around you.

3)  buy some time

An altered trajectory in life, even when you’ve chosen it for yourself, sometimes comes with a sense of panic, a slide into a state of urgency. Though it might take some resolve, see if you can turn in the other direction, toward buying some time. Explore your options. Cast a wide net for ways you can create space to move through feelings and thoughts on a humane timeline.

Possibilities might include allowing a period of experimentation with writing at different times of the day to see when you gain the most pages per hour of new material. Or, if you’ve been laid off or are staring down a bankruptcy, you could look for and advantage of free programs offered for people in your situation. You might explore making the most of a severance package, reallocating other financial resources, or cutting back on unnecessary expenses. If the time pressure has to do with a specific deadline, see if you can extend or eliminate it.

Giving yourself more room to breathe widens your perspective, allowing more solutions and options to come into view before you have to make decisions. It reorients you toward running freely.

4)  collect allies

Reinvention often involves a shift in who you hang out with. The people who’ve been around for a while may no longer be available or as interested in your new direction. Or those who supported you when life was as it was now resist your move toward a new normal. Rather than trying to convince people to stay or to remain supportive if they’re not, take the time to find some fresh allies – pals who are genuinely enthusiastic about the new you.

If the people around you don’t support your dream, who would? If you want more support, who could give it to you? Imagine your ideal supporters during this time – indulge in some more daydreaming. What do your ideal supporters actually do to help you? What are their lives like? What do they do for work? Why do they want to help you? Why do you like them?

“We cannot climb up a rope that is
attached only to our own belt.”
William Ernest Hocking

Maybe you have an acquaintance who’d be perfect as a new friend. Or you could ask a trusted therapist if they know of a support group that might be good for you. Ask a librarian for resources that would help you with your reinvention – if you’re writing, you could ask for information about local writing groups. In a bookstore, search the shelves for wise counsel and support that really speaks to you. Check posters at the community center for groups or classes that would support your new direction and put you in touch with potential new pals. Gather your most encouraging friends for a brainstorming session. Ask a fun friend to help you let off steam by arranging a night on the town or a day trip adventure together.

Ask someone for something.

Find someone to trust. Reach out. It’s okay to lean when you need to. It resuscitates your strength sooner. Lean responsibly and consciously. You’ll find that what you’ve leaned against becomes a springboard.

5)  follow your nose

If you’re going to go through the effort of reinventing yourself, you might as well maximize the aftereffects by being your own navigator rather than merely doing what you “should” do. Following your own sense about what direction to go in will serve you best.

When we’re bumping along as usual – no big shifts on the horizon – it can be challenging to get up the nerve, the energy, and the will to make the changes required to bring a dream into being. It’s worth it, of course, to go for dreams anytime (and these reinvention steps work well in that case, too), but if you find yourself in a forced reinvention situation or motivated to tackle a big dream, inviting even more change to your reinvention party can make reaching those additional dreams easier than waiting to pursue them until your life is “normal” again.

“She kept asking if the stories were true.
I kept asking if it mattered.
We finally gave up. She was looking
for a place to stand and I wanted to fly.”
Brian Andreas

What other dreams smell ripe for the picking in this changeable time? What if you allowed yourself to pursue them now, too?

Think about what you want your reinvented life to be like. Bring in all the pieces. What does that dream smell like? Close your eyes and imagine yourself at the end of this current reinvention process. Take in a long, deep, sustained breath through your nose. How specifically can you describe the smells of your reinvented life?

Follow that scent of the trail of your most desired trajectory. Follow your own nose. Choose to change in a way that’s in line with what you most want.

6)  practice patience

Deep change requires time for the pieces to fall into place. We break apart. We re-form. The deeper the change, the more parts of us are involved in the transformation. Forcing the process to hurry up is like trying to force winter to be over sooner – not really worth the effort.

Reinvention is a season you’re passing through. Do what you can to enjoy what this season has to offer.

“If the universe doesn’t seem to make sense,
it is foolish to blame the universe.”
Jon Franklin

Patience is about more than allowing time for your sea change. Patience in action is a form of actively existing within a yes that includes a not yet. Hold onto your hopes. Allow the mail to deliver the cheque. Allow the characters in your novel to become three-dimensional through your deepening explorations of them. Allow the other party to review the contract. Allow the apartment to become available. Allow love to deepen. Allow the flowering of a dream. It will all come in its own right time.

If you’re holding tight to a path that feels safe but in any way wrong for you, try to loosen your hold on that death grip. Soften your focus. Look around. Engage your peripheral vision. Allow space in the form of not knowing everything – maybe not even knowing what you’ll do next. Wonder what might happen. Make friends with the void you’re exploring.

Nature abhors a vacuum. It will make suggestions. Pay attention. Say yes to what gives you the good kind of chills.

7)  identify opportunities

As you test out the first six suggestions above, you’ll likely start to sense a new rhythm, a shift toward something compellingly different and yet attractive, a growing awareness of a strong pulse. Your main role in this entire process of change is tuning in to that call.

