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Looking for a fresh start? Here's your guide to writing your own story

July 5, 2022 - 19 min read

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What does it mean to rebuild your life?

9 signs you should leave your old life

12 ways to start over in life

How to stick to your life changes

8 tips to overcome your fears

It’s never too late to start over

Consider your life, and you may find yourself dividing it into chapters. Some transitions are major and some are minor.  

Some chapter endings are by choice — others are not. Maybe you just went through a breakup, are changing careers, or moving to a new city. Each new chapter is a new beginning of sorts. 

These transitions can be immensely exciting or crushingly painful.  Sometimes both. Many people will feel disoriented by the prospect of how to start over in life. 

It makes sense that when a chapter comes to an end, a lot of people feel overwhelmed. The world is full of uncertainty. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, difficult life decisions have grown even more challenging. 

In fact, the American Psychological Association (APA) conducted a survey that found at least 63% of respondents are stressed by the uncertainty of the future. The same survey found that 49% of those respondents feel that planning for the future is impossible due to the pandemic.

The most significant sources of stress in the APA survey were work, money, and the economy. These numbers are higher for younger age groups, parents, and people of color. 

The bad news is that those stressors aren't likely to go away any time soon. They're part of modern life. While you may dream of becoming independently wealthy or living on an island and never worrying about a boss or finances again, these concerns tend to persist in some form. 

But there's good news, too. Just because the sources of stress don't go away doesn't mean that you have to live a life of stress and worry. You can choose to forge a new life by learning to manage stress, making choices more aligned with your values, adopting new mindsets and behaviors, and setting new goals. 

Research shows setting clear goals makes you more likely to achieve them while freeing up space in your mind for other things.

And, when you know what you want, it’s easier to achieve. 

No matter where you are in your story, seek out other people's experiences and perspectives on how to start over in life. The advice and guidance may help you see new possibilities. But, your own experiences and circumstances are unique. When you take your next step, you begin your fresh start.

 

What does it mean to rebuild your life?

Starting over means you’re jumping into a world of “new.” 

You could be kicking off a new career, making new friends in an unfamiliar city, or learning how to live by yourself for the first time. Maybe you’re doing all of these things at the same time.

These are big life changes. Rebuilding your entire life means getting out of your comfort zone and leaving behind the job, friends, or city you knew before.

Maybe you’re changing career paths because you feel you haven’t found your vocation yet, or you want to do something that aligns with your values. You could be moving to a new city for that job or maybe for your significant other’s new job. The possibilities for change are endless.

But remember, you’re never really starting from scratch. You can draw on your lifetime of experience and skills. 

Is it good to change your life?

In some cases, starting over feels a lot like quitting. And while culture teaches that quitting is a bad thing, that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

A fresh start is a step to leaving behind a toxic workplace or relationship. It’s also a chance to pursue a more meaningful life and new opportunities. A blank slate could be what you need to be happy.

In fact, new beginnings are so potent that there’s a term for it: the Fresh Start Effect. This refers to the motivational push that comes from starting a new chapter. 

Whether it’s a new apartment, job, or relationship, there are many reasons why the Fresh Start Effect is so powerful:

  1. It’s a new you. Big changes are often associated with these identity shifts. They’re clear signposts for growth, responsibility, and maturity. Ideally, these changes will add more meaning to your life.
  2. It’s a confidence boost. A new chapter releases you from past failures. A weight is lifted from your shoulders, allowing you to plan for the future. 
  3. It refocuses you on the big picture. You have to start with the big ideas to fill a blank page. Then you can fill in the rest with details. This kind of big-picture thinking is easier when you’re not bogged down by the cluttered pages of the past.
  4. It renews your ownership of your life. A fresh start is a chance to build life how you want it. This sense of independence empowers you to make choices you might not have considered before.

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9 signs you should move on from your old life

Depending on your situation, it might be time for a dramatic shift in your life. Look out for these nine indicators, which can help you decide if it’s time to take the plunge: 

1. You often reminisce about how life used to be

2. Your current life is weighing you down

3. You sacrifice a lot to meet people’s expectations

4. Your current environment feels suffocating

5. You feel like an outsider

6. You frequently cry due to dissatisfaction

7. You feel uninspired

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8. You’re convinced anything would be better than your current situation

9. You don’t seem to know who you really are

If you relate to any of these, it’s a potential signal that you’re in need of a fresh start. Of course, depending on your family and financial situation, a clean sweep isn't always possible. As appealing as "starting over" might sound, it isn't always necessary to restart every area of your life. Sometimes changing a job, dropping a relationship, or committing to a new personal routine is the reboot you're needing.

Of course, starting over is a big decision. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or uncertain of your next steps, you might benefit from talking it out with someone. BetterUp can help you find the best way forward.

12 ways to start over in life

There are many ways to make a fresh start. Here are some strategies to consider as you plan your next chapter:

1. Visualize your desired outcome. What do you want your new life to look like? Have this in mind. Defining your version of success will keep you from floundering. Try creating a vision board or using other visualization techniques to understand your big picture. 

