What helped you restart your life?
January 14, 2006 6:36 AM   Subscribe

Tips, suggestions, and resources for those starting life anew but have no clue - at the moment anyway - what they're supposed to be doing.

After a few defining moments and events, I feel that it is time for a restart on life. Starting anew, going on a path that's truly my own (and not just the result of prodding from family/friends/whoever). However, I'm rather nervous, as I have barely an idea of what to do and how to do it.

I realize it's a very vague and open-minded question, and there are still some that don't know what to do with their life either (check out the archives of AskMefi for such a sampling).

However, I was wondering if there were any particular resources - personal tips, websites, books, articles, etc - that really helped you along the way. Anything from a website that teaches the basics of personal finance, to some poignant advice obtained from a friend.

What helped you restart your life?
posted by divabat to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
What helped you restart your life?

Realizing that planning is not doing.
posted by Jairus at 6:48 AM on January 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

Ditto to Jairus. "Someday" never comes. Something that you plan to do "in a year or two" will still be a year or two away two years from now. Which is not to say that you shouldn't have long-term planning but that you should use specific dates (e.g. "by January 2007" rather than "in two years")

For personal finance, read "The Wealthy Barber"

For career, read "What Colour is Your Parachute?" (as recent an edition as you can find -- it comes out every year)

Realize that it's not about making a change in direction one day and then going off on a new course thereafter without thinking much about it. It's about being mindful of making the changes (and sticking to them) every day.
posted by winston at 7:17 AM on January 14, 2006

divabat -- I'm in a simiar position right now, and there were two things that seemed to help start me on my way recently.

First, I took a good long vacation (to NYC) and spent almost the entire time exploring by myself. The new environment and the wide array of options let me get out and really, truly clear my mind while at the same time asking the question "What do I want to do?" and satisfying only my own interests (mostly art). I returned with a much clearer mind and that made my "new direction" a bit less intimidating when I returned.

Second, as someone who has traditionally defined himself by his relationships, I had a bit of a revelation while writing an online dating profile during that vacation, which was only two weeks after a long term relationship had ended. Three things immediately came together as I saw what I was writing -- (1) I really shouldn't date for a while, (2) like you, I needed to seek out some direction in my life, (3) I really like art. So the exercise gave me a bit of a starting point, and I'm quitting the dating site, trying to find out as much as I can about museums and galleries on my area and more seriously pursuing my own artistic passions.

So, maybe try getting away on your own for a little while to clear your mind and perhaps try writing down a few thoughts about yourself -- perhaps start by describing the person you are, and then think a little past that and try writing about the person you want to be...
posted by VulcanMike at 7:22 AM on January 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

this may just boil down to different personalities, so feel free to ignore it. but to me your question seems very strange. my life has changed in quite major times at several points in my life - leaving home; changing profession; living in a different country - and i've never planned any of them. not only that, i can't imagine how one could plan them, since they typically depend on many different things, outside my control, coming together at a particular moment.

so i don't think changing your life is about planning. for me it's about exploiting opportunities. in particular, to the contradiction of both being open to change and stubbornly refusing to give in when things are hard.

you plan holidays. the best you can do with life is exploit it.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:05 AM on January 14, 2006

saw "As Good As It Gets" and stopped waiting for someone else to change me.
posted by mirileh at 8:30 AM on January 14, 2006

Well first of all you shouldn't set your sights too high; a common misconception is that because you're making such a major commitment, you're guaranteed positive results. Wrong - you're only guaranteed different results.
Second, to expand on what Jairus said, I wonder how many people made similar plans at New Year and now, a few weeks on, have seen those plans fall by the wayside? What separates the sheep from the goats is those who act on their plans.
Finally, to echo Vulcan Mike, whenever I've wanted to make significant changes in my life - I want a new job, I want to live in a new country - I've done as much research as I can, lined up all my ducks in a row, and then gone on holiday. I know that when I come back my energy and perspective is at it's best; conversely, it's really hard to make major change when you're in the very rut you're trying to get out of.
posted by forallmankind at 9:31 AM on January 14, 2006

divabat, I followed the link from your sign-on page. I gather you're just finishing your post-undergrad program, and now you're looking for your first steps. You've certainly accomplished a lot already, and you seem to hold high ideals about what you can do in life, at any age - that's great!
My main advice to you is twofold - a)Be bold, take action and do things you're scared to do, and b)Remember, almost nothing you do at this stage is FOR LIFE, except maybe those stupid extra-wide earholes and face tattoos. You can reverse almost any decision, and opening one door will eventually open lots more, provided you perform well.
I did the Landmark Forum at your age, and from there decided I wanted to make an impact on people at work, so I went into HR and I'm still in that field, still love it. (Lots of people think the Landmark Forum is a cult, FYI.)
posted by pomegranate at 10:31 AM on January 14, 2006

