Comedian and actor George Lopez once said, “When things are bad, it’s the best time to reinvent yourself.” His point may be right on the money. If you’re feeling stuck, that kind of change can present a good opportunity to recalibrate who you are and how you present yourself to the world.
However, reinvention doesn’t have to be prompted by negative circumstances. You might identify an opportunity to make an already good life more vibrant or take it to the next level in another way. Whatever the case, reinvention is an art – and one that you can master even without a paint-by-numbers kit.
Let’s take a moment to get clear about the term reinvention. I define it as the process of honestly assessing what works for you now and jettisoning what doesn’t – all while exploring new directions that can yield great fulfillment and happiness. The key is staying true to yourself.
That’s what Lynn Harris Medcalf has done. Early in her career, Medcalf discovered a talent for generating publicity with reporters. That passion prompted her to start a media relations company in 1997 with a business partner. They built the firm into a national and regional powerhouse, working with high-profile clients from major non-profits, corporations, entertainment and tech giants, and PR firms.
But over time, Medcalf found herself doing less of what she loved and instead focusing on activities like business processes and payroll. Twelve-hour workdays immersed in operations became the norm. Moving further away from the reason she started the business, each year left Medcalf feeling tired, stuck, and unfulfilled. To paraphrase B.B. King’s popular blues classic, the thrill was gone.
Working with an executive coach allowed her to see a break was needed. Medcalf took a month’s leave of absence and during that time decided to make that leave permanent. While departing the business she co-founded was an emotionally-draining, difficult and fraught process, it was time to honor her own needs fully. Medcalf reinvented herself as an independent public relations consultant and deepened her strength as a PR strategist by earning her accreditation in public relations in the year and half after leaving her company.
Fulfilling another calling, she also opened a small antiques and vintage business with her friend, then her husband, to nurture her more artistic side. Flexibility and self-care became her driving forces for this era in her life. So much so, that in 2018, Medcalf and her husband moved 3,000 miles away to California – a place they both had dreamed of – to take personal reinvention to the next level.
“Personal reinvention has become the operating principle for my life,” she said. “I’ve taken some big risks in my 50-ish years on the planet – moving to DC after graduate school, moving back to Atlanta to start a business, leaving that business, and moving across the country – but when broken down into smaller parts, none of these things are really that overwhelming.”
Medcalf believes that with reinvention comes resiliency. When her husband Jon was diagnosed with a rare cancer, they got the best experts to weigh in on a treatment plan and just kept moving forward as if he would be well at the end of it. Today he is cancer-free. When Jon’s mother became ill and he traveled back to Atlanta to care for her during the first six months of the pandemic, Medcalf found herself sheltering home largely alone during the majority of 2020. It was isolating and lonely, but she took refuge hanging out by the pool of their new home with her dog, two cats and tending to their succulents. Plus she found an upside professionally during those challenging times. “My business also grew 50% during the pandemic and I got to do some really satisfying and important work.”
Looking to reinvent yourself? Here are some tips to make this a fulfilling process:
1. Listen to your inner voice.
You may have craved a certain path and discarded it, only to revisit that dream later. Trust your gut as it chimes in about what excites you most. Make sure that you surround yourself with people who support those goals and tune any naysayers out.
2. Create a vision, but don’t be attached to it.
Think about how you would like to reinvent yourself. What is different, better, or more fulfilling? Then hold the resonance and intention of that vision without getting hung up on the specifics. Allow room for your expectations to be exceeded and to shift accordingly as your desires evolve as well.
3. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Change is hard. The process of reinvention often involves leaving one’s comfort zone. Give yourself grace and understanding as you navigate long-held emotions and beliefs that may need to be redefined.
4. Plan carefully.
Consider everything that needs to happen to propel your reinvention — financial, family, career, living and health considerations — and list it out. Be realistic in planning the necessary steps, knowing they will change as more becomes known.
Have you ever reinvented yourself in some way? What was the outcome?
If you have been feeling a little – or even a lot – stuck these days as we navigate our post-pandemic world, check out my “What Kind of Stuck Are You?” Quiz to gain more insight on what may be holding you back – and what to do about it.
Looking for a step-by-step process to help you get unstuck and stay that way for good? Check out Free and Clear: Get Unstuck and Live the Life You Want. It is chock-full of helpful tips, easy-to-use tools and inspirational stories of individuals who overcame obstacles against the odds.