Can we create our own identities from reinvention?


I recently attended a birthday drinks party in London, where I met a BBC journalist and we started discussing reinventing yourself for change – it was a fascinating discussion.
We would like to think that the key to a successful career or relationship is knowing what we want to do next and then using that knowledge to guide our actions. But change usually happens the other way around: doing comes first, knowing second.

So why is this?
Because changing ones career or relationship means redefining our identity, how we see ourselves to others, and ultimately what we convey and how we live our lives. Transitions follow a first-act-then-think sequence because who we are and what we do is so tightly connected. The tight connection is the result of years of action; to change it, we must resort to the same methods.

Most of the time, our identity changes so gradually and naturally that we do not even notice how much we have changed. But sometimes we hit a period when the desire for change imposes itself with great urgency.

What do we do?
We try to think out our dilemma. We try to swap our old, outdated self for new, more alluring selves in one fell swoop. And we get stuck.

Because, as Richard Pascale,, observes in Surfing the Edge of Chaos, ‘Adults are much more likely to act their way into a new way of thinking than to think their way into a new way of acting’. We rethink ourselves in the same way; by gradually exposing ourselves to new worlds, relationships and roles.

In the reinventing process, we make two kinds of changes: small adjustments in course and deep shifts in perspective.

It is a fact that we cannot regenerate ourselves in isolation. We develop in and through our relationships with others – the master teaches the apprentice a new craft; the mentor guides a protégé through the passage to an innate circle; the council of peers monitors the standards of a professional group, conferring status within the community.

It is as much about changing the relationships that matter in our lives. Shifting connections refers to the practice of finding people who can help us see and grow into our new selves, people we admire, would like to emulate, and with whom we want to spend time.
In the middle of confusion, many of us hope for one event that will clarify everything, that will transform our stumbling moves into a story that makes sense.

If we knew from the start what it means to be fully ourselves, life would be certainly easier. But because we are constantly growing and changing al the time, knowing yourself, turns out to be the ultimate goal at the end of the journey rather than light at the beginning.
Some top tips for reinvention and transitioning:
1) Realise that transitions are inevitable
2) Anticipate the outcome
3) Adjust and be flexible
4) Take the time to acknowledge the past, the present, and what you believe is the future
5) Acknowledge your emotions
6) Execute change step-by-step
7) Reinforce each positive step you take towards the transition
8) Educate yourself about what this transition means to you

Henry Rollins once said:

“I believe that one defines oneself by reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. To cut yourself out of stone.”