What a year 2020 has been. The COVID19 pandemic hit us hard at the beginning of the year and persisted at its peak for more than 9 months. 2020 was surely a year without parties, travel, and celebrations. It was the year where we added words like “social distancing,” “asymptomatic,” “quarantine,” “isolation,” “sanitizers,” “N95 and N99 masks,” and “PPE kits” to our vocabulary. It was also the year where we made WFH the new normal. The onset of COVID19 pandemic saw unemployment climb to its highest rate across many countries. Many are convinced 2020 is a cursed year, the worst in the history of human civilization. I am sure you might be sharing similar feelings too!
While many of us sulked our way through the unending series of disastrous events, a few of us rose above the tides to explore their creativity and create opportunities. Rich Litvin, a leadership coach and author, launched 9 different coaching and teaching experiences. Indian playback singer and music composer, Himesh Reshammiya, created 200 songs. My wife launched her virtual education platform, Learn Beyond Classroom, to help structural engineers go beyond their academics and bridge the gap between academia and industry. One of my friends, Akanksha along with her pals, created Kaakaso, an online platform to experiment and share elegant and flavorful food preparations from around the world. My daughter’s drawing teacher reinvented his business model to conduct virtual group classes for all ages. I created and published over 30 articles in 6 months, released my playbook on Career Reinvention and have been supporting my clients through trying times.
As the world continues to feel the effects of COVID19, it’s worth remembering that this too shall pass. It is worth reminding ourselves that 2020 has also been the year where we grew more resilient. It was the year where we spent more time with our families than ever before. It was the year where we explored virtual family get-togethers and rekindled our lost joy for cooking. Lockdowns presented an opportunity for children to reinvent ways of play and learning. It helped teenagers and adults alike to appreciate spending quality family time together. It was the year where we really learnt and understood gratitude.
As we approach the start of a new decade, we have a choice. We can either continue living our miseries and victim stories and carry them into 2021, or we can make the most of our time and energy and consciously design the best possible lives for ourselves. In order to do the latter, we need reinvention. The Collins English Dictionary defines Reinvention as “an instance of replacing a product, etc.. with an entirely new version.” When the term is applied to a person, it means “to change the way that you behave or to change the things that you do.” Reinvention comes from four different yet connected areas – experiences, growth, creation, and meaning. Reinvention is an act as well as the destination. And it is rooted in these 8 principles that I have created using the acronym REINVENT.
Recognize your authority over your life
People who don’t own their stories feel that they don’t have control over what’s going on in their lives. As a result, they are always pointing outward and blaming the outside world for their woes and miseries. These days LinkedIn is full of posts of people imploring for another job – “Due to covid I lost my job and it’s been more than 5 months now…,” “I am desperately looking for a job because of covid19 pandemic and my family depends on me …” I mean I understand people have lost jobs due to layoffs. My heart goes out to them. Tapping into your network for exploring opportunities is one thing but shouting out your victimhood and gaining sympathy likes, comments, and shares is definitely not the solution. Just imagine how your new boss or organization will look at you when they happen to see your post. You will simply whine and crumble at any new challenge thrown at you.
The process of reinvention starts with you, and it begins at the moment you recognize your authority over your life. Recognize that whatever you do, consciously or unconsciously, you are silently writing your life story, one day at a time. So stop living your life as a victim of your situation, genes, luck, and circumstances. Just like a scriptwriter writes stories for movies and television programs, vouch to become the author of your life.
The moment you recognize the authorship of your life, your focus shifts from problems to possibilities. You start behaving in a way that demonstrates your ownership over your life. You begin to create mighty visions, awesome goals, and healthy habits that pull you forward. By putting your effort on what you can impact and influence, you can make a bigger difference.
Experiment and live deliberately
Here is a story I had read a long time ago. There was once a little boy, who was full of curiosity and creativity. He lived with wonder and wanted to be heroic. He truly believed that he was brave, strong and powerful. He truly thought he would be living on his own terms, making his own rules and playing his own game. But, at school, his teachers taught him to be like everyone else. They would reprimand him for asking questions. They instructed him to walk in a single line and act like a small child. In doing so, they smothered his confidence for the sake of fitting in. At home, his parents and relatives told him to follow their rules, to fit into society, and to be realistic and practical. So, he grew up to be an ordinary person, just like everyone else he saw around. The little boy began to forget who he really was. He stifled his authenticity and love for being different and began to play by everyone else’s terms and rules. He forgot to question and feared to experiment.
