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How to Start a New Life When You’re Scared to Start Over

Is it too late to start over in life? There is no age where starting over is “too old.” It isn’t really a person’s age that keeps them from wanting to start over, but the fear of doing something new that we learn from life and being responsible over the years.

Our past experiences have also taught our brain to view situations in a certain light, and it’s scary to try and relearn your natural reaction to things. Change and the unknown are some of the biggest roadblocks people face when changing their lives, but there are ways you can overcome the past and be brave enough to start over.

The scariest moment for me was when my past and present collided, and I realized I had spent my entire adult life building the wrong one.

When the past and present collide

When I was younger, I had very little fear when it came to believing in myself. I remember being a sophomore in high school and arguing with my guidance counselor that I could go to the college campus and take the English 101 there.

The school had a dual enrollment program, but typically the kids just took a few classes here and there and earned college credits for things like public speaking. I wanted to take as many as possible, so when I graduated high school, I would almost have an associate’s degree.

We bantered back and forth, and I assured her that even though I was only in my second year of high school English, I would do just fine in the college class. She finally relented. I ended up being one of the first two students (a friend of mine was the other one) to graduate from PHCC before completing high school.

I had too many credits and they wouldn’t even let me go to high school my senior year, so I took a full course load at the college. Instead of almost having an associate’s degree, I ended up walking across the stage in my college cap and gown, before my high school graduation ceremony.

This article is from when we graduated and they interviewed me. It was the winter of 2000 (I’m not sure why it says 2005…), and I remember how much pride, excitement, and joy I felt. I read little of the rest of the article, to be honest, other than the part about me. I was a teenage girl after all, but now when I reread it there is a part that sticks out.

The writer says, “For some students, the journey lasted much longer than it did for De Santo and Stalford. Elizabeth Mohammed, 35, of Brooksville attended PHCC on and off for the past six years while battling rheumatoid arthritis and lupus and working to support her three teenagers.”

I was not the 17-year-old reading her “first interview” anymore. I was the 35-year-old woman, stepping out of her comfort zone, facing all the fear of letting her family down, but still believing in her dreams enough to try.

You see, I had spent a lifetime building a career and educational background in business. I worked for over 20 years in various management roles in several industries and earned a master’s degree in management and leadership. Yet one day, I woke up and realized this was not the life I wanted.

That young girl I was in high school wanted to earn a degree in journalism and be the next Christiane Amanpour. However, life kept throwing me curveballs and when I went back to school, I already had a few years of management experience. So, a business degree made sense.

That’s how we build a life as an adult; doing things that make sense, things that pay off financially, things we find security in. That’s why when we realize it isn’t the right path, it is scary as hell to imagine starting all over. But you are not too old, too ‘set in your ways,’ or anything else you might tell yourself. Face your past first and see what you can learn from it.

How to use your past to kick-start your new life

The past has many valuable lessons to teach us, both about what we can take with us to start over and what we can leave behind. Depending on your past experiences, going back and reliving them can be another scary factor in starting a new life.

However, this is an important step you will not want to rush past. Learning from the past doesn’t mean that you unpack your suitcase and stay there, though!

Learn from the past and then let it go

We can use negative life experiences to learn what went right, and what didn’t! Everything we go through allows us to grow. Spending a little time reflecting on the experience, focusing on something you gained (knowledge, a skill, perspective, or a habit, etc.), gives you the building blocks to start your new life off right! You can look back on these situations and ask yourself these questions to build a better path for your decisions in the future:

  • What actually happened? Only look at the facts.
  • What emotions did you feel?
  • What can I take away from that and use to empower myself and my feelings?

Developing an understanding of these feelings and emotions will help you start a new life filled with healthier relationships, better workplace dynamics, and a stronger sense of who you are.

It can be terrifying to walk away from a poor relationship that we have grown comfortable with or from a job that doesn’t serve us. The trick is to ask yourself what you gain, instead of focusing on what you lose.

Using skills from your past career to start a new one

I was nervous when the realization that I was in the wrong career hit me. I didn’t enjoy my job anymore, the last couple of classes of my master’s degree were draining, and I realized I just wanted to be writing.

I started off walking around a lake near my house every day, just trying to reconnect with nature and myself. It was a great exercise in rediscovering who I was, and I decided to pursue a career in writing. That meant leaving behind a decent-paying job with wonderful benefits, all the things I thought I needed as an adult.

It was scary, and I wondered if I had just wasted the last twenty years of my life, but I realized that many of my skills were transferable. Instead of directly managing a team, I could use my knowledge to write articles about leadership, management, and team development.

The topics related to career and business that I could write about were endless. I could also use my life experiences to write about how to overcome trauma and build a glorious life despite how life might have started off.

Change the way you approach challenges

Asking yourself if you should start over because you will be throwing away everything that you have worked for, is the wrong question. What will improve in your life if you change directions? How can you use your expertise and talents toward your new goals?

These questions will change your perspective because it forces your brain to frame things from the perspective of “What if this works?” That opens up more doors than you ever thought possible.

According to Alistair Cox, “With a shift in mindset and practicing adopting this mindset, you can quickly expand your skills as you’re starting to approach every new challenge with enthusiasm and confidence, instead of with avoidance and fear.”

Overcoming fear is much easier said than done, but I have found that the best things that have happened in my life were the things I was most afraid of trying. The NHS, Scotland’s national health information services, offers some great tips for dealing with fear:

  • Face your fears. Avoiding our fears causes them to seem scarier. When we face it, it starts to fade.
  • Look at the evidence. Challenge those fearful thoughts with evidence. If you are afraid to start over in life because of your age, take a look at all the people older than you who became successful! This is evidence that it can, in fact, be done!
  • Don’t try to be perfect. Your quest for a new life will likely have some setbacks and challenges, but that is to be expected. The life you were living before also had setbacks and challenges, so don’t let the fear of it not being perfect hold you back!
  • Breathe through the panic. When your palms are sweating and your heart is racing, don’t fight it. It is ok to feel the panic without trying to distract yourself. Place the palm of your hand on your stomach while taking slow, and deep breathes. This will help your mind get used to coping with panic, which takes the fear of fear away.

So, take that leap if you are ready. It’s ok to be scared, but don’t let that stop you from living the life you were meant to. It is your life, and you deserve to live the best one you possibly envision.

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