1) Bought Pick-up truck w/ camper top
2) Lived out of it travelling the East Coast of the USA
3) Read "Love in the Time of Cholera"
4) Came home and bought diamond ring
5) Proposed to lovely girl whom I had not yet so much as held hands with, let alone dated
6) Was turned down
7) Returned ring for refund*
8) Hit the road again
!) Four years later am happily married to lovely girl

*[Would highly recommend making sure the ring is returnable during step 4]
posted by iurodivii at 11:42 AM on January 14, 2006

At some point I decided that I was sick of hanging around with my friends who were all planning to "someday" do this or that (go to paris, get a tattoo, drive cross-country), either when they had enough money, were stable enough in their job, whatever. I decided to move to the West Coast after graduation and bought a van, outfitted it with a bed in the back and some loud speakers and set off to a subletted room that I hadn't even seen. When I got to Seattle I went and started volunteering at a few places that did stuff that I believed in. There's nothing like having something to do to help you think either "Hey this is what I really like doing!" or "Hey, I'd really rather be doing something else!" and just doing all the shaking up of my normal life: new places, new people, new way of living (city vs rural) really helped me think about me in different ways, it was fun.

For me, the move helped me get away from my family -- who I got along with, but didn't feel completely like myself around -- and try to sort of look at things in a new way. I was able to try on more sorts of ways of being without people around me saying "but you always seemed like this other sort of person!" until I figured out a way that I felt comfy and happy. Sometimes trying out new things is hard in your same old context, depending on who you are.

Of course, everyone else is right, you can't change you necessarily just by sticking yourself someplace different, so it's worth trying to think some about what's making you feel the need for a restart. More importantly, what sent you where you are now, which assumedly was at one time the direction you wanted to go in?

Also, I read this, which is certainly not for everyone, but helped kick my ass in the direction that turned out to be a good one.
posted by jessamyn at 12:11 PM on January 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

What do you believe in? Find a cult leader who shares your key beliefs, and join up.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:31 PM on January 14, 2006

Well, I've made restarting my life a hobby. It hasn't always worked the way I'd hoped and sometimes I feel as if I don't stick with one thing long enough.

My first restart was driven by a desire to be where the action was. For me, as a skateboarder in the early 1980s, that meant Southern California. I worked my way up to managing editor of a skate mag, but one day I felt like there must be more to life than skateboarding. I felt the need to go to college. I could have kept my job and gone to college parttime, but I wanted to make a clean break. I went to a school in a brand new city far away from So. Cal.

I've made several restarts since those. Typically, they involve these things:
1. Geographic change. It's difficult to make a restart if you don't move. It's not absolutely necessary, but it is the one thing that makes you feel like you're really starting anew.
2. A new circle of friends. You don't have to leave the old ones but you need to find ones that share your new interests.
3. Career/job change.

Once I feel an interest tugging me in a different direction, I start researching it and exploring it. I line up options that help me create instant new paths. When I'm ready, I dive in to the new thing.

I tend not to let any doubts or fears hold me back, although I have had some restart ideas that I never pursued that I wish I had (living in another country). That one is resurfacing, however.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 3:07 PM on January 14, 2006

Go to Esalen and join their work-study program for awhile. While I haven't done this myself, I've known some who have and it's been helpful to them.
posted by richg at 4:04 PM on January 14, 2006

The title is corny, but I found this to be pretty helpful in figuring out a new direction.
posted by korej at 7:12 PM on January 14, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your great ideas.

I suppose I should clarify myself - I have an idea of what I want to be doing with myself (for me - something creative that also helps other people and involves travel in some way). I tend to be rather fuzzy on the nuts-and-bolts of living though - how to find an apartment, how to manage your personal finances, that sorta thing. I know some things but, having been brought up on a rather pampered life, am not sure if I have all the skills yet.

I'm itching for independence, and a few short jaunts I've done reinforced that and made me learn so much about myself, but now I'm at the "now what?" stage. I did make a plan for the first few months of this year, but it keeps falling apart on me, so I'm feeling rather frustrated.

andrew cooke - I hate planning! It seems like everytime I try to plan something, it doesn't happen. Which isn't necessarily negative, but can be really frustrating and trying. I try to live life spontaneously, but then I'm also the sort that gets easily bored and something to look forward to is always good.

pomegranate - I'm actually not through with undergrad yet. The college I was at highly disappointed me and I felt it was a better idea to just quit and move on, rather than stay and keep funding a place that was rather suspect. Part of this "new life" thing is trying to find a place that suits my learning style (experiental) - or figuring out of such a place even exists.

I'll check out all the links now. Thank you!
posted by divabat at 12:42 AM on January 15, 2006

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