People daydream. We sit in our offices, looking at piles of work, and our minds drift to how nice it would be to go on vacation, lose weight, or install that new Mustang fuel door. In other words, we dream of doing just about anything other than the drudgery of work.
Even as people mentally try to escape boring jobs, stale relationships, and other obstacles to happiness, it must be said there’s an absolute comfort in routine. Change is scary. Change is uncomfortable. Change brings with it the possibility of failure. But with a few simple steps, it is possible to change both your life and yourself.
1. Stop Awfulizing
“Awfulizing” is a psychology term — it refers to the human tendency to imagine the worst possible outcome to a decision, activity, or other form of change. We all awfulize to some extent. Thinking of going back to school? What if you fail? Planning on trying SCUBA? What if you drown? Thinking about leaving a relationship? What if you don’t find anyone new?
You get the idea. Awfulizing (also known as catastrophic thinking) can cripple your willingness to take risks. This can be a significant obstacle, as reinventing yourself means taking risks. The solution isn’t to leap blindly into change — that’s taking things to the other extreme. Instead, ask yourself how likely the worst-case scenario is. Usually, it’s not all that likely. Make a list of pros and cons for a decision and see if the pros outweigh the cons.
2. Embrace Novelty
As noted above, there’s a comfort that comes from living in a rut. To break out of old patterns of thinking, you need to open yourself up to new experiences. Sometimes that means selling all your possessions and moving to a Tibetan monastery. More often (and more realistically), it means finding ways to experience new things in your daily life.
These changes don’t have to be significant. If you always drive home using the same route, take a different path home. Go to a different restaurant for lunch or take a one-night introductory class. You don’t need to change your life to reinvent yourself completely. Often small changes lead to progressively more significant developments.
3. Think Back to Childhood
If you want change but aren’t sure where to start, think back to your childhood. What did you enjoy doing as a kid? Who did you think you’d grow up to be? Did you love swimming, but fell out of the habit in adulthood? Did you have a dream as a kid that could still be accomplished today?
Some childhood dreams are more attainable than others (try as I might, I’m never going to captain the Enterprise). You may need to change those early dreams slightly.
If you wanted to be a racecar driver when you grew up, yes, it’s unlikely you can just quit your day job and enter the NASCAR circuit. But you could buy a classic car and fix it up with Cervini Mustang parts. Most of us could do much worse than striving to be the people we wanted to be as kids.
4. Make a List, Break it Down
A short brainstorming session can help start you down the road to self-reinvention. Make a list of five things you want to do. It doesn’t matter if the five elements are small, easy to accomplish goals or large, life-changing projects, although it helps if the amount of time and effort needed varies from item to item.
Now take each item and break each idea down into step-by-step instructions for accompanying that goal. Choose one and make a reasonable schedule for each step, then take the first step in the process.
5. Expect Setbacks and Embrace Failure
We tend to see failure as unfavorable, but really, mistakes are how people learn. Every mistake we make is an opportunity for growth and self-discovery. Sometimes we forget that. Even if a plan fails, you learn something about yourself from that failure and are better prepared for future success. Falling isn’t a problem. Not getting back up is.