By: Saleema Vellani and Coonoor Behal
We’re living through a period of time where we’re forced to reinvent ourselves faster and more frequently than ever before. 2020 was the year of the pivot. It tested our resilience on a global level, and many of us were forced to reinvent our lives, careers, and organizations. It made us realize that we need more than just the reskilling that countless studies have called for. We need constant reinvention.
We are indeed in a reinvention revolution, where we all need to have innovative skills and an entrepreneurial mindset. The coronavirus pandemic — during which many of us experienced at least one lifequake — has shown that nothing can be taken for granted.
A lifequake is a series of negative events or disruptions that occur around the same time period. The pandemic took a toll on many in terms of mental health, career, business, family, and loss. It’s the multitude of events that create a lifequake.
Lifequakes also propel us to evolve into the next version of ourselves. By being proactive during the reinvention process, we can reduce the negative effects of lifequakes. Here are four tips to proactively thrive in the reinvention revolution.
[Related: The Power of Resilience]
1) Strengthen your self-awareness.
Strengthening our self-awareness is key to being proactive during the reinvention process. As Dr. Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist and author, says:
95% of people believe they are self-aware, but the real number is 12-15%. That means, on a good day, about 80% of people are lying about themselves — to themselves.
We might think we know who we are in one moment, and then all of a sudden, a lifequake happens, which triggers another intense phase of self-discovery.
We can strengthen our self-awareness by reflecting on ourselves, getting feedback from others, taking action to improve ourselves, and sharing ourselves using vulnerability as we go through that process.
This last point is especially important. It can be tempting to go inward to improve our self-awareness and understand our values, but if we don’t share ourselves and live out those values, they may as well not exist. Externalizing and sharing can help you refine and understand yourself better, faster.
Go on a 100 Coffee Challenge. Set up multiple conversations with people you know, people you don’t know, and especially, people outside of your industry. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn about yourself. Self-awareness isn’t just about knowing yourself through your own lens, but being able to see and accept how you show up through the lens of others.
2) Find your sweet spot.
When we’re in the process of reinventing ourselves, we should actually focus more on the “what” than the “why.” Research shows that we simply do not have access to many of our unconscious thoughts, feelings, and motives, which leads us to invent answers that may feel true but are often inaccurate representations of our true selves.
If you’re in the process of figuring out your sweet spot, look at your life as a series of projects. View your career as a portfolio. Take a flip chart, whiteboard, or even a piece of paper, and map out all the projects you’ve executed by yourself or as a member of a team. Break it down by what you excelled at, what you were praised for, what you loved doing, and what you’re open to testing.
For proactive reinvention, zero in on the open to testing quadrant, which is a space to discover and develop our untapped potential — what are some ideas you’ve had in mind that are likely out of your comfort zone?
Have you thought of starting a blog or podcast? Have you been wanting to write a book or do more public speaking? The ideas and projects we’re open to testing help us navigate the reinvention process more smoothly. Some of these ideas and projects are stepping stones to what we are about to do in our next life chapter.
3) Learn to embrace failure.
With active introspection and experimentation will always come the prospect of failure. Contrary to how we have been raised in childhood and rewarded in the workplace, failure is essential to learning and success.
If one can embrace the idea from improv comedy that “there are no mistakes, only opportunities,” we can view failures as mere data points with which to make better decisions – and reinventions – in the future. Mistakes that allow you to learn more about yourself allow you to pursue proactive reinvention with more confidence.
This is “productive failure.” Productive failures don’t just give you confidence. They also give you what organizational psychologist Adam Grant has called confident humility, which he describes as:
Knowing how little you know and how much you’re capable of learning.
After a few productive failures, you’ll also learn that what we might think of incredibly risky moves to reinvent ourselves, such as quitting a job or moving to a new city, aren’t as risky as we think. Proactive reinvention is inherently positive and does away with the worst-case scenario thinking society encourages when thinking of risk and failure.
Think back to any “failures” or “mistakes” you’ve made and write down what you learned from them. What doors did those experiences open? Do you still consider them “failures?” Share your failures with others to normalize and benchmark your appetite for risk. You’ll probably realize that your failure or risk wasn’t as threatening to your existence as you thought.
4) Have the courage to quit.
Being proactive about your reinvention means you should have the courage to take those risks and tempt failure. Often, this means you may have to summon the courage to quit things that are no longer serving you or that are violating your values.
As George Bernard Shaw wrote:
Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
To quit is to change your mind. Quitting is progress toward the new.
As a Chinese proverb says:
Of all the stratagems, to know when to quit is the best.
The next time you find yourself feeling indecisive about quitting something, decide if you have enough self-awareness to make the decision without regret.
To thrive in the current reinvention revolution, we need to invest in being proactive when it comes to reinventing ourselves, rather than sitting back and being reactive.
[Related: Empower Your Teams to Be Resilient]
Coonoor Behal is the Founder and CEO of Mindhatch, which helps companies create the conditions for innovation and creativity to thrive using Design Thinking, Organizational Improv™, Innovation Facilitation, and Diversity & Inclusion. She teaches Design Thinking at the School for Visual Concepts and sits on the board of Street Entrepreneurs. Coonoor is a speaker and author of “I Quit! The Life-Affirming Joy of Giving Up,” which aims to reframe and de-stigmatize quitting. You can get the I Quit! Toolkit at www.iquitbook.com.
Get Mindhatch’s free guide to staying creative while working remotely and follow Coonoor on LinkedIn and Instagram.
Saleema Vellani is the Founder and CEO of Ripple Impact, which runs an accelerator for entrepreneurs who are seeking to grow their platforms and businesses. She is also an Adjunct Professor at University Startups for Social Entrepreneurship and teaches Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship at Johns Hopkins University. Saleema is a global keynote speaker and the author of Innovation Starts With I, which aims to redefine innovation. Sign up for her free biweekly newsletter, access her 100 Coffee Challenge tool, and follow her on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.