If you’re over 40 and ready for a change, I’ve got advice on how to reinvent yourself in midlife from the master of reinvention herself: Claire Cook, the author of Must Love Dogs. Here are Claire’s best tips on the steps to transform yourself into your own midlife reinvention.
Claire Cook is the master of reinventing yourself after 40. You might know Claire as the author of Must Love Dogs, which became a successful movie starring John Cusack and Diane Lane. But, did you know that Must Love Dogs was only her second published novel? Or that she published her first novel at 45?
A woman who successfully transitioned from high school teacher to walking the red carpet at 50 has the wisdom to share with the rest of us. She’s done just that in two books just for midlife women looking to reinvent their lives: Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention (without getting lost along the way) and Shine On: How To Grow Awesome Instead of Old.
Claire Cook's Books on Reinvention
Claire also holds regular workshops where she shares her tips on how to reinvent your life. I was lucky enough to attend a workshop recently.
When I walked into the surprisingly large classroom, I expected to see maybe 30 or so middle-aged women like myself wanting to talk about what’s next for them. Instead, I found perhaps 100 women from mid-twenties to late-sixties who were there for various reasons.
Some women had taken their first step out into the world and were now pondering their next step. Several women were ten years into a career and weren’t sure if they wanted to put any more time into it.
And several women were like me, looking to see what they wanted to do now that they had time to be more than just a mom.
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What Does it Mean to Reinvent Yourself?
If you’ve spent the last 20 or so years seeing yourself primarily as a mom, you may want to reinvent yourself as they grow up, become more independent and leave home.
So, what does it really mean to reinvent yourself? It means to change the way you see yourself and to adopt new habits and behaviors that support your new outlook.
I’ve always been inspired by Lillian Carter’s life. Miss Lillian was the mother of President Jimmy Carter. She was also a prolific reinventer.
After her husband’s death, Miss Lillian became a dormitory housemother at Auburn University for many years. Then, she joined the Peace Corps at the age of 68. She spent almost two years in India helping those afflicted with leprosy.
When is the Best Time to Reinvent Yourself?
The best time to reinvent yourself is during a period of change.
We have several opportunities to reinvent ourselves throughout our lives. Becoming a mother is, in many ways, the ultimate reinvention. I know I had to learn to stop thinking about only myself and what I wanted and transition into an adult who thought primarily about her family and what was best for the family.
Like many women my age, my life now is changing whether I want it to or not.
A few years ago, my life revolved around carpools and after-school activities. With 3 kids, the house was full of noise, often messy and occasionally chaotic. These days, I come home to a clean and quiet home and I’ve got time to myself to wonder what’s next for me.
This means that now is the perfect time to reinvent myself. It’s time to change my life to transition gracefully away from my role as someone’s mom. I’m ready now to step into a new role that will bring me satisfaction during the second half of my life.
How to Reinvent Yourself After 40
The first step in reinventing yourself is to realize you are ready for a reinvention. That’s it. That’s literally all you need to do.
As Claire said in her seminar, if you want to reinvent yourself, you can be loosely categorized into one of two groups:
- You know you want to make a change in your life and you have a specific goal
- You know you want to make a change but you’re not sure exactly what it is you want to do
Claire shared five steps to reinventing your life in the workshop. If you have a concrete goal and a specific vision of how you want your life to change, then following these steps will help start you on the path to your new life.
And if you aren’t sure just yet what changes you want to make? Well, it turns out that Claire’s steps are helpful for you as well. Your first project in your life’s reinvention will be to use these steps to figure out just what you want to do in this next phase of your life.
Five Steps to Reinvent Yourself
1. Keep your plans to yourself at first
People can’t give you appropriate feedback if you haven’t even fully articulated your idea to yourself yet. Spend some time with your idea alone before you start showing it to the world.
I took Claire’s seminar with a specific goal in mind: I wanted to start a blog (yes, the very one you’re reading now). But I was still deciding just what topics I wanted to cover in my blog. I needed to spend some time clarifying my goals before I shared it with the world.
So many people don’t really understand what a blog is and why anyone would want to start one. It wasn’t until I had several posts out there that I felt comfortable sharing what I was doing because then people could see and understand the purpose of my blog.
2. Take Consistent Action
Claire writes two pages a day. When I first started Midlife Rambler, I held myself to a schedule of working on my blog for two hours every day in the evenings before I did anything else. Once I started blogging consistently, my blog traffic grew immensely compared to the days when I just sort of wrote posts when I felt inspired.
3. Keep notebooks everywhere to hold your ideas
Claire keeps little notebooks everywhere and writes ideas in the nearest one available when inspiration strikes. Then when she needs inspiration, she gathers them all together and reads through them all looking for ideas.
I like this idea a lot, but I use a little more high-tech version. I have the Evernote app on my phone, iPad and computer so that when I have a thought I can quickly jot it in the appropriate note.
4. Keep putting one foot in front of the other
Claire covers a full chapter in her book on why we might start and then choke and quit. Is it fear of success? Fear of failure? New shiny object? Need to know the full path? Think everything must be perfect? Yeah, it doesn’t matter, just keep going.
I wrote down something Claire said in the seminar and she says it in her book as well:
“Give me two people, one who is super-talented and who is just tenacious and just keeps going and I’ll put my money on the second one.”
5. Karma is a Boomerang
This can simply mean how you treat people can come back to you. And I believe that.
But it can be so much more than that as well.
I’m reminded of something my friend and I used to say before hearing about the Law of Attraction. We called it “The Karma of Putting it Out There.”
We used that phrase to describe something that seemed to happen quite a lot. We would want something (like a new client) and take action to achieve what we wanted (such as attending a networking event). It seemed that often we would get our new client but in a completely different way, such as a phone call from out of the blue.
In our minds, attending the networking event did, in fact, bring the new client due to “The Karma of Putting it Out There.” We expressed a desire and took action to achieve it, and the universe rewarded us with what we wanted.
Karma can come from faith, the faith that keeps you going even you can’t see what’s coming.
Here’s to Karma!