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"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results," said famed physicist and genius of our time, Albert Einstein.
In our daily, often hectic lives, how do we recognize the need to break away from an old way of doing things that is no longer working, and learn to make a change and begin anew?
Whether it’s terminating a destructive relationship, energizing a career that needs a major upgrade or dealing with a set of circumstances beyond our control, "taking the first step toward making a fresh start has to come from within," says Cheryl Maloney, transformational coach and editor of Simple Steps Real Change magazine. "What I find is that if someone isn’t motivated and ready to make a change, they aren’t going to be successful."
Before you can begin to make a fresh start, you first need to accept where you are right now, says Maloney. "I usually ask my clients to do an assessment of the different aspects of their lives to determine which one needs to be worked on first," she adds.
- Mary Lee Gannon, certified career coach and author of the book Starting Over
Maloney breaks down the different life areas into health/well-being, relationships, career and finance. She asks clients to take a realistic look at each area and figure out which one is screaming the loudest for a redo.
If you follow a logical course and make a plan, you can manage your transformation rather than letting change happen to you.
Once you’ve zeroed in on the issue, the next step is to decide what direction to take. Mary Lee Gannon, a certified career coach and author of the book Starting Over, recommends that people align with their individual strengths and values when trying to figure out what to do next. Gannon was a mother of four who went through a dramatic transformation after leaving a destructive marriage.
"You want to make sure that the change you’re making is in alignment with who you are intrinsically," says Gannon. For example, "If you’re someone who values flexibility in your schedule above other traits, and you’ve been working 9 to 5 for a corporation, changing to freelance work or becoming self-employed would be a strong choice," she says. Gannon’s website (startingovernow.com) offers exercises to help people hone in on their five top values and strengths.
"After aligning yourself with a new goal, it’s critical to learn how to turn off the head trash or negative voices in your head that are telling you that you can’t possibly succeed," says Gannon.
Kiné Corder, the former spokesperson for ABC’s Extreme Makeover series, who wrote The Art of Starting Over, tells her clients to start the practice of shifting their thoughts in a positive direction. "Seventy-five percent of our thoughts are negative," says Corder. "Before you can make a positive change, you have to start changing the way you think about yourself. Instead of thinking, ‘I’m not good enough, skinny enough or smart enough,’ once you replace those thoughts with positive ones, such as ‘I can do this. I can transform my life,’ you will take actions in your life that will lead to better results."
Align yourself with like-minded people and mentors who understand your new goals and inspire the changes you’re making. "You won’t be able to succeed if you’re surrounded by people who are draining you," says Gannon.
Seek out friendship with people who are doing what you want to be doing, whether it’s eating healthy, having successful relationships or working in fulfilling careers. Not just any relationship will do, adds Corder. "It’s got to be someone with whom you have an emotional relationship, who will call you out on your bad behavior and inspire you to make a change. If you’re trying to eat healthy and you’re hanging out with people who say ‘ick,’ to the green stuff you’re eating, it’s not going to be easy to stick to your new goal."
Once you’ve got your new direction mapped out, your positive attitude attuned and your support team in place, it’s amazing what will happen next, says Gannon. "When people are able to quiet the voices in their head telling them they can’t do something, it allows them to be open to the opportunities that have always been sitting out there waiting for them." Most people don’t allow new opportunities in, she explains, because they’re so overrun by anxiety and negative thinking.
"After my clients do the initial work, they’re always calling me to thank me for some unbelievable opportunity that came their way," says Gannon. "I have to tell them, ‘it’s not me, it’s you. You’re doing the work.’"
Although it may seem difficult at times, "you can reroute your life," says Gannon, who is now CEO of a $22 million organization, after being homeless and on public assistance. "But it’s not just going to happen; you have to do the work. On the other hand, if you just perseverate on the worry and the things you cannot change, that’s not going to help you."
Jenny Jedeikin lives in Northern California and her writing has appeared in San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Rolling Stone and In Style, among other publications.