He went through school, studied hard, got a degree. He got a job, was married, had children, and bought an average house on an average street. He ate average food, had average friends and thought average thoughts. He had average routines and lived an average life. He lived his life by how everyone else around him wanted him to live.
When the boy became old, he began to forget other things, like his phone number, his street name, his grandchild’s school, and even his favorite food. As he grew older, he started forgetting the name of his wife, and how his children looked. When he was extremely old, he actually forgot who he was. And on the last hour of his final day, he did remember something though… that he was curious and creative, and he was powerful and made his own rules. But it was too late…
Reflecting on this story, ask yourself these two questions: What would my younger self regret if I stopped doing? And, what would my older self regret never trying?
We all have 86,400 seconds in a day. Nobody can stop the march of time. So many of us get seduced by busyness and rut of life. We postpone our ambitions, dreams, and goals until we forget about them. What would you choose for yourself?
There is no point waiting for the right moment to live authentically. Take charge of the direction of your life today, experiment, take small risks, double down on the risks that show positive signs, and live deliberately.
Illuminate your personal true north
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” This Lewis Carroll (author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) serves as a powerful reminder for anyone who is willing to embark on a journey of reinvention.
Reinvention is not a short-term sprint. Rather, it is a marathon. You need to really stretch your imagination beyond 3 or 6 months and dive into the future. Fast forward twenty-five years from now. At least ten? Or start with five. How does your life look like to you? What makes you come alive? How does personal and professional success feel like for you?
Create a mighty vision for your life that acts as your personal true north, even if it appears strange or impractical to others. Trust that vision, and feed it every day with your creativity, intentions, and imagination.
Your journey of reinvention will be paved with uncertainties, challenges and surprising turns of events. And that’s when your personal true north will serve as a natural navigation, your personal mission statement that you can depend on as the world changes around you.
Navigate through the present
Reinvention occurs in the present, not in our past nor in the future. Yet most people choose to live in the past or the future. The present is where the action is. And that’s where you should be. As the spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle quotes, “You cannot find yourself in the past or future. The only place where you can find yourself is in the Now.”
Many of us spend their time thinking about everything that went wrong in their past. Remember, you are healing as you go. Make peace with your past, because you don’t live there anymore. Use your past only for two things, to learn from your mistakes, and to remember good memories. Don’t operate from a place of guilt, anger, shame or regret.
When it comes to our future, many of us focus on the worst that can happen or that can go wrong. Seriously ask yourself, “What is the worst that can really happen to me?” Give yourself permission to create your future. In order to do that you need to make your present dynamic and full of possibilities.
To navigate through the present, start with taking tiny steps. Pay attention to the small things around you. Know that you are in control of your attitude at all times. Soak in the sights, the sounds, the emotions, the wins and the lessons of today as much as possible. Navigate the present like how Morpheus navigates the hovership, Nebuchadnezzar, in the Matrix movie. While the movie is focused on entering the simulated reality, a dystopian future called the Matrix, the ship and its operator remain in the present moment acting as a guide to the other crew members inside the Matrix.
Reinvention is an intention. It comes from the heart. It is about creating a mindset of Now. To create real and long-lasting reinvention choose to live in real-time. When you make the present moment the focal point of your life, your ability to enjoy what you do and the quality of your life increases dramatically.
Value creation over consumption
We are all consumption junkies when it comes to news, blog posts, podcasts, ebooks, videos, and other media. The Bhagavad Gita, the best known Indian scripture, says that humans perpetually operate from a sense of ignorance. And because of this sense of limitation, we are perpetually on the consumption brigade.
Information and knowledge can sometimes be overwhelming. There is too much information around us. We’re inundated with it. We often struggle to drag our attention off all the information that is freely flowing to us.
There is no real end to our quest for consumption. Partly, because we tend to consume information that mostly conforms to our existing beliefs, and partly, it keeps us away from taking risks. We continue to assert ourselves to an endless busyness pattern.
Consumption is largely a passive activity and therefore, by itself, a deterrent to reinvention. One of my mentors, Jim Kwik, says, “Knowledge is not power, it is only potential power.” Reinvention requires filtering, disconnecting, internalizing, creating, and expressing. Reinvention is an active process. It stems from taking action. It requires you to create versions of yourself that you could put out in the world and test.
While I am not advising against consumption, I am advocating conscious consumption. Set a high bar for what you consider worth your attention. Then go ahead and create something. Creating something is one way to test your knowledge and using it in your reinvention journey.
