New you for the new year: Experts offer tips to reinvent yourself
BY NOUR HABIB World Scene Writer
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
1/22/13 at 7:37 AM
Your life is boring. You're sick of your job. Your relationship is stuck in a rut.
These thoughts are circulating through many people's minds, says Nick Gould, a therapist with Midtown Family Therapy.
But they don't have to be. A new year is a perfect time for people to reinvent themselves, experts say.
"We all enjoy having those times when we can start again," said Gerald Ellison, a psychologist at Tulsa's Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
Ellison encourages people to open themselves up to "receiving the blessings of the new year."
But to fully utilize the opportunities that a new year brings with it, those who want to turn their lives around have to take definitive steps toward achieving their goals.
Align and define
Ellison said those who are seeking to reinvent themselves have to look deeper within themselves to discover what they really want.
"Essentially, what I need is to express my authentic self, to express my real values, my real interests, my genuine gifts and energies," he said. Stop living your life to please others only, and start pursuing your own creative passions.
People are more likely to succeed when their goals align with their values, Ellison said.
Kelly James, a counselor with Life Connections, said after you figure out what you want to change in your life, plan specific steps to achieve that change.
You often cannot change everything that you dislike about your life, so James suggests making a list of things that are "working and not working" in your life, then focusing on the items that you have the ability to change. Then, make a list of "behaviors that have contributed to self-sabotaging in the past" and find a way to do things differently.
James said to avoid thinking of change as good or bad, because such judgmental thoughts can make it more difficult to stick with that change.
"(Change) is just different, and anyone can do different," she said.
Recognize the challenge
Gould said a big reason that reinventing yourself is hard is because, at its core, the process is about changing how you think. Unhappiness stems from negative thinking, such as "I don't make enough money" or "I hate my body."
Recognize that reinventing yourself will mean changing the conversations you have with yourself.
Gould said fear can also get in the way of successfully turning your life around.
"Our life gets boring because we're afraid to take the risk of the next step," he said.
But people have to face that fear of change if they do not want to remain unhappy, he said.
Ellison said it is also important to let go of the past in order to move forward.
"One of the things that I encourage people to do is to put the unfinished business of last year behind them," Ellison said. "The regrets, the mistakes, the 'wish thats' - put them behind you. Otherwise, they drain your energy."
Draw a blueprint
When you're looking to reinvent yourself, think big, Ellison said.
"Invite your imagination to paint some dreams for the new year," he said. Use these dreams as the "blueprint" for moving forward in your life.
There are several questions that you can ask yourself to help you create your blueprint, Ellison said. They include:
Ellison said the process of discovering yourself is a lifelong process, and you cannot change everything at once. Develop at your own pace, he said.
- What single thing, if it were taken away, would you miss in your life?
- If money were not a consideration, what would you do, and where would you live?
- What changes would you make in your life if you were healthy and had plenty of resources, but found out that you had only one more year to live?
- And, if you could not fail, what dream would you pursue?
James said having a "progress mentality," rather than a "destination or end-result mentality," can help.
"Everyone will slip up, will have an off day, or just not feel like working on that goal for a day," she said. As long as you're moving forward toward your goal, that is success.
Change your behavior
"Your head and your feelings and your behavior are all connected," Gould said. The easiest way to change is by altering your behavior.
"Start doing things that are intentionally much more positive," he said.
Change your behavior toward yourself, as well.
"Smile at yourself in the mirror or buy yourself an ice cream cone," he said.
Make a list of positive behaviors, as simple as "I'm going to smile at the people at the grocery store." Then put that list somewhere visible, such as taping it to your car's dashboard.
The changed behaviors will eventually lead to a change in your thoughts and feelings.
Gould also recommends making an investment in the change you want to make. If you want to read more, go to the bookstore and buy three books. If you want to exercise, sign up at the gym and pencil it into your schedule for the next few months. The more invested you are in the behavior, the more likely you are to complete it.
Gould said it is important to recognize that if you are bored or unhappy, it is your own fault. You must take charge of your life and create things that will make it less boring.
If your marriage is lacking luster, spice it up. If you're bored with your job, ask for more challenging or creative work. If you're searching for meaning in your life, read some books or attend workshops that can help you with your spiritual journey.
Being bored or unhappy with any aspect of your life means "I'm really not doing the work to keep my being or soul or spirit alive just as a human being," Gould said. "And I need to do that."
Find ways to fill emptiness
Some who are seeking to reinvent themselves may be trying to fill a feeling of emptiness. For many, that can involve looking to houses of worship for direction.
Tom Harrison, senior pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church, said many of the "roadmap" classes his church offers are popular at the beginning of the year, including a class called "Searching for Significance" that covers the topic of finding purpose in your life.
But one of the church's big programs involves finding places for people to serve. Volunteering and helping the community is beneficial to one's soul, Harrison said, because it allows you to step away from your own problems and see that others are facing similar or greater struggles.
Serving others allows you to look at life through a different lens, he said.
Volunteering is also a way to stave off boredom, which psychologists say leads to unhappiness.
Nick Gould of Midtown Family Therapy said, "There's lots of good neuroscience that suggests that people just live longer or happier if they're engaged in volunteer work."
Original Print Headline: A new you for the new year
Nour Habib 918-581-8369
JASON POWERS / Tulsa World
Volunteers feed the homeless at John 3:16. Helping others is beneficial to the soul and can help stave off the boredom that can lead to unhappiness. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World