Starting over is all the rage in 2019.
We’re always chasing the new, the novel, the fun. We live in an abundant society, but we’re sick of the mundane. Instead of being grateful for what we have, we always want more, more, and even more. Nothing’s ever enough.
Maybe we can lay the blame at the feet of a society that’s trained us to feel insecure about what we have and chase the greener grass on the other side. Don’t like your house? Buy a new one. Don’t like your job? Change careers like you change clothes. Don’t like your life, your spouse, your network, your city? Ditch them all and begin a new.
You have memoirs like Eat, Pray, Love that lionize the idea of starting over. Reinvent yourself, travel the world, discover new love — everything is in front of you.
Past generations were about (perceived) duty and honor. Honor your marriage (even if you’re miserable). Honor your employment (even if it feels like a prison). And honor the society at large in lieu of your own personal adventures.
Who’s right? Will we ever get it right? What should you do about it?
Stick around for a few minutes and I’ll answer all these questions and more.
The Case for Reinvention
Sometimes you just have to shake everything up to get where you want to go. You can’t use the maps you have if you’ve mentally and emotionally warped the roads and pathways one it. The past haunts you. You’ll always wonder what you could’ve done, who you could’ve been, and where you could’ve ended up.
You constantly find yourself asking yourself “Is this really it?” “Is this what I want?”
The want for reinvention fuels the luxury sports car, health, and get rich quick scheme industries.
It is almost certain you will, at some point or multiple points, find yourself second guessing everything that has happened and you’ll sit at the fork in the road:
- Swallow your pride and future at the same time. Gut it out. “Run the clock out” on your life.
- Start over. Begin a new adventure, even if it means living things and people you care about or invested in behind
Most people do choose the first option. Change is hard. The “devil you know” is a beguiling, slick talking, and dangerously persuasive creature. Not only do you have to contend with the tangible and literal difficulty of starting over, but you have to fight the emotional and mental battle against the serpent with his tasty apple telling you the tree of knowledge will convey the wisdom of staying put.
A small handful of people choose option B. But is it worth it? What does it really entail?
The Benefit of Reinventing Yourself
I believe in the power of reinventing yourself. I wrote a book about it, after all. Starting over gives you an opportunity to discover who you really are. In the book, I talk about the concept of killing your old self. It’s not enough to change. You have to become a new person, in a sense.
I say in a sense because you’re not actually attempting to become a new person, you’re trying to become the real you.
You think the current version of yourself is real, but how real is it? A simple anecdote I like to use for this — if I took your same soul, DNA, or innate wiring and started your life over in an entirely different environment, would you have the same beliefs, tastes, and learned dogmas? No. You’d likely be different. Humans are malleable. Hell, our malleability is why we exist in the first place.
Reinventing yourself lets you become the real you by unlearning the blueprint that was forced on you to become the current you.
This can be liberating and lead to a much better life. In five years, I reinvented myself from a debt-ridden, broke, depressed person with a dead-end job to a person with the career of their dreams.
I have a worldview I can call my own and a fate I dictated with my effort. If you can pull it off, reinventing yourself can shift you through a wormhole into a life you created.
Of course, like anything in life, nothing is free.
The Costs of Starting Over
There are many prices to pay in order to change your life. The biggest one? Letting go of people. Living a new life with people who aren’t aligned with your vision or actively try to undermine it makes for an insurmountable task.
If you know somebody who’s done it successfully, let me know. I’d love to interview them as a case study in superhuman mental fortitude.
Make no mistake about it. Letting go of people is hard. It will hurt, badly. Throw in people who don’t deserve to suffer consequences for your changes like kids who will now only get 50 percent of you, and change can leave you wounded and scarred.
Successful people have scars, wounds, skeletons, and bodies buried in the backyard. Is chasing a new life at the expense of your old ones a Faustian bargain or a worthwhile investment? It depends on who you are, what you’re made of, and how you deal with the process (I’ll explain soon).
The second price you’ll have to pay involves time and investment. You’ve heard of the sunk cost fallacy before. Once you spend something — time, money, resources — it’s gone. How you used what you’ve gained by giving those up is inconsequential. Whether you hold on or let go, that investment has already been made.
So if you’d ask an economist, they’d tell you to move on and optimize the future. That’s what “homo economicus” would do. But humans can’t be pigeonholed that way. We’re too complex to fit mathematical models, too jaded to make decisions rationally, and too ego-centric do always do the “right” thing.
For these reasons, people often hold onto what they have, but maybe it’s not so bad as the self-help guru would have you think.
The Case for Staying the Same
Without question, there is honor in sticking it out. Your life isn’t just about you and the consequences of your actions don’t affect just you.
Who’s to say sticking it out for the kids, especially when many say splitting does damage, isn’t the right move?
What is wrong with working a job you hate if it means providing safety and security for you and your family?
Who’s to say Buddha isn’t right? Maybe you should learn to find contentment in what you have because desire only leads to suffering.
None of these stances are inherently wrong. In fact, they have benefits. This is true about most things. In my work, I’ve veered away with absolutes and binary prescriptions because they don’t account for the way the world works.
I can’t tell you what to do, exactly what will happen, or whether or not you should listen to me. I can only present what I know and let you do with it as you please.
For the pro “staying the same” case, the benefits are anything but inconsequential:
- Stability isn’t always great for you, but it can be great for those around you. If you’re the axis people’s lives spin on, you can take solace in your self-sacrifice because it benefits them. We wouldn’t be here today if not for people who’ve done this.
- Knowing exactly what to expect day in and day out can be mundane, but at least you know. Change is scary and it can break you in the process. Anyone who says it can’t is lying.
- Often, when people reflect on their lives, work, money, and status don’t make the top of the list. Friends, family, and the moments with them do. You don’t have to reinvent yourself to have these things.
The Costs of Staying the Same
Don’t think just because you stay the same, your situation will. You might be worried about outgrowing people only to be blindsided when they outgrow you. You can have “job security” one day, only to be phased out and obsolete the next.
Your life can be entirely transformed by staying the same and failing to adapt by things you can’t control. You’d think the last financial crisis would’ve caused a mass exodus from the Matrix. You’d have thought people would’ve learned their lesson and threw away society’s playbook, but the opposite happened. The majority of people doubled-down. The “entrepreneurial revolution” is a myth.
People often don’t escape the matrix, because, as Morpheus said:
‘You have to understand. Most people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured and so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it.’
So it goes. The serpent in the garden win again — you’re naked, ashamed, and timid.
My bent and final verdict by now are obvious. You know my final verdict. I did want to at least attempt to paint a clear picture of what following your dreamslooks like. There is no right answer, there just is.
Whether or not you believe in God, you’ll find yourself trying to bargain with him. Only to find that God is in you, around you, supporting you, crushing you, reaching out for you, and hiding from you at the same time.
Ok, I’m getting a little esoteric and flowery here.
Let me give you my no-holds-barred honest thoughts.
My Only Advice on What to Do Next if You’re Thinking About Starting Over
Rather than give you absolute prescriptions, I’ll tell you what I know to be true without question.
You are here for a finite time.
Your deeply rooted desires, fears, hopes, dreams, fantasies, and nightmares will never go away. You can only hope to get better at “dancing with them.”
You can control your decisions and not much else.
I stopped telling people what to do because it doesn’t work.
Aren’t you tired of looking for the perfect prescription, the right answer, the equation to a life of purpose and meaning?
Start over or stay the same, just try to be brutally honest with yourself. You do have a true nature. Starting over can help you find it.
Regardless of what you do, remember the keyword…