A reader recently wrote in and said that even though she enjoys my weekly posts and has learned a lot, she feels the idea of reinvention and moving forward with a Big Idea in a big way isn’t for her. Why? She’s 48. She has two kids in school, with years of college yet to come. Her husband was recently laid off, and has taken a job with a lower salary. They still have a 20 year mortgage on their home. They have three car leases and several credit card bills coming in every single month.
“Reinvention is a great concept, and I’d love to be able to do something with the idea I’ve help close to my heart for years, but that isn’t reality. My reality is keeping my job just to pay the bills. My reality is making sure my kids pass their drivers tests, take the ACT exams and get into a good college. And once that starts, I’ll be paying thousands of dollars for close to a decade to get them through school. I’m second at this point, and I will be for a long time.”
Since I’ve started writing about reinvention and Big Ideas, I’ve heard this many times. This tells me two things:
1. I’m hitting a nerve and talking about things close to many women’s hearts
2. There are a lot of readers that want to make a big change in their lives, yet haven’t quite figured out that it’s more than possible to do – RIGHT NOW!
Do you resonate with this message? Did I just describe you?
You are middle aged. You’re worried about what the future may bring. Your job is anything but satisfying. You are years away from retirement, yet also realize the current concept of retirement may be far from your reach. You have bills to pay; with more bills in sight. And to top it all off, you simply aren’t happy. You know something needs to change, but you can’t define it. You know you can’t move forward with this feeling inside. But what choice do you have?
So should you give up on your dream once and for all? Should you take on a second or third job to pay the bills? Should you lower your expectations? Should you lower your standard of living? Should you grow bitter and fade away?
Or should you take responsibility for your future and make changes right now that can impact your entire family in a big way?
My goal as a writer is to make you think. And when I make bold statements like the one above, I know there are many readers who will take offense with some of the things I write about. After all, you are taking responsibility for your actions, right? You pay your bills on time. You can’t help your husband being laid off from his job; you can’t help him find a job where the pay is equal or better. You can’t change how old your kids are, or the fact that college costs are rising as much as they are. And I agree.
But also understand that 40-something (or 50-something or 60-something) is not the end of your life. In fact, I would argue you’re only half way there. It may seem like the only way you will ever be able to do all you dream of is to wait for the perfect time to appear. But when in reality will that be?
You may not have the perfect career now. You may have a Big Idea itching inside, waiting to become a bigger part of your life. The only way to exchange one for the other is to change the way you currently think and feel about your lifestyle as a whole. Because you certainly have what it takes to make the changes needed in your life right now.
Your path to reinvention begins with four simple steps:
1. Accept the fact that you are the only one in charge of how you move forward from this day forward.
We each have two choices at any given moment in time. We can choose to continue down the path we are currently on; or we can make a change.
If you accept your current path and choose to stay on it, you accept all that choice can bring. If you stick with a job you don’t enjoy, there is very little chance you will ever enjoy what you do. If you live in a house with 20 years left on the mortgage, most likely you will be paying on it for the next 20 years. Those are your realities, and will continue to be … unless you make a change.
You can quit the job you don’t enjoy, and choose to start up your own business instead. You can sell your home and get rid of the 20 year commitment. Each come with their own set of advantages and consequences.
Yet the reality is each can change your situation and give you more flexibility and freedom to do what you choose to do. The choice is yours.
2. Set realistic expectations for what you can achieve.
You can’t build a business in a week. You can’t publish a book in a weekend.
But what you can do is break things down to realistic levels that allow you to truly get things done. If you’ve never operated your own business before, the goal of starting a business is general and vague. But you can make your goal more reachable, more definable by giving your tasks every day. How far would you be in a year if you worked one small task per day?
3. Take control over your actions to achieve the lifestyle you desire.
When your reality keeps you busy 24 hours of the day, it’s difficult to find the time and energy you need to put it towards other things.
Many people love Albert Einstein’s quote “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. I think lifestyles should be defined in much the same manner. Because isn’t our modern-day definition of insanity defined as “taking the same path every single day of your life and expecting big changes and fantastic things to happen as a result”?
You can’t become a well-loved author if you never write the book. You can’t become a business owner if you never take the steps to attain it. It takes action to achieve the results you are looking for. Without action, your desires will never be.
4. To make your Big Idea valuable in your life, you must have a valuable Big Idea.
Big ideas come in a variety of sizes and based on a variety of dreams. Ask someone what her big idea is, and you may hear:
I want to paint. I want to learn a foreign language. I want to travel. I want to coach. I want to write. I want to move.
Those are all the root of great Big Ideas. But with all of these ideas, only one question can help move them forward.
Because if your Big Idea doesn’t have meaning in your life, you’re less likely to follow it through to the end.
And if others don’t find it to be equally valuable, it will never have the potential of turning into a profitable venture.
You can’t hang on to simple dreams that have no end results. You have to have your why to give you the drive to carry it through. When you can see how it fits into your life, and you can see how it impacts the lives of the people that will ultimately benefit from your actions, it furthers the drive you’ll need to move forward once and for all.