2. Sit with your feelings. Fresh starts are overwhelming, and that’s okay. Feel what you have to feel. Try writing them in a journal if you need to. But don’t let them consume you long-term.

3. Ask your friends and family members for advice. They might have been through a similar situation and can point things out you didn’t think of.

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4. Re-think failure. You didn’t fail; you learned. Making mistakes is an excellent way to know how to avoid them in the future. Evaluate each life lesson, get up, and keep trying.

5. Silence your inner critic. You’re a strong and capable person. Don’t let negativity get the best of you, and don’t be too hard on yourself.

6. Prioritize yourself. What do you need to be happy in your new life? Take care of yourself first. The rest will follow.

7. Identify your obstacles. Name the things standing between you and your ideal life. Once you do that, you can plan to overcome them. Do you need to get a job in a different city before moving there? Will you need to go back to school to have your dream career?

8. Find a mentor. Someone is out there living the life you want. Ask them for advice. A mentor can tell you what you need to succeed — in your career or otherwise.

9. Risk being wrong. Your fresh start might not be what you expected. That’s okay. You change course at any time, and you can be proud that you tried. Your new life shouldn’t make you miserable, but it won’t be easy from day one, either.

10. Work with reality, not against it. Don’t live in a world of fantasy. Be realistic about what you can expect from your new life. This means doing a lot of research and setting goals with reasonable limits. A great way to do this is to break your long-term goals into several more attainable short-term goals.

11. Have a backup plan. No one likes to imagine the worst-case scenario. But sometimes, things don’t work out. Make sure you’re prepared for that possibility.

12. Make a budget. Depending on your situation, starting over can be expensive. Do you need to set some financial goals to afford to make this change? You may move to an expensive city, travel the world, or be unemployed for a while. Make sure you’re financially ready.

How to stick to your life changes

Once you take the leap of faith, you need to stick with it. Some of these changes are larger than just forming a new habit. But these tips will help you follow through:

1. Remember why you wanted these changes. Try writing them what you want and posting it somewhere you can see it each day. This visual reminder of why you started will keep you motivated.

2. Set realistic and measurable goals. The SMART goal-setting method will help you here. Be honest with yourself about what you can achieve, and you’ll have an easier time moving forward.

3. Make deadlines and stick to them. Accountability is key. Having clear deadlines is essential to making the changes you want.

4. Focus on executing the plan. It’s easy to get distracted or to daydream about your new life. Focus on the task at hand. 

5. Reward yourself for each victory. No matter how small the achievement, treat yourself. You’re working hard, and you deserve it. 

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6. Track your progress every day. Use a journal or a tracker app. When you’re feeling down, it’ll help show how far you’ve already come.

7. Be ready to adapt the plan. Life happens, and you’ll have to adjust. Thankfully, your plan isn’t set in stone. Don’t get discouraged if you have to make changes. Researchers have found that increased adaptability predicts higher well-being.

8. Visualize the finish line. Remember what you’re fighting for. Think of how good it will feel when you get there. Short-term discomfort and struggle is part of growth and long-term gain. 

9. Acknowledge your fears and face them. Confronting your fears will reduce their power over you. Suppressing them will only hurt you in the long run.

10. Have fun! Whether it works out the way you envisioned or not, you’re taking action in your own life. You are living the journey and learning. This process is the heart of doing what you love. Focus on the learning and the gratitude for no longer being stuck.

8 tips to overcome your fears

How do you start over in life at 50? Or 60? And how do you start over in life with nothing? These are scary questions. Here’s how to overcome that fear

1. Accept your situation. Easier said than done. But once you do, it’ll be easier to make a plan to improve your life.

2. Embrace change. Change is an opportunity. You can configure your life however you want. Lean into the possibilities.

3. Know yourself. Self-awareness is key. Knowing yourself will help quell any lingering self-doubt.

4. Move on. The past isn’t coming back. Letting go will set you free.

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5. Focus on the basics. If you’re struggling to survive, focus only on what you need. Every bit of self-care is a victory.

6. Vent. Life is tough, and sometimes we have to complain about it. Find someone you trust and let it out.

7. Aim for stability. It’s fine and good to pursue your dreams. But if it’s not going well, you may need to re-stabilize before continuing.

8. Focus on the positive. Negativity only compounds the fear of failure. Keeping a growth mindset isn’t easy, but it’ll pay off. You have your whole life to get it right.

It’s never too late to start over

It’s easy to feel trapped in a negative situation. You might be unsure how to start over in life, so you’re afraid to take the leap. But, more often than not, only you’re holding yourself back. Let go of that negative self-talk, make a plan, and start living. You deserve it.

And if you need help, our professional coaches are trained to help you gain the skills and make the behavior changes to be your best self. 

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Published July 5, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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