The Subtle Art of Starting Over

starting-overI don’t know about you but I’m a sucker for a good beginning. The opening chapter of a book. A beautiful sunrise. The bride walking down the aisle. The father holding up his infant son. The 18-year old heading cross country on a road trip. It’s that fresh smell of a new car. That first day of spring feeling. A good beginning is like an unwrapped gift. It holds promise, hope and possibility.

Of course, for every rosy-eyed beginning, there is another, far more ominous beginning. It’s the one that makes us weak in the knees and fills us with terror and uncertainty. It’s called Starting Over.

I know from a purely semantic point of view, starting over sounds an awful lot like your average beginning. But, if you’ve ever had to start over from scratch, you know as well as I do that it has a whole other vibe to it. Starting over is often the “do-over” we never saw coming. It’s the nasty beginning we feel is being shoved down our throats. A hurricanes ravages our home. We have to start over. We lose our job or our business fails. We have to start over. Divorce. Start over. Become ill. Start over.

In today’s world, starting over is no longer an anomaly. It’s a commonplace reality of life. We are constantly being called upon to pull up our boots, get back into the game and build up our life all over again. It’s a punch in the gut. And it can be tiring, defeating, and depressing. I’ll go so far as to suggest that “starting over” is one of the great challenges of our lives.  But, don’t jump off the bridge just yet. There’s hope. Lots of hope.

And, funny enough, it starts with a new beginning, or a new way of looking at our lives. It starts by embracing the challenge of “starting over” as one of the defining moments in our lives.  Today, I suggest we not only accept this challenge, but to turn it into art, as a true expression of who we want to become.

Step 1: Don’t live in the past

“My Mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.” –Forrest Gump

Yes, it’s tough when we blow out our knee the week before the marathon, after we’ve trained for a year. And, yes, it’s tough when we have to look for a new line of work after we’ve been laid off by a company we’ve been faithful to for 30 years. Or a spouse leaves unexpectedly.

We want to believe we’ve paid our dues and we’re entitled to the life we’ve earned. And when life doesn’t go our way, it’s easy to dwell on it, be angry about it, and resent our predicament. And while it’s healthy to acknowledge our pain, to stay in that place of bitterness is to become frozen and stuck in tyme. The Art of Starting Over begins with acknowledging our past. Learn from it, forgive it, and be grateful for it. But, then move on, or as the Cherokee Indian Proverb says, “Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.”

To start over we need to lose the idea of what was, and start facing what is. We need to realize that we won’t be able to let something better into our lives unless there is room for it. And we’ll never have room for something new if our minds are always reliving the way things were. The take-away is simple. Whenever you’re about to start something new, whether it’s a diet you’ve abandoned a dozen tymes, a new job, or a new relationship, practice letting go of the past as often as you can. Breathe out the past before you go to bed, and then when you wake up in the morning, pledge your day to stay in the moment as often as possible.

Stay active, be creative, go out in nature, visit friends, live, laugh, enjoy. It is in the present moment—the Now—where you’ll begin to slowly create a new you. It’s where you will not only find your future, but all your joy and happiness. There’s no better starting over point than that.

Step 2:  Accept starting over as part of your journey

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – 
Joseph Campbell

I know most of us like our beginnings to show up exactly when we expect them. Turn 5 and you go to kindergarten; become 16 and you get your driver’s license; graduate high school and go to college; fall in love and get married. It’s a clean and orderly pattern that is predictable and safe.

Trouble is, life isn’t always so neat and predictable. More tymes than not, it’s messy and unorganized. It’s stop, start, go three steps forward, then five steps backwards. We get to the finish line, only to be sent back to square one. And at this point, we can either shake our fists at the stars, crying foul that the other guy always gets the lucky breaks, or we can wake up and treat what happens in our lives as a cosmic road map to where we will find inner happiness and peace.

Regardless of what personal philosophy we may believe, somewhere down in the corner of our hearts, we have to know we’re not here on earth to go swinging sweetly from one planned event to the next. If you think it is, than this probably isn’t the article for you. But, if there is one microscopic part of you that believes we are here on earth for a more noble purpose, that perhaps we are here to grow, evolve, contribute and become what we’re capable of becoming, than maybe you can entertain the simple idea that “starting over” is exactly what you need at this moment to take the next step in your life. To realize your destiny, or as Joseph Campbell said, “to have the life that is waiting for us.”

Next tyme you’re called to start over, ask yourself a few simple questions.

  • Could this challenge be the defining moment in your life?
  • Can you find a way to reframe what a moment ago felt like a shot in the gut?
  • Can you see the possibility that there is something in your present situation that you need to learn, even if you don’t know what it is yet?

Answer these questions and you will have gone a long way from being a victim to a willing participant in the journey that is your life.

Step 3: Embrace the adventure

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
 – Helen Keller

Okay, so let’s say we can all let go of the past, and that we can now view starting over as part of life’s journey. This is a huge step. But, the real leap comes when we can start to enjoy the ride, and if not enjoy the ride, at least appreciate it for what it brings to our life. And I know this is easier said than done, especially when you’re talking about things like losing your home or restoring your health.

But, it’s possible. All we need to do is take our cue from those much younger than us. Have you ever wondered why young people have less of a problem with starting over than their older counterparts? I know the easy answer is to say they have no responsibilities. And it’s true. They’re not tied down to mortgages, careers, kids or even the notion of what life should look like. If something doesn’t work out for them, no problem. They can just go in another direction.

But, I believe the real answer is this: young people feel as if they have infinite choices and tyme. And with choice comes the inherent belief that every day contains the opportunity to start over.  Such is the power and beauty of youth.

Unfortunately, the older we get the more we feel that tyme is running out, which in turn makes us feel as if our choices are limited. Suddenly, we become paralyzed into believing that our lives depend on making the right choice, an idea which makes the whole idea of starting over become something we dread.

Well, guess what? We have a choice. And the choice might not be as tangible as it is for someone much younger. We may indeed be limited by family, work and responsibilities. But, we most certainly do have a choice. And the choice we have is in how bold we will be in starting over. How brave we will be as we face our challenges. How much of ourselves will we give to the task of starting over, and the job of reinventing our lives.

Our answers will determine the adventure that our lives will become.

Step 4: Believe that something better will come

“When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”
 – Alexander Graham Bell

I don’t think you can truly start over at anything without believing in your heart that something better will come from it. And this is much more than seeing the glass as half-full. This is embracing the philosophy that says all our experiences are an opportunity to make life better.  And by better, I don’t always mean easier or smoother. I mean better in the sense that we are kinder, more compassionate, trusting, helpful, loving, free, joyous, awake, and alive. Better human beings.

Ultimately, the Art of Starting Over begins and ends with a giant embrace of what’s possible. To switch careers. Find the right mate. Discover our purpose. And sometymes the only way we can do this is by having to go back to the beginning.

I learned this firsthand and it wasn’t easy. I had to completely start over.

And while it is a challenging path, I’ve since started a new business, doing things I never would have done had I not been forced to start over. I have stepped out of my comfort zone, and begun writing about subjects I would have never touched before, taking on projects I never believed possible.

The journey is far from over, but life is beginning to feel like a great adventure again. I feel the power of youth and choice. I’m finding that starting over isn’t a jail sentence.
It’s an opportunity to reinvent my life, to become alive, connected and awake.

*Photo(s)/Resource(s): Bill Apablasa

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