re·in·vent, v. — meaning, to make major changes or improvements to (something): to present (something) in a different or new way.

I’ve always loved the idea of reinvention. Examining who we are today and where we want to go tomorrow. Renewing ourselves, our careers, personal brands, businesses, private lives—whatever it may be. It’s an opportunity to edit how we define ourselves or how others perceive us, offering a clean slate, and telling a new story. It can be exhilarating, therapeutic, and provide to us renewed energy and enthusiasm.

It can also be overwhelming, scary, challenging, and met with resistance.

When we attempt to make large or drastic changes in our lives, those around us may not be ready, or may not understand what we are trying to achieve. Maybe they liked the old version better. Maybe they were comfortable with our lack of success, making them feel better where they were. Or maybe it’s simply too much for them to handle all at once.

For ourselves, it may be too much change to attempt at one time, or we may not be prepared for the risks associated.

If the idea of radical change makes you want to break out in hives, or feels like it might be overkill, maybe there’s a better solution.  Maybe we don’t need to go for a large-scale reinvention just to gain a fresh start or to modify our identities. Instead, we can look to reinvent with a little ‘r’ rather than a big ‘R’.

In this HBR article, the author argues that reinvention can be dangerous and may falsely suggest that there is something terribly wrong with us to begin with. I would argue that it simply means what we were doing before, what may have worked in the past, no longer works for our needs today. Circumstances have changed, desires have evolved, or what defined us before no longer serves our new purpose. Instead of believing we are tossing out who we were or what we knew, we take the best of what we have and carry that forward, reshaping and repackaging ourselves into something better suited for the future.

It can also be an opportunity to clean up past failures or poor decisions. I respect and admire the way that James Altucher always writes with raw candor, completely exposed and vulnerable. In this article he wrote last year for TechCrunch, he unapologetically and honestly talks about his need to reinvent many times for reasons that were as common as big career changes, on down to burning bridges, or because the people he worked with “hated him.”

As we approach the end of another year, many of us look to make New Year’s resolutions, define new goals, both personally and professionally, and develop plans to make measurable progress. It’s a great forced mechanism for goal setting, however, I offer the alternative to build a new reinvention habit or skill as part of your overall strategy. Begin by looking at reinvention as something regularly pursued, stimulating ideas, and empowering ourselves to transform as we naturally evolve and grow.

Below are examples of how we might pursue the big ‘R’ or little ‘r’ in our reinvention process. There are loads of other ideas out there, but this might get you thinking about how you can implement a smaller scale reinvention rather than a grand second act.

  Big R Little r
  • Entirely new profession and/or industry
  • Blue collar to white collar, profit to non-profit
  • Acquire new degree
  • Leave your company and start your own business
  • Slight shift in career profession (ex., PR to marketing) or industry focus
  • Adjustment to the specific work you do or role you currently play
  • Expand education and training
  • Look for new position in existing company
Personal Brand
  • Build new and different networks
  • Social media overhaul and re-launch to market
  • Completely redefine what you stand for
  • Change how you interact with other professionals or how you attract clients
  • Complete rebranding
  • Complete service or product shift
  • Industry and/or profession change
  • Expand existing networks
  • Expanded social media presence or refreshed content
  • Add to or tweak what you stand for, keeping general concepts
  • Enhance or reduce professional interactions and client development activities
  • Enhanced brand characteristics or light refresh
  • Expanded services and offerings
  • Narrowed niche or expanded focus
Personal Life
  • Start over in new city
  • End personal relationships
  • Establish new food and exercise program
  • Get married and start a family of your own
  • Move to new home
  • Modify existing relationships
  • Slowly revise food and exercise program
  • Spend more time with friends and family, improving relationships
  • Complete overhaul or launch of investment and savings plans
  • Simplify and drastically reduce monthly expenses
  • Incremental increase to investment and savings plans
  • Cut 1-2 items per month

Do you have a reinvention story to share? I’d love to hear about your success in the comments below. Did you go big or did you go small?  What plans do you have for the coming year?

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