and Reinvent Yourself at Any Age
Inspirational thoughts and research about the importance of dreaming and changing your life or work if it’s not all you want it to be, and the necessity of lifelong study on how to get where you want to go.
MY MOTHER WAS A DREAMER, and my sisters and I followed her lead. I believed Mother when she told me in high school that I could do anything I wanted to do if I just worked hard enough to make my dreams come true. So I’ve been a dreamer ever since. A friend made this plaque for me after I shared her wisdom with him:
What Mother Taught Me
Follow, follow, Follow your dream,
to the place where your heart wants to go.
Look past your fears to that place in your dreams
and reach out to the YOU no one knows.
It surprised me when some of my lifelong friends told me they don’t have any particular goals or ambitions now because they’re retired and just into enjoying life. But I think it’s nearly impossible for anyone who has worked for most of their adult life on a business of their own, as I have, to ever reach the point where the dreaming stops and there is no longer any desire to set new life goals. Yes, declining health may slow some of us down, but we shouldn’t let that stop us if our spirit says “Go for it!”
As Mark Twain once said, “Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
I’ve found that working to make a dream come true can easily go hand-in-hand with reinventing yourself. One definition of “reinvent” is to “remake or make over, as in a different form.” Cambridge Dictionaries Online defines this word as “to change someone or something so much that the person or thing seems completely new.”
A popular writer on Yahoo identifying himself as “Protem” offered this interesting definition: “Reinvent yourself means change who you think you need to be. Or (and perhaps better) LET GO of thinking about who and what you need to be (in some future) and just be. Now. Be. Without the baggage of an unknowable future.”
If you’re not happy with your present life and don’t know how to reinvent yourself, just Google the phrase to find more than a million web pages offering ideas and inspiration. I haven’t read any of those articles, but I did read countless books on every topic related to a dream I had of building a new business on the web after my husband died. Perhaps my experience will give you some perspective on the process itself as I see it.
Making a New Life for Myself
AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY when my husband was very ill, I already knew I’d have to keep working for a long time. By then I was extremely burned out and tired of the mail order book-selling and newsletter publishing business Harry and I had launched back in the mid-seventies. When widowed five years later with an established website to build on, I began to look anew at what was happening on the Internet and where I might find a niche for myself doing work that would be both profitable and more satisfying to me.
The Web was literally exploding then, and things were changing rapidly from month to month. Building on my skills as a writer, self-publisher, and speaker/teacher, I instinctively did what I’d done when I first launched my home-business: I began another intense period of self-study to learn things I needed to know to realize some of my new dreams, such as how to build my own websites (meant learning HTML and CSS coding); how to become a successful freelance book manuscript editor (which meant learning how to get people to find me on the web); and most important to me, how to publish eBooks and self-publish my own print books to get them on Amazon. Of course my learning process continues today because everything related to self-publishing in general and the creation of eBooks in particular continues to change faster than many authors can keep up with.
In short, when we have a dream of any kind, we must first put that dream in writing (make a plan), and then put in the effort to make it come true. For me, this has always meant doing a lot of research and self-study to gain whatever knowledge or skills I needed to make my newest dream come true. Perhaps the hardest part for many will be just finding the time to do this around other work/life/family responsibilities. Once you’re ready to actually begin to implement your dream, you should count on a lot of trial-and-error experimentation as you forge ahead and begin to learn what works and what doesn’t.
Since I’ve always been my own editor, I decided to hang out my editing shingle in 2004, and before long I found that authors were finding me on the web (because I’d spent a lot of time learning SEO strategies). I went on to help several of them publish their first book, all the while continuing to learn everything I could about self-publishing in the New Century because nothing was as I knew it so well in the nineties.
By 2010, I finally made the transition from a home-business writer to a memoirist by self-publishing a book about my unusual life with a drummer named Harry. A couple of years later, after more intense study to learn how to format and convert book manuscripts into good-looking eBooks, I realized another dream by publishing my first eBook, an edition of my first memoir.
