Starting Over: It doesn’t get easier

Whether it’s a company, a relationship, or just a new life chapter — starting over is freaking hard.

There are endless books, blogs, and podcasts on how to start over. If we can find a way to travel in the air in metal boxes or carry tiny computers around in our pockets, why can’t we figure out how to navigate change better?

When I think about starting over I usually think about endings. But new beginnings are just as hard.

A new city, a new job, a new relationship. Navigating change is difficult no matter what the change is.

Life is about change … sometimes it’s painful, sometimes it’s beautiful … most of the time it’s both.

A blank canvas means the world is your oyster. It also means you are starting over from scratch. Which means you have to rebuild. To establish new goals, routines, and new ways of being in the world.

It doesn’t actually matter if its a successful exit or a failed startup — starting over isn’t necessarily easier either way.

Navigating Change:

You know how some people seem to learn things the easy way or the first time. Yeah that’s not me. I’m messy. Not the perfectly imperfect messy either, I’m more of a bed head kind of messy.

I like to make sure I thoroughly learn my lessons by repeating the same ineffective patterns of behavior over and over.

Avoidance. Over-attachment. Denial. Yeah I see you.

Some people just seem to know things. It’s like they got a life user manual about how to navigate this human experience gracefully and my copy got lost in the mail.

Change is never easy. But it’s the changes we didn’t choose to make that normally rock our world the most. Or maybe that’s just me.

  • Deciding to leave your job. Hard. Getting fired. Devastating.
  • Deciding to end a relationship. Hard. Getting dumped. Devastating.
  • Deciding to leave the party early. Hard. Being the last one at the party … okay maybe not devastating but definitely lonely.

Frisco to Fresno:

Finding a new you in an old place

No matter how many new chapters of change I learn to navigate I always think I’m going to get better at it. The only thing I’ve learned is to give myself space and permission. However learning this time and time again doesn’t actually make me do it. Because regardless of what I know rationally, change is freaking hard.

I’ve been navigating a lot of my own personal change lately. While the change has been mostly good it hasn’t exactly been easy. On any given day I’ve been excited about what’s to come, mourning what is gone, or just paralyzed in not knowing.

I felt like I needed to sweat out the rollercoaster of intense feelings like one big emotional hangover after a wild weekend bachelorette party.

I craved structure and routine. I wanted both something familiar and something new.

So I went home to Fresno for a month to experiment with new ways of experiencing change. Now, I love my hometown but committing to a month in Fresno in August is no small commitment with 100+ degree weather.

I wasn’t exactly sure what Fresno was going to offer that San Francisco couldn’t, but I knew I needed something to change. I was one week away from locking myself in my room and binge watching 3 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy (just kidding, that actually happened).

I was in a rut and I decided any change was a step in the right direction. So I packed my bags, grabbed the dog, and started driving. Along the way I figured I needed a better plan than “if you go to Fresno the answer will come.”

I am no guru so I took a stab in the dark to what would work for me, and it ended up being everything that I needed and then some. In the process I found my way back to me and also created the space to become a new version of myself.

Practice A New Perspective:

Sit with what you know and challenge everything

I spent around 2 hours a day without phones or work or social media just processing. Let me preface this with the fact that I can’t meditate for 2 minutes let alone 2 hours.

So I let go of trying to “meditate” and instead just sat with my thoughts. I didn’t clear my mind (because apparently I’m not so good at that) but instead I got curious. I inspected my thoughts and feelings like they were rare art pieces.

  • Where do you think that comes from?
  • What if that weren’t true?
  • What if this feeling went away?
  • What if …

Sometimes it was sad, sometimes it was full of hope. By the end of the month my 2 hours wasn’t really processing anymore. It was as if I had moved past a block and found a wellspring of inspiration and creativity.

Everywhere I looked I was having new ideas, which for a creative consultant is a really important thing to have. Instead of my normal pattern of avoiding or numbing or my personal favorite: denial, I chose to sit with my feelings.

Having the time and space of an entire month allowed me to watch them wash over me without attachment or judgement to what they should be or how quickly I should start feeling better like I usually do.

Once I got through my mental resistance and judgement it opened up the space to create something new.

Create New Habits:

External change for an internal shift

In addition to my new found habit of thinking, I knew I needed structure. Something to give me a new sense of habit and routine.

So I spent 2 hours a day working out. Which I know can sound very aggressive, but for me the fastest way to change my emotional state is to change my physical state.

I enlisted the help of Billy Ramos at Progressive Sports so I could really push my limits. Without the help and accountability of someone else there was no way I was getting up at to the gym everyday for a month. I would work out with him in the morning then set off to work (because taking a month off from my life did not mean that I could take a month off from work!).

I came back in the afternoon for a second session, usually swimming. Not being a swimmer myself this was probably the hardest part. I was tired, I was sore, and worse — I wasn’t very good at it.

Most days my inner dialogue sounded like an angry sailor but because quitting wasn’t an option (Billy was watching after all) I just kept going. Slowly and not very gracefully, but somewhere during the session in the pool I realized my mind had calmed and my inner dialogue was now counting strokes instead of complaining about the circumstances.

Like seriously, how did that happen? It’s like some zen athlete just hijacked my mind.

After a month or so of this I realized how for me, having a mental tantrum was part of my resistance and if I kept going it would eventually get on board and quit resisting.

Another added bonus was that I was now so exhausted that my mind couldn’t spin it’s wheels which made spending time processing my feelings so much easier. I was like a toddler that had too much candy: someone needed to let me run around in the yard to burn off my extra energy before I could sit down and focus.

By having Billy push me to do things I’m not as naturally inclined to do I also learned that failing or being bad at things is also a part of change. These new found revelations carried over outside the gym as well.

Finding Focus:

Do less, get more

I don’t know when or how it happened, but everything just got simpler. More was happening and getting accomplished but my inner pace was calming down — as if I could slow down time and really process what was happening moment to moment.

Maybe my life was more simple or I was less overstimulated. Between a few friends, my dog, they gym, and work there wasn’t much else going on. This gave me the time I needed to take care of myself, read, sleep, cook, and catch up on all the little things that left me feeling prepared.

I wasn’t as scattered.

I think they call it focus but this was really the first time in my adult like I’ve experienced it so TBD.

Just Start:

Leap before you look

Everyone is different. I am no expert on how to start over and I am by no means creating a recipe for what others should do.

The one thing I know to be true is that no matter how many conversations with friends you have, action plans you make, or dreams you have — it doesn’t matter if you don’t do anything about it.

At the end of the day, no matter how you get there, no matter how long it takes, no matter how hard or easy it is … starting over decides with the decision to start.

Don’t sit in limbo watching things change. Choose to try something new. Choose to move in a direction, any direction really.

Newton’s 1st law of motion: an object in motion will stay in motion and an object at rest will stay at rest. So get yourself going. Choose to try.

Decide to start. It’s not going to be any easier tomorrow.