“Starting over is not a sign of failure but a mark of courage — a willingness to give yourself and your life another chance.” Scott Stabile
If your life has fallen apart because of an unexpected twist, you may be on the verge of losing hope about your future.
If the breakup has been unbearable or the divorce has been unmanageable, you have a precious gift in your hands.
Usually, it’s not the heartbreak or the life-crushing event that has you down. It’s the question of “what next” or “what now” or “how do you rebuild your life” that plagues you.
Even if you can’t change the past, you have no idea how to start over.
Rewind to five years ago, when I thought my life was over.
With our newly signed divorce papers, separate residences, and separate lives, I thought I was done.
I had imagined my life to be a certain way and until the divorce, it had been going a certain way. I had gotten married, we had bought a house, we were going to be professionals (a lawyer and a doctor).
It felt like we were on the cusp of “making it” when essentially my life flipped out of control. Everything fell apart but the falling apart is when the magic started happening for me.
I came to see that dead-ends and rock bottoms are sacred places that allow you to examine everything in your life and start over.
I reflected on my life and my own starting over journey to create a life that’s better than the one I had before.
Here are the 15 key steps for starting over in life
Take a break.
If you’re where you are, doing what you’re doing, and continue doing that, you’re going to have a difficult time resetting.
You need a break. Maybe a vacation. Maybe a change of scenery. Maybe travel to a different part of town. Maybe a retreat.
After my divorce, I took several breaks for months at a time, but you can get away for a few days or even a week.
Change what you’re seeing; to shift your perspective, change what’s around you.
A break can also give you the time you need to get quiet, spend more time with yourself, and become more self-aware.
2. Give yourself space for healing and letting go.
When your life is busy and when the past, people, and emotional turmoil clutter it, you will have trouble moving forward.
You need space. That may be physical space, space from your life, or space from the people around you.
This may mean creating time for yourself during which you can work on your healing and letting go.
Working on your healing means doing things to heal the emotional and mental wounds you’ve suffered. It means letting go of the past.
It means working on inner peace so you get more centered, perhaps by talking to someone, writing a journal, or meditating.
It means emotional peace to help you heal the past, like talking to a counselor or telling a different story about what happened so you can let go.
3. Clear out people, things, and commitments that don’t resonate.
Your life is busy, overwhelming, and unfulfilling but you have never taken steps to get clear on the type of life you want.
The way to get clarity in your life is to clear the clutter out of it.
It’s letting go of the people in your life who are unsupportive and who create upheaval.
It’s reducing the number of things you have so you can have more time to think and free space to live in.
It’s saying “no” to jobs, activities, and commitments that aren’t fulfilling you or that feel like a burden to you.
You can’t start over with a new life when all those unpleasant things from your old life are still in it.
4. Ignore what others say and how they think and live.
The world has a prescription for living your life. Everything from fairy tales to religious texts tells us what to do and when to do it.
Everyone from our grandparents to our bosses to our entertainment choices has spelled out what life should look like.
Society makes all these promises to us. If you do this, you’ll get this in return. If you go to school, you’ll get a corporate job. If you get a corporate job, you’ll get paid more. If you get paid more, you’ll buy a house. It goes on and on and on.
Society’s promises are a lie. What are true promises? You can read a book I wrote about this subject: 7 Sacred Promises. (affiliate link)
Bottom line: Ignore society’s rules and prescriptions. Now — when you’re starting over — is the time to live life your way.
5. Find the purpose behind the pain.
There is a reason for what happened.
There is meaning behind the pain.
Whatever loss you’ve experienced and whatever you let go of has lessons, answers, and grains of your purpose within it.
Your job is to come to terms with what happened and inquire about what message your experience has for you.
What does letting go mean?
What does divorce mean?
What do the tears mean?
How has your life changed?
What have you learned?
What do you know about for others because of this experience?
How has the experience shifted your perspective, your approach, and your outlook on life?
What is life calling you to do?
Your past will give you the questions — your job now is to find the answers.
Let your pain of letting go guide you to your purpose of starting over.
6. Get more spiritually centered.
Have you noticed that in our day-to-day lives, we are so busy we have no time for spirituality?
We are so busy living our lives, we have no time to connect with ourselves.
If you don’t know yourself, how can you succeed in the world?
If you haven’t checked in with yourself daily, how can you communicate with the world?
If you’re a mess on the inside, how do you show in balance on the outside?
Getting more spiritually centered means giving yourself time to go within, get more connected with yourself, and be more in balance with the world around you.
Your spiritual center is much more than the internal work, by the way. It’s also how you show up in the world.
To put spirituality to practice, you work on taming anger, reigning in pride, radiating compassion, and offering forgiveness.
All practices you must work on daily.
7. Get more intentional.
The way to start living now is to get more intentional about your life.
If you were unconscious or lived a default life, you would continue to live the life that was there.
You would allow anything to happen. You wouldn’t make changes. You wouldn’t get clear. You wouldn’t be intentional. You wouldn’t start, initiate, or improve.
To get more intentional, you must choose.
You must stand up for your preferences.
You must say “no” to many things and “yes” to what you really want.
8. See the kind of life you want to have for yourself.
You won’t know how to get there if you don’t know where you’re going.
One of the most beautiful parts about starting over is that you get to dream again and ask yourself what you want for your life.
