April 9, 2010 -- Recently I was in New York City to lead a Women on Fire event and to meet with reporters, editors and producers.
It seemed everywhere I went someone said something to me about "reinventing" themselves. Or, they commented that someone else has, should or is planning to. I was even asked if my work leading the Women on Fire organization is a reinvention after my career in journalism, politics and television production.
Hmmmm? It never occurred to me to think of it that way.
On my way out of the city, at the airport, I picked up More Magazine and what's on the cover? You guessed it! A full-length article on "Reinvention -- for the Risk-Averse." The article actually contained some good strategies for changing careers.
But. Ugh. Something strikes me very wrong about the idea we have to "reinvent" ourselves every time we make a change toward what it is we truly want. "Reinvention" sounds like we aren't good enough and we need to figure out something…anything…to become and then try to be it.
The soul would much rather fail at its own life than succeed at someone else's. -- Poet David Whyte
Instead, what if it's simpler than that? What if we made our life's work to recognize our natural gifts, strengths and desires and create a plan to express them in the world? That way, each mark forward (sometimes appearing as two steps backward) is the measure of getting us closer to what we were put on this Earth to do.
Rather than the inevitable periodic "reinventions," we would steadily refine what we want and love to do, and become more and more of who we authentically are. Over time, rather than a start-stop-start, we would g-r-o-w into who we are becoming.
Mary Lynne Musgrove, a career counselor in Columbus, Ohio, describes the progression of a career as "stomping your perimeter." The idea is that when we are in our 20s, 30s and 40s, we are collecting skills and knowledge and gaining experience, expertise and wisdom. By the time we reach our 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond, we combine all of our brilliance and do the work that is our destiny.
Think of Madeleine Albright. She went from immigrant child to newspaper intern to mother to college to divorced wife to politics to the National Security Council to U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to becoming our country's first female Secretary of State. (With stops in between!)
Today, at 72, she has grown into one of the most trusted international leaders and advisers in the world. It doesn't appear to me she had to reinvent anything. She "stomped her perimeter." She kept moving forward allowing one experience, hardship and success to build upon another.
In my own experience as a life and executive coach, I've had the distinct pleasure of working with people "stomping their perimeter" as they evolved into that glorious sweet spot when education, experience, success, vision and passion unites into the ultimate job, career or calling.
Laurie Forster, of Easton, Md., was a successful software saleswoman with a nagging feeling she was meant to do more in the world. She had a desire to help people and a passion for wine and great food.
She reinvented nothing. She created a plan that allowed her to take steps around what she loved. She went to coach training school to learn effective strategies for transforming people's lives and she seriously studied wine and became a sommelier. Then, she took the leap of combining the two. Laurie pulled together her interests and experience and created a life and career that drew the best from her. Today, she is an author, speaker, educator, media celebrity and well known as The Wine Coach. She was perfect to start with, and now she has just grown more into herself. No reinvention or the shifting of tectonic plates that that indicates.
The next time you think or someone suggests you might want to "reinvent" yourself, consider these two questions.What are my natural gifts, strengths and talents? (If you aren't 100 percent clear about them, don't be shy about asking those around you -- friends, family and professional associates -- to tell you. They may surprise you and point out talent you didn't even know you have.)
What is one step forward that would be fun for me to explore?
Living from true passion propels us forward -- every step of the way.
Reinvention hints that we are in some way broken. Evolving recognizes the magic within each of us to grow into the exquisite human beings we're meant to be.
A pioneer in the field of life and executive coaching, Debbie Phillips is the founder of the organization Women on Fire and the author of "Women on Fire: 20 Inspiring Women Share Their Life Secrets (and Save You Years of Struggle!)" and co-executive producer of the film "Inspire Me!"