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Life comes in seasons. And life changes. Everyone goes through transitions.
For some, it’s big life milestones that trigger change — marriage or divorce, moving to a new city, committing to a partner, buying a home, starting a family, or becoming empty-nesters. It can be the loss of a loved one or friend. It can be a global crisis (like the pandemic) or a traumatic experience.
For others, change comes from other significant changes that we all experience, like our emotional health maturing or ending a relationship. It could be aging, retirement, or simply who you choose to invest your time in. It could be a new career, moving across the country (or world), or another life-changing event that catalyzes big change.
Change is inevitable. It often causes us to examine our values or re-evaluate our priorities. And sometimes, it leads us to this question: What should I do with my life? Should I start over in life? Where do I go from here?
I was just talking to a good friend about starting over in life. She recently called off her wedding and went through an emotional breakup. She’s questioned her career choices and her career path. And she’s currently going through a spiritual and healing journey to help care for her mental health and well-being.
But she says every few weeks: Should I just start my life over? What if I just move to Europe or travel? What should I be doing with my life? Is this really what I want for myself?
“Take your time. Life is a marathon, not a sprint — and a race in which it's better to get to the finish line last! So, slow down. Be present in the moment. Eat more ice cream, but really enjoy it.”
Kelly Labrecque, BetterUp Fellow Coach
If you’re thinking about starting over in life, you’re not alone. It’s OK to not know where you’re going next. It’s OK if you don’t have a perfectly planned roadmap to your final destination.
We’ll talk about what it means to start over in life and the questions you should ask yourself. After all, we each get one life to live. We’re all on a journey to find the best version of ourselves — but we don’t have to do it alone.
7 steps to starting over in life
If you’re feeling stuck, that’s OK. Be gentle with yourself. Our data shows that 55% of people are languishing. That’s a majority of folks who are not mentally ill but not mentally well, either. This is a massive middle who are all experiencing one thing: the absence of mental health.
You might be ready to take the plunge and start over. But starting over in life doesn’t mean you’ve lost everything you’ve learned, gained, and experienced. In fact, quite the opposite. Your experiences have gotten you to where you are today. And today, you’re lucky enough to be wiser than you were even just a few months ago.
Use what you know best: yourself. Let’s talk through the seven steps to starting over in life.
How do I start over in life?
- Start with reflection
- Examine your value system
- Revisit (and rewrite) your goals
- Work up the courage to change
- Make your next move
- Get a coach
- Keep checking in on yourself
1. Start with reflection
Before you can make any changes, you have to understand where you’re starting from. Personally, I know from experience it can be difficult to sit with your thoughts. It’s easy to let your mind wander. Plus, as my coach tells me, our brains are really good at putting up defenses.
2. Examine your value system
This is a big one. It’s likely that your values have shifted over time. If you’re changing and evolving as a human and your responsibilities or circumstances have changed, your values often do, too.
It isn’t that you have a wholesale change in all of your values, but the relative importance often changes and some do get left behind in favor of different values that reflect your current age, stage, and circumstances. Your work might no longer match your values.
So if you’ve hit a crossroads in life, it’s important to take a step back to examine what’s important to you. What are your core values? What values come to life in your day-to-day? What values are important that are missing from your life? Do you want to change your values? What family values have an impact on you as a person?
You might even consider making a personal vision statement.
3. Revisit (and rewrite) your goals
Just because you have written a goal doesn’t mean you have to remain committed to it if it no longer serves the direction you want to go.
It’s natural that goals shift and change. In fact, you might not have clearly thought about the personal goals you’d like to set for yourself. Take a minute to revisit your goals.
They don’t have to be lofty goals, either. My husband and I have a monthly ritual. At the start of each month, we write down 3-5 SAGs, or small achievable goals, on a piece of paper.
If I think about some of my SAGs, they actually are building blocks for larger goals I’ve set for myself. For example, in the month of March, I set a goal to make salads for lunch at least three times a week. This could feed a larger goal of a healthier nutritional lifestyle (and reducing food waste). But by breaking it down into smaller pieces, it feels more achievable.
Think about ways you can do the same for your goals in life. What are the small building blocks that can help you reach your big goals? How have your goals changed over the years?
4. Work up the courage to commit to change
Committing to making a change is no easy feat. It takes courage, bravery, and self-awareness. It also takes a level of intentionality.
Once you know your values, your goals, and where you’re starting from, it’s time to map out your next move. In a lot of ways, this step is more about a mindset and perspective shift than anything. Rather than “starting over,” think of it as starting fresh. You get to shape your new life. Positive self-talk and encouragement can be good tools here.
Remember, you’re in charge of your life. That doesn’t mean that you can control everything — quite possibly many elements are outside of your locus of control.
But, you always have the ability to choose how you want to act and respond given the circumstances. You are choosing the best way forward for you. You can make a change if you want to, but it takes action, not just thought.
