The day I read about mindfulness and self-awareness, I realized I was misled for years. I was following a life pattern tailored with false promises, consumerism, rat race, and competition.
I don’t know how it changed my life though. But I’m certain that, that was my starting point to learning more about who I am and what I can do to become a better person.
And then it happened: I started reinventing myself.
What is self-reinvention?
Self-reinvention is changing our old ways and learning new things relevant to our goals. It’s a process that involves introspecting, realizing who we want to be, understanding more about ourselves, eliminating bad habits, cultivating good habits, and taking actions that can help us evolve into our better versions.
Nobody is perfect, but everyone can improve or change themselves. It’s hard, yes. But possible. Here are some of the changes I’ve made:
I redefined almost everything I learned.
Money will make you happy; a big house will make you comfortable; a sports car will make you attractive; a stable high paying-job will secure your future; a pretty face and trendy fashion will make you popular; material gains will boost your status; expensive gadgets will make you cool; forget your passions they don’t convert money; success is being rich; money is everything…
I was fed with these false promises while growing up. And I’m pretty sure, it’s not only me. Most of us were nurtured with false promises. But who’s to blame? Our parents and relatives? No. They too are victims.
The turning point was when I redefined almost everything my teachers, parents, relatives taught me. You might say that money is important. Yes. We need it. But it’s not the most important thing in life. As David Foster Wallace admonished in his 2005 Kenyon College commencement address,
“If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth.
Redefine your own definition of money, success, power, fame, happiness, or even failure. Otherwise, you’ll chase the wrong things for the rest of your life.
I started seeking knowledge, nurturing wisdom.
Self-reinvention isn’t reinvention if you don’t change your old ways and learn new things that can help you become your better self. So I turned to self-education.
While some of my friends are partying, enjoying their young lives, browsing on Facebook, and seeking entertainment, I was busy note-taking, connecting ideas, researching, reading, watching didactic videos, talking about life, writing my thoughts, observing, reflecting, and cultivating my passions.
Today is the age of information. Almost everything we want to know is readily available through the Internet. If we’re not learning the things we ultimately desire, we’re wasting this privilege.
I questioned and studied our behaviors.
Why we never get satisfied? Why we hate? Why practicing empathy is hard? Why we easily get pissed off when things don’t come as we expect? And why we love money?
Reinventing myself has led me questioning human behaviors. Good thing, there were psychologists, philosophers, and thinkers who devoted their lives studying this subject. Their studies have helped me understand how human nature operates: Why we behave like this? Why we want attention? Why we envy and hate others?
I started challenging old beliefs.
Is it true that we won’t be happy if we don’t have money? Is it true that our main goal is to become rich? Is it really true that we need to follow everything our society expect? What if we are all misled?
We may have different beliefs, goals, and perspectives, but we have something in common: The freedom and the ability to examine deeply.
If you always believe everything you hear without even researching or investigating, that’s fine. But don’t complain why you’re unhappy or why you’re not living the life you want for yourself.
To broaden your understanding, get out from your comfort zone, challenge your own beliefs, or change your mind about something you perceived as reality. Because most of the time, what we once perceived as true is the opposite of what it is.
I restudied our virtues and practiced them.
To become a better person, you must have virtues. But seriously, what are virtues?
I can remember some of my teachers teaching me good manners, but I can’t remember them instilling the importance of virtues. I can’t remember them teaching that nurturing virtues such as love, compassion, perseverance, and wisdom are far more important than good grades, material possessions, physical appearance, and being rich (I’m not blaming them).
Reinventing myself has led me practicing virtues essential to a meaningful life — reversing my standpoint from being selfish to selfless, judgmental to understanding, and irascible to composed.
Being a better person (the real one) is not an accident. It’s a daily practice of virtues.
I dropped the Right versus Wrong and started to seek understanding.
It’s our default setting to seek for the right things and condemn the wrong ones. That’s why it’s easy to judge others rather than understand the reason behind their actions. Because the truth is, to understand is hard and uncomfortable.
This happens because we don’t empathize. We rarely pause when we get angry. And we only stick to our own beliefs.
As Paul Jun wrote, “Seeking to understand is a process that requires time, space, critical thinking, and perhaps the most difficult of all, empathy.”
No doubt, our world is chaotic. We rarely achieve harmony.
I discovered the idea “Seek to Understand” from writers Paul Jun and Maria Popova. They both believe that seeking understanding is far more rewarding than seeking right versus wrong. And it’s true. Here’s a quote from Paul Jun:
Understanding is far more enriching to how we lead our lives and the actual quality of our lives, than it is to defending an idea or worldview that was passed down to you without any consideration or examination.
To amplify the insight, here’s from Maria Popova:
“It’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself.”
NOTE: Some people think about self-reinvention as pretending to be someone else. No problem. That’s how they understand it. And I respect that.
My case is different: Self-reinvention has helped fine tune my mind, realize my potential, and channel my attention into the things that matter to me. I didn’t see it as pretending to be someone else, but rather an effective practice to deeply understand myself.
Also, some of the authors I admire, practice self-reinvention. Seth Godin wrote it in his manifesto, Brainwashed. And James Altucher has his own self-reinvention guide.
But keep in mind, self-reinvention is subjective. The things I changed or still changing may be different from yours. So don’t just follow what I did. Make your own path instead. As Seth Godin wrote [emphasis mine]:
The path to reinvention, though, is just that—a path. The opportunity of our time is to discard what you think you know and instead learn what you need to learn. Every single day.
When will you start?