Reinventing Yourself

Original article written and published in Women's Lifestyle Magazine

Whether it’s a new career, moving across the country or starting new relationships (or ending old ones), “reinvention” is something many of us will go through in life, sometimes multiple times. If you are thinking about reinventing some aspect of your life, it pays to know what’s in store to increase your chances of success.

We sat down with Smiti Majumdar, a Lead Data Analyst at Amway Corp., to discuss reinvention because of her unique story. She has reinvented herself many times over the years.  Earning three Master’s Degrees, she has been among other things a student, teacher, wife, mother, scientist, and most recently, a business analyst. Raised in Calcutta India, she’s accomplished these personal and professional reinventions across two cultures.

She came to the US shortly after marrying in 1999.  This change in her personal life illustrates an important aspect of reinvention. It can be by choice or necessity. Sometimes our interests change and we seek new circumstances, sometimes circumstances change around us and we have to make a change. Marriage, divorce, births and deaths, job loss, launching a business, etc. can all force us to face a new chapter in life.

If you’re considering reinvention and it’s not due to external causes, you may be asking “How do I know it’s time for a change like this?”  “Do I really need this?” According to Forbes, signs that it’s time to consider reinvention include:

  • Spending too much time online and on social media
  • Thinking about your “dream job”, not how to make your current job better
  • Relapsing into habits that you know aren’t good for you
  • Feeling disconnected at work – as if you’re an outsider observing yourself

The key to successfully moving into the next chapter is the ability to adapt and keep moving.  According to Smiti and several authors on the topic, key aspects of reinvention are:

  • A “North Star” – Smiti was guided by a few overarching ideas throughout the changes in her life. These ideas were the backdrop for her choices in education, career, and life. It wasn’t a passion for a particular type of work or living in a certain place.  It was a thirst for learning, a desire to simply be happy, and to have time with her family.
  • Patience and sustained hard work - Don’t expect a new normal overnight. If you are truly changing an important aspect of your life such as your career or your relationships it will take time – perhaps years. Set your goals accordingly.
  • Focus on learning and process goals initially - Stating that you will write four times per week for three months is more realistic and achievable than saying you will make $30,000 as a freelance writer in the next year. Paraphrasing writer James Clear, don’t fall in love with your desired results, fall in love with doing the things that will bring those results.

Perhaps most importantly, Smiti always kept a question in the back of her mind when making life choices: “what will help me have people around me when I die?”  Experts call this “intrinsic motivation”.  It’s motivation from internal needs rather than external factors such as money, title, or possessions.  According to Psychology Today, intrinsically motivated people are more likely to make progress towards life goals because they commit sustained effort and keep going despite roadblocks.

There are several roadblocks to successful reinvention to watch out for.

  • Uncertainty - You may think “I don’t have a passion. How do I figure out what I should do?” Start with small steps and focus on what is important to you and makes you happy. As Smiti notes, “I tried to find the best thing I could do to make me happy with minimal impact on others.”
  • A skewed view of the future - We tend to be overly optimistic and underestimate the effort required to change. Be as realistic as possible about how your future choices will play out before you begin. Expect setbacks and failures; they are signs that you are truly breaking new trail. Learn from them.
  • Taking on too much at once - Due to our skewed view of future effort, it’s better to take on one major goal at a time according to Professor Art Markman quoted in Psychology Today.

It may seem that reinvention by definition means that your current self is somehow “bad.”  Why change in such a big way if there’s nothing wrong with the person you are, the job or relationships you have?  However, reinvention isn’t necessarily a statement about defects in your current self. Indeed, it’s a huge sign of self-awareness, character and courage that you can change.  It’s also a necessary mindset to evolve and remain happy.  Even after all the changes in her life, Smiti ended our discussion by smiling and saying “I’m willing to reinvent again.”

Guest Author

Joel Ombry lives in Grand Rapids Michigan and in addition to a corporate career writes about business, fitness and politics.