Starting Over

This week marked back to school time for my children, and also for me. I teach two sections of an undergraduate leadership course and will teach a new course on careers in finance at my own alma mater in Boston. This year, as in many past years, when I look out at the students in my class, I am struck by how long ago I sat in those same seats. I watch the students and can instantly transport in my mind to being their age, having their worries and concerns, and enjoying many of the same things they do now. I met my first husband in college, and still have many of my closest friends from then, too. I admit that for some moments I get a catch in my throat watching these students, and I feel struck, and saddened, by how time truly does fly by in our lives. Then I remember that I am still young (relatively speaking), still healthy (thank God) and still doing new things every day. It reminds me that we are always in a position of starting over, every hour, every day or every week of our lives. We may not be at the college age where our whole life remains ahead of us, but we can decide at any point in time to do the thing we’ve always wanted to do, or make the shift we’d hoped to make or transform our experiences by putting a focus on a goal – and making a commitment. In fact, the older we get, the more we realize that risk is relative. We take risks that might not have seemed possible in our 20s or even early 30s. What do we need to do if we want to start over and reclaim a passion or a desire to do something differently, or be a different person? Let’s look at 5 steps to starting a shift:

  1. Think about what you have – not what you don’t. Take inventory. Is your health reasonably good? Do you have friends or family members? Are you smart or can you learn new things? Do you have a skill or creative leaning? Instead of looking at what you haven’t accomplished in life, look at what you have today. Take some time to be mindful and write it down.
  2. Think about what you want – and then give it the realism test. Did you always hope to be a Hollywood star? It might be difficult in your later years to leave everything and head to Hollywood to be found (although for some people, it may not…) and this is why the realism test is so important. Is what you would like to do, or be, realistic for you? For your circumstances? Look at your obstacles and categorize them into those you can control, those you can influence, and those that are out of your control. What obstacles would you need to overcome to get what you want, and what resources do you have to overcome them? Take inventory here too. You probably can do some things you wouldn’t think possible.
  3. Find those people who have done things you would like to do and use their experiences as mentoring or training. In some cases you can locate a person and “interview” them; in others you can read about their experiences. Surround yourself with people who have success stories that you would like to emulate. If someone else has done it, it’s entirely possible that you could too.
  4. Create your roadmap with specific steps and direction. What would you need to do tomorrow to get on your path? The next day? The next? Develop clarity for what you need to do, then “chunk” down the steps you will take each day (or even each hour) so that you can make progress toward your goals.
  5. Celebrate and congratulate. Some of us can have a tendency to look at what we’ve not done in life, rather than what we have. As you take each step, celebrate it – you are moving! And congratulate yourself – you have made the commitment to change.

This week, think about where you’d like to start over – irrespective of your age or situation. Can you take these five steps to start moving to where you would really like to go?