Now is the time to visualize and see the kind of life you want for yourself.
You have likely hidden this dream life within you. You’ve likely thought about this life when you were a child or while you were daydreaming.
Imagine the life you could have if money wasn’t a limitation or if you weren’t in the middle of your current circumstances.
Spend time actively envisioning, dreaming, and visualizing the life you want, from work and relationships to your life purpose.
9. Feel the life you want to have.
This is one of the ways in which Danielle LaPorte, through her book The Fire Starter Sessions, influenced my life.
What was so helpful to me in the book was the realization that we figure out how we want to feel each day in the future.
What I realized is that not only can you move towards those feelings, you can also start having more of them in your life each day.
For example, some of the feelings I wanted to experience each day were creativity, freedom, compassion, and sacredness.
Today, I have all this in my life even though I’m not yet exactly where I want to be. I write on an almost daily basis, working on my creativity. I have a job that gives me absolute freedom so I can do the work that lights me up. Each and every day, I work on helping people and improving the lives of others, which evokes the feelings of compassion and sacredness. Cultivating a spiritual practice and appreciating the life around me also helps me feel the divine.
A feelings library located here can help you get clear on the feelings you want in your life.
Build up the life you want by experiencing the feelings you want on a daily basis.
If you build towards a life you want, without taking the feelings you want to experience, you might end up with a life you don’t want.
Plus, if you do know those feelings you desire, you can incorporate and start cultivating them each and every day.
10. Check the limitations and excuses.
After a rock-bottom moment or life catastrophe, you begin to think about all the ways you got to be in the place you’re in.
You begin to believe you’re plagued or cursed.
You allow past circumstances to dictate future circumstances.
You doubt yourself, are averse to risks, and are more likely to believe in why you can’t do what you want to do.
You see obstacles instead of possibilities. Life’s happenings shake up your belief system and change your perspective.
The best way to start over is to credit your past disappointments to experience.
It’s to see each new experience on its own instead of assuming the past will equal the future.
What happened, happened.
What can happen is in your hands.
The excuses and limitations are only in your head. You can remove these mind obstacles if you recognize them for what they are and move forward despite the obstacles.
Don’t believe what your mind is telling you; your thoughts can be unfairly biased and often wrong!
Your misguided thoughts may be trying to protect you but in reality, they’re holding you back from living the life you want.
11. Get clear on your values.
As with the feelings you want to experience each day, starting over allows you to get clear on your life values.
If your life feels strained and overwhelming, if you’re unhappy and confused about the way your life is, you’re probably not living your life according to your values.
If you value creativity and are stuck in a repetitive, unfulfilling job, you’re not living per your values.
If you have too much going on in your life but value simplicity, your values are off-kilter.
If you hate meeting people but value love, your life will feel unfulfilling.
You don’t have to live your values today but I urge you to start clarifying your values.
If you live every day according to your values, you will find life to be meaningful and fulfilling.
12. Prioritize your life.
You’re probably doing a whole lot in your life you shouldn’t be doing.
It’s time to get super focused.
You get where you want to go by letting go of where you don’t want to be.
This means doing high-value, core-feeling, light-spreading work activities, and letting go of people, things, and activities that bring you down.
It means doing what you value more, first.
It means creating time for the things and people that matter.
If you’ve learned anything from the past, you know you can’t do it all.
And you don’t have to do it all.
You get to choose. You prioritize what matters and radically cut out what doesn’t.
13. Build up habits to help yourself move forward.
When starting over, know that habits build up your best life.
I think that’s what Leo Babauta has figured out more than anything else. You can accomplish anything you want to do, create, or be if you simply commit to it. Throughout his blog, you learn how to build daily habits in your life.
He’s realized, as have I, that habits are the stairway to the doors of our dreams. You get where you want to go by doing what you want to do daily. You create daily habits to move your life forward.
It’s how meditation and writing have become key parts of my life.
Create the life you want by creating the habits you want.
14. Get a mentor or guide to help you get to this life.
I mention the people and resources that helped me create a new life for myself.
Some of these people are in the online world and I mention their work in this post.
Others who influenced my life were spiritual masters of the past. Everyone from Rumi, Paramahansa Yogananda, Jesus, and Buddha have been teachers and mentors.
Others who helped me along the path of rebuilding my life were coaches and people I’ve worked with to improve some part of my life.
If you want to move quickly towards your destination, seek a mentor, tutor, or coach.
It’s not a waste of money, time, or resources if you can get where you want to go quicker.
If you’ve tried and haven’t gotten there on your own, consider getting help.
15. Stay resilient and committed to building this new life.
You don’t start over in life just once.
You start over each and every day.
Each day will be a challenge and each day presents an opportunity.
The opportunity here is that you get to start over.
You get to start over from scratch.
Everything in your life before is no longer there, giving you the freedom to create the life you want.
Losing a person, job, or house creates the space and time to create something new.
You might think that things are going to be worse than they were before because you’re alone, poor, unhappy, or confused.
Yet, in the midst of the darkness is the light.
Your job is to find this light and use it to guide yourself back to the life you had only imagined once upon a time.
Starting over now means building a life of possibilities; fulfilling your potential; living meaningfully and with purpose.
For my book on starting over in life, pick up The Comeback Artist here. (affiliate link which means I may get compensated if you click a link in this post and purchase a product from Amazon)