“Better keep yourself clean and bright;
you are the window through which you must see the world.”
George Bernard Shaw

The more you practice tuning in and supporting yourself, the more open you become to receiving metasuggestions. Meta is a prefix meaning (among other things) higher, beyond, changed, altered, as in metamorphosis (to transform, to change form). I made up the term metasuggestions (I can’t help being a word nerd) to refer to suggestions and information we receive when we allow ourselves to see and feel beyond ourselves, into the connections that extend around us in all directions.

Those connections – call them what you will, from universal coordination to your primo networking system – deliver opportunities by the busload. Not just any opportunities, but mind-bogglingly appropriate, forward-shoving, goosebump-causing, Holy Toledo! opportunities that can catapult us forward with a jet-pack.

So how do you know when to say yes to an opportunity? You tune in.

I’ve lived in more than 80 places. That means I’ve gone hunting for a place to live many, many times. I know a thing or two about it. I begin by getting the lay of the land – I ask around, read ads, explore neighbourhoods. I develop my sense of what’s available. I tune in. I tweak my antennae in preparation for the moment when I walk into a place and my whole body reacts with a yes, an unmistakable rising of joy, an informed knowing that I’ve found a winner. In that moment, I say, “Yes. I’ll take it. Where do I sign?”

If you’re tuned in to your own pulse, your drumbeat, when something’s right, you know. Get familiar with what that knowing feels like for you. Calmness in the chest? Butterflies in the stomach? Spontaneous relaxing of the shoulders? Hairs standing up on the back of the neck? A simple, undeniable conviction? Whatever it is for you, that’s the feeling to get identify and to practice using and scanning yourself for.

Metasuggestions for your metamorphosis come in all sizes and shapes, from the tiny to the monumental. Use the tiny metasuggestions to fine-tune your ability to recognize them. Bigger opportunities will follow. When they do, jump with all you’ve got, with both feet and a rebel yell.

8)  spiral up

Big change often rolls and flows in a pattern like an upward-turning spiral. We take a journey through a seashell, into the heart of the matter, where we find the entire sea. The imagery of the upturning spiral can help in making peace with the journey. If you have the feeling, “I’ve been here before,” then it’s likely you have, but don’t see it as not getting anywhere. You’re a turn or two further along the spiral now. You know more this time around than you knew last time. Swing on through. You’re actually making progress.

This is important. Be kind to yourself. Reinvention is like getting comfortable in a new skin. There are old ideas and habits to let go of, some of which might be clingy. There are new perspectives to get used to. Each step around the spiral shows you more of the new land you inhabit. Get your bearings. Be dizzy for all the right reasons. Let the world turn.

As you revisit these stages in your reinvention process – at higher and higher levels – you can find new comfort. The same stage will often seem different when applied in a different phase. If stuck, you can scan the stages to see which one appeals to you as a steadying handrail for this current part of your journey.

As the daydreams, pals, inner tuning, opportunities, and spiraling turns accumulate, as your change-muscles strengthen and your horizon brightens, the map will reappear in your hand.

“You are here.” And here is pretty darn fine.

9) dream further

Reinvention – the kind that lifts you into the next dream and then the next, with no stopover in the sense-dulling, time-sucking, rut-deepening, cruise-controlled world of sleepwalking stasis – can be addicting.

Ever expanding. Richly rewarding. Infinite.

Your new normal.

I’m sitting here at my desk wishing that new normal for you, rooting for you as you transform, hoping you find a way to enjoy your never-ending journey of becoming more like yourself.


If you know someone who’s going through a challenging change and might find these encouragements helpful, you could send them a link to this article. You could be the support they’re looking for.

7 comments to how to reinvent yourself

  • SOOO – in the middle of staring at two applications to art venues that require large works, and several pieces each, I was beginning to retreat, to hold back… too big, too soon, too too…
    And I was oddly drawn to exit, and click into your site. Which of course led me to this wonderful reminder that opportunities are here, because I want them, and am ready for them…
    Thanks for being here, even when you’re not.

    • Hey, Chery. It’s sure fun to inspire each other. Thanks for your comment, and for role modeling a life fully lived by following your passion. (Check out her website, folks. You’ll be amazed at how crazy-beautiful Chery’s pulp paintings are.)

  • cara

    Wow! What a powerful read. I just finished Augusten Burroughs work “How To…” your above article was like the dessert. I was especially grateful for the vision of a spiral to replace my rickety roller coaster. The spiral does speak more correctly to a season of change. I am wondering, have you any insight on how to remember to dream? I seem to have forgotten how, or not allowed myself permission for so long that I no longer remember.
    Thanks again for your writing! A British Columbian transplanted to California…Be well

    • Hi, Cara

      Thanks for your comment. I love your question about how to remember to dream, even though I’m sorry you’ve misplaced the knack for it.

      What if you actually scheduled some dreaming time and treated that time as though it’s as important as any other most-important thing you do? You could schedule half an hour or even ten minutes — any amount — of time every week to dream and then practice doing different things to see what works for you as a way to invite your dreams to come back.

      I’d love to know how it goes. Good luck.

  • fiona

    This is just what I needed to read right now! :)
    After 25yrs of nursing, just got a studio and wondering how to adapt to a new way of being! Fantastic, thank you!

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