5. Make your next move
Let’s say you’re ready to start over in life. You’ve taken all the steps and are ready to use your growth mindset to make a move.
Now, it’s time to put it into action. Let’s go back to my friend. Let’s say that she’s ready to quit her job. Maybe she wants to shift industries or start dating again. Maybe she wants to move across the country since she can work remotely anyways. Or maybe she wants to travel.
Map out your move. It doesn’t have to be drastic. Even the littlest change can start to build into making the changes that’ll help you start over in life.
6. Get a coach
Any amount of change can be incredibly challenging. If you’re planning on starting over in life, you’re going to need a support system.
Aside from friends, family members, and loved ones, it helps to have guidance from an objective outsider who can help you reflect on yourself. Someone to confide in, someone to help provide impartial advice, someone to help push your growth and challenge you.
With BetterUp, you can feel better equipped to tackle starting over in life. A coach will work with you one-on-one to help you reach your full potential, whatever that means for you.
And according to data, BetterUp works. Of the people who start out “stuck” (low well-being), 77% will significantly improve their well-being state in 3-4 months.
7. Keep checking in on yourself
Like any new path in life, it’s going to come with its up and downs. Progress isn’t linear. And if you’re at a point in your life where you’re looking to start over, you know that life isn’t a straight path to self-actualization.
“Be kinder to yourself this time. Speak to yourself as though you are your own best friend. When you fall down, take a few minutes to comfort yourself before you rush on to the next thing. Treat yourself as though you are someone worthy of love, kindness, and forgiveness.”
Kelly Labrecque, BetterUp Fellow Coach
You’re valuable and you’re human. You’re going to make mistakes along the way and learn new lessons. It’s about how you learn from your failures that can help shape your future.
13 questions to ask when starting over in life
In pursuit of purpose, clarity, and passion in our lives, there are questions we need to ask ourselves. Here are 13 questions you can ask when starting over in life:
- How would you describe your mental fitness? Is it harming or hurting your quality of life?
- When you think about your overall well-being, what are you proud of? What do you want to change?
- When’s the last time you were outside of your comfort zone?
- When was the last time you felt proud of yourself and why?
- What will happen if you continue to live your life as is? What would happen if you don’t make a change?
- What would happen if you stayed in your current job?
- What would happen if you chose to switch careers or quit your job?
- What are your strengths? Are you using them in your day-to-day life?
- What don’t you like about your life right now?
- What’s within your locus of control?
- What would you do if you only have one year left to live?
- How would your life be different if you invested in yourself?
- Are you a priority in your life? If not, why not?
How to start over with your values in mind
Starting over in life should be rooted in your value system. If you’re not sure where to start, let’s talk through what this could mean for you.
Identifying your values
You know you want to change your life. This might be a new beginning and a fresh start for you. In your old life, you might not have been aware of what your value system was. Now that you’re in a place where you can rebuild your life, you need to identify your values.
First, it starts with letting go of what doesn’t serve you. My coach talks a lot about letting go of negative thoughts, values, and beliefs that don’t serve me. Embarking on a journey of reaching your full potential is really a lot of unlearning. You might’ve picked up old habits along the way that you don’t know were toxic.
Next, reflect. At BetterUp, we use something called a Whole Person Assessment (WPA) as reflection points throughout our journey of self-improvement. The WPA can give you some insight into what you care about most when it comes to your values.
Finally, if you’re starting a new life, that often means new values. Try writing down the old habits that you don’t want to bring into your new life. Then, write out a list of the values that you’ve identified from your WPA. Finally, take a moment to reflect on new values. What’s missing? What do you want to add?
For example, perhaps you’ve lived your entire life working nonstop. Let’s say you’re a self-proclaimed workaholic that’s finally hit rock bottom. You’ve burned yourself out — and for the first time, you’re forced to think about change.
Perhaps quality family time is a value you’d like to add to your value system. You want to start to live life with family at the center of everything you do.
Embracing your values while starting over
Once you’ve identified your values, it’s time to embrace and enact them. You have to behave and be different. It might feel uncomfortable at first. After all, you’re unlearning while you’re learning — and that’s a pretzel to wrestle in and of itself.
For example, if you’re a workaholic, stepping away from your career can feel like the scariest thing in the world. But if you’re serious about investing in your family, enact that value. Maybe you start setting boundaries at work. Maybe you decide that you need a sabbatical or some other extended time away (and use some of that unlimited PTO). Or, maybe you want to go big and quit your job altogether.
If it scares you, you’re probably growing. Don’t lose sight of the values you’ve committed to when making a change.
Start to change your life
Start living. If you’re ready for a new start, there’s no better time than the present.
You can carve a path to a better life and start to make changes for the better. And with help from BetterUp, the new possibilities are endless. Start working with a coach to get personalized support and guidance. With virtual coaching, you can start to live with purpose, clarity, and passion.
Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.