It’s fall. The kids are back in school, the air is crisp and cool, and in my little coastal town the farmers are preparing for pumpkin season. As the new season unfolds, many of us are prompted to consider writing a new chapter for our lives
I’ve always found it helpful to view life as a series of chapters. Each relocation, change in relationships, school, job and other life experience offers us the opportunity to begin a new chapter in our book of life. These chapters are rich with memorable experiences, lessons learned and personal growth.
When we’re younger, we move through the chapters quickly as we acquire an education, gain work experience, and form relationships. For many of us, the chapters get longer as we settle into a career, marry and start families. This is when we’re tempted to ignore those inner promptings to write a new chapter for ourselves. Instead, we choose to remain in a situation that no longer works for us, desperately trying to rewrite that chapter, even though deep down inside, we know it’s time to start a new chapter.
I stayed in my legal career too long even though it no longer aligned with what I valued in my life.
My friend Tom stayed in a relationship that had no future desperately trying to make it work.
My client Rachel remained in a dead end job with a toxic culture, hoping that she would be magically recognized and promoted.
Why do we delay writing a new chapter for ourselves?
We cling to our comfort zones – Even though we may have outgrown a job, relationship or career, the lure of a good salary, prestigious position and a comfortable lifestyle can keep us stuck in a situation. The longer we’ve remained in our comfort zones the harder it is to push out of them.
We’re afraid – Writing a new chapter for ourselves involves taking risks, confronting our inner doubter and sometimes clashing with our family’s or society’s expectations for us. It also requires us to grapple with uncertainty and disappointment. Sometimes, our fears can keep us trapped in unfulfilling or toxic situations until our bodies rebel and we become ill.
We don’t know how to write a new chapter – Many of us stay stuck in unfulfilling ruts because we have no idea what a new chapter might look like. We’ve been in a job or career or role for so long, we can’t imagine ourselves doing anything else. We can’t picture a new lifestyle or imagine a life without that stale relationship. And because we don’t know where to start, we do nothing.
Power tool – How to start writing your next chapter
Here are three tips to start writing a new chapter for your life:
- Get Clear About What Matters – Set aside some time to reflect and journal on your life values- what five things are most important to you? Family? Health? Learning and growing? Spirituality? Making a positive difference in the world? Once you’ve recorded your values, rank them in order of priority.
- Create Your Long Term Vision – Create a picture of what you’d like your life to look in the next 3-5 years. What role do relationships play in your life? Where are you living? What’s your lifestyle? What do you do for fun and fitness? Make it as detailed as possible. Then create a vision of what you want your work life to look like in 3-5 years. It can be a broad description of your work environment, culture, and role. Are you an entrepreneur or employee? Who do you interact with? Do you work in an office at home or a little of both? How do spend your day?
- Explore what’s possible now – Now that you’re clear about your values and vision, you have an inner compass to guide your exploration. Start your exploration by brainstorming some new possibilities for your life or work. Select the three options that most resonate with you and start researching them. In addition to online research, set up information meetings with people who are doing the work or living the life that you’re contemplating. Take courses, volunteer to do a side project in your area of interest and attend conferences or workshops.
Once you get clear about your values, create your long term vision and start exploring new possibilities, you’ve taken those first critical steps in writing your new chapter. As you move forward, keep in mind the inspiring words of Steve Jobs:
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. Steve Jobs
Anne Martin, J.D. is a speaker, trainer and Certified Professional Performance Coach® with the mission of empowering people to achieve meaningful success. For more details about her work, please visit www.daretoreinvent.com.