Changing Course

As you make your way on your life’s journey, it’s easy to unwittingly veer off course, not realizing the goals you once had don’t seem worthwhile anymore.

But you don’t need to wait for some dramatic occurrence to force a reinvention. And you don’t have to wait—period. In fact, experts say it’s important to stop periodically, assess where you’re going and whether that destination remains worthwhile, and to make course adjustments as you determine they are needed.

John C. Maxwell, leadership expert and best-selling author, spends two weeks each December doing just that. “I review the previous year’s schedule. I look at my upcoming commitments. I evaluate my family life. I think about my goals. I look at the big picture of what I’m doing to make sure the way I’m living lines up with my values and priorities.”

Brian Tracy, author of the recent Reinvention: How to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life, says there are seven areas in life that we should periodically assess: career, family and relationships, health, finances, education/knowledge, community involvement and spiritual development.

“Imagine that your life was ideal in every sense, in each area,” he says. “If it was perfect, what would it look like and how would it be different from today? And then what would you have to do starting today to create that ideal life sometime in the future?”

Life coach Caroline Adams Miller, co-author of Creating Your Best Life, published in 2009, recommends asking yourself what you want more of and what you want less of. She suggests doing the “Magic Wand” exercise, asking yourself what your life would look like in 10 years if everything had gone as well as possible, considering such things as what you would be doing, where you’d be living, who your friends would be, what you’d be wearing, and what would have changed most between then and now.

A variety of other exercises can help, too. These may include thinking back on your life to remember what you once wanted to be when you grew up, thinking about long-forgotten passions, assessing your current skills and personality traits.

While personal reinvention can lead to a level of fulfillment you’ve never experienced before, going through the process takes “grit,” Miller says. Following through with major life changes requires persistence and a commitment to continue moving forward, regardless of any short-term obstacles, she says.

Helpful traits include resilience, which Miller says can be fostered through the use of humor, finding meaning in hard times and being able to roll with the punches as they occur. Optimism is important, too, she says, and it can be learned by disputing negativity and pessimism.

There is no one-size-fits-all best life, which is why you have to do the work and put the thought into determining what that means for you. Reinvention could involve starting a business, embarking on a fitness regimen, ditching your corporate job to start a nonprofit, changing your lifestyle to make time for family or for the things you really want to do. It could involve simple tweaks that produce big results.

“The possibilities are endless because people are so different in terms of their yearnings,” Miller says. “But research is very clear that the well-lived life is filled with meaning, purpose and engagement, and that when we are connected to others and feel that our lives are connected to a purpose greater than ourselves, we have maximum well-being.”

Here are a couple of inspiring stories of individuals that changed their course for the better:

Too Late to Start a Business?

One Woman's Journey

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