Focusing on the “Big Picture”
and Making a Plan
MY WORK WITH AUTHORS was profitable and personally rewarding for several years, but my life turned on a dime in the summer of 2015 when I was prompted to once again focus on my life as an aging entrepreneur and writer and where I wanted to go from that point forward. I looked anew at my “dream list” and made some changes in the way I was living and working. Note that this is not only something every home-business owner and entrepreneur needs to do periodically, but an exercise even retired individuals might want to think about.
I’ve discussed this topic at length in my article, “Will You Still Be Working in Your Seventies?” This is actually a story about my own retirement planning and the results of a simple financial exercise that not only changed my life in 2015, but my perception of work itself. One of the questions I had to answer then was how long I thought I would live, and another more difficult question was how differently would I live if I thought I had only ten more years left—or five, or even just one—in years to come.
As we age, it’s very hard to admit to ourselves that we’re not going to live forever, and we need to occasionally look anew at our life and answer some of the questions posed in the above-mentioned article. They are not just for small business owners but every individual who is searching for more happiness in life.
As home-business owners, we quickly learned the importance of writing a business plan and then working that plan and revising it as often as needed. We used to be able to make five-year business plans, but no one can do that any more, not only because of constantly changing technology, but how America’s culture and laws have changed since 2020. These changes are not only affecting our lives but the lives of consumers who might be interested in our products or services.
This means I can’t make a firm ten-year “life plan” now, or even a five-year plan, but I can only focus on one year at a time. So at the start of each new year, I’ll “review the situation,” as Fagan considers in the song from Oliver, which concludes with “I think I’d better think it out again.”
There’s only one thing I know for sure: I’ll never stop dreaming about things I want to do and putting my dreams and goals in writing because my to-do list has always been my greatest motivation for getting up each morning. I hope you’ll always have a new dream for something you want to do and that you’ll find a way to make it come true.
“There’s no final resting place during this life when you’re free to prance through a meadow. It’s imperative we make sure to have fun now, along the way, or we waste the whole shooting match on boring obligations.”
– from “10 Easy Steps to Making Your Dreams Come True,” an article by novelist Katie Morton
If you need personal help or encouragement to pursue your dream, I’d be happy to speak with you. See my telephone consulting service here.
A Few Words on Entrepreneurship
AS I WAS WRITING THIS ARTICLE, I read a post by Jonathan Fields, a writer and artist I admire. In his article, “Why do so many entrepreneurs hate their lives?”, he lists eleven thought-provoking questions everyone should ask themselves, even if they’re not running a business of their own. They all revolve around the primary question of how you really want to live your life.
I don’t think the home-business owners and other self-employed individuals in my readership base or newsletter network hate their lives or they wouldn’t have stayed in business for so many years, but one sentence in this article struck me because up until ten years ago, this was my home business story in a nutshell: “You’re spending so much time doing the grunt work and servicing customers, you have no time to focus on the big picture.”
I decided to reinvent myself online because I’ve always believed something else Jonathan says in this article, that “Entrepreneurship is not about building a great business, it’s about building a great life.”
Recommended Resource: “Support for Your Dream, a product of American Family Insurance. This website features a large collection of stories about dreamers that will inspire many readers. “Declaring your dream is the first step to pursuing it,” they state, and on the site you can privately declare your secret dream and create a “Dreambank profile” to help you discover the tools, resources, and information needed to make your dream a reality.
Making a Dream Come True. How an artist found the courage to make her secret dream come true. This special tribute to Susan Young holds an inspirational message for everyone who has ever had a secret dream and wished they had the courage to try to make it come true.
How to Be All You Can Be. How do you prefer to live? Being pushed and pressed by others, or being pulled and stretched as you reach for your dream? Here’s perspective perspective on this topic from someone with a lifetime of experience as a self-employed individual..