Endure and always be learning
Consuming information is only the beginning. But most people never go beyond it. They remain in a perpetual state of consumption and realize that nothing is changing for them. As humans, we are hardwired to want things now. This phenomenon is called instant gratification. If we don’t experience pleasure or fulfilment instantly, we become anxious. This instant gratification is fueled by modern technology, devices, and exchange of information – pizzas delivered within 38 minutes, groceries at your doorstep in 90 minutes, next-day furniture deliveries, instant feedback from our social followers, and so much more.
While instant gratification is healthy in many contexts, applying the same psychology to the process of reinvention can only backfire. Reinvention requires faith, effort, and patience. Bill Gates said, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” And so in the process, we put ourselves up against stringent deadlines setting us up for failure. Take one step at a time. If you want to lose weight, start eating from a smaller plate. If you want to improve your stamina, start climbing some stairs. If you want to build a reading habit, start with reading 1-2 pages a day.
Reinvention really needs endurance, prolonged learning, and adaptations along the way. Life is an experiment in progress. Stop worrying about the things you cannot change, curiously seek answers, and don’t compare your hours and hours of becoming with someone’s social media highlights. Don’t give up just because what worked for them isn’t working for you. Instead, learn to do more of what works for you and less of what doesn’t.
Nourish the temple of god
The Dalai Lama when asked what surprised him most about humanity, said, “Man. Because he sacrifices his mind and health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health and peace of mind.” As we move through life and get on with our reinvention journey, we need to pay attention to the demands of our body. The human body is everything that makes up you. Life-giving functions such as breathing, digestion, heart beating, etc. are involuntarily performed inside our bodies. So we need to take it seriously.
When it comes to health, it’s not just the physical health that I am referring to. We also need to give attention to the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our health. In his book The 5 AM Club, Robin Sharma talks about the four interior empires, namely, the mindset, the heartset, the healthset and the soulset. A lot of self-help books only focus on mindset as an area for personal growth and improvement. However, Robin Sharma argues that having an amazing mindset only accounts for 25% of overall growth and wellness. He recommends that we focus on all four interior empires for showing up as our best selves.
Quite rightly so. The foundations of a successful reinvention lie in anchoring these areas of your life. Don’t allow your expectations to run your life. Plan breaks between deep work sessions. Meditate. Visualize. Exercise. Eat nourishing food. Sleep adequately and peacefully. Build an evening routine that can help you wind down. Improve your emotional IQ. Practice gratitude. Sneak relaxation activities into your week. Pray. Schedule solitude.
Nourishing the temple of God is a slow yet sustained business. A good way to start is to incorporate the 1-percent rule, which means that if you get just 1% better each day for a year, you’ll end up 37 times better by the time you’re done. How do you do that? One percent of 24 hours (we all have 24 hours in a day) roughly equates to 15 minutes. Give yourself 15 minutes each day to work on your health, feel your emotions, elevate your mind, and nourish your soul. That’s devoting 60 minutes to bring these elements into your day-to-day life. Doing this doesn’t require a heroic approach at all, does it?
Tread the path of experiences and growth
The last principle on the journey of reinvention is to favor a path of experiences and growth over treading your comfort zone. Our comfort zone trades passion for predictability, creativity for continuity, courage for conformity, and dreams for the rut. There is no reinvention in our comfort zones. Our life ultimately seeks adventure and action.
Vishen Lakhiani, the founder of Mindvalley, a personal growth platform, emphasizes the 3 most important questions that every individual needs to ask himself or herself. These questions include, “What do I want to experience?” “How do I want to grow?” And, “What do I want to create?”
Take a moment to really ponder upon these questions. How do these questions land on you? Build relationships. Create deep connections. Make time to read. Diversify your skill sets. Start a side hustle. Set up a foundation and environment for constant learning, growth and experiences. Focus on who we are and who we are becoming.
These days, my family and I watch The Indian Idol and India’s Best Dancer shows on the television. It’s heartening to see the contestants commit on a journey of seeking out experiences and growth, week after week. It’s not that these contestants are extraordinary or god-gifted talents. It’s also not that these kids have no fear. Rather, they are individuals just like you and me who instead of contemplating their lives, have chosen to show up and play it out fully.
2021 will require you to do something that you probably haven’t done before. It will require you to recognize your authorship, experiment and live with intention, identify your north star, navigate the present moment, value creation over mere consumption, endure and focus on learning, nourish your mind, emotions, health and soul, and target living a life full of experiences and growth.
Are you game for it? Go for it… Reinvent Yourself! Happy New Year!