Reinventing Yourself

We’ve all heard of the midlife crisis.  Some of us even mock the stereotypes that have come to define it – middle-aged men in zippy red sports cars, women overloading on plastic surgery.  But let’s push all jokes aside for the moment.  What about the positive changes that can come about from this so-called crisis?

It’s a topic that seems to pop up again and again.  Everyday, people in their 40s  and 50s are leaving their jobs to take a chance on something new, often embarking on an entirely different career, or going back to school. Some spend months working up to it in an effort to make the transition as seamless as possible, others just close their eyes and jump.  Most are pleased with the results.  So isn’t it time we replace the word “crisis” with “reinvention?”

“Women seem to be more comfortable with the reinvention principle,” says Susan Crandell, author of Thinking About Tomorrow: Reinventing Yourself at Midlife.  “We tend to do it any way by reinventing our work lives when we have kids, either by taking time off or cutting back.”  Still, it’s a difficult thing to swallow for everyone, especially if you’ve been in the same job, or at least on the same career track, for literally decades.  So how do you make the switch without regrets?  It helps to have a support system in place, and a clear, realistic idea of the changes in store for you.


  • Take small steps.  If you’re thinking about making a huge change, especially one that’s particularly risky, like going back to school, you may want to start off slowly.  Enrolling in a degree program might not seem too hazardous, but if you think about the toll it takes on your wallet, it’s definitely not a decision you want to take lightly.  Make sure that the change you’re making fits into your life.  “Do little things that scare you, accomplish them, and then develop a belief in yourself that you can do bigger things,” said Crandell. “If you want to go white water rafting, maybe start out on flat water.  If you want to go back to school, try a single course and see how that feels. There are a lot of introductory ways to get a taste of something that really could rock the bedrock of your life.”


  • Do your research.  You’ll inevitably have to fill in some of the blanks later, but you can at least start by talking to colleagues and friends about your plans, and cruising classified ads.  Online discussion boards can be a great resource, as are enthusiast sites that cater to your career change.  Then check out organizations that represent the field you’re joining, and even universities that have relevant degree programs – even if you’re not interested in taking classes, the program’s web site and collateral material can be a gold mine of information. And while it may make you feel as if you’re starting all over, finding a mentor who can guide you through the change can make all the difference.  Let’s face it – you’re getting into territory you’re not all that familiar with, so now’s the time to put your pride aside and ask for help. If it makes you feel better, think of it as networking with a peer, says Crandell.


  • Form a support group.  In her book, Crandell suggests a “reinvention weekend.”  Gather friends who are also thinking of making changes, career-related or otherwise, and spend the weekend in a relaxing setting.  Take time to read books (perhaps biographies of others who have made life-altering moves) and brainstorm about the best ways to launch your reinvention.  The ideas of others, especially those who understand and support your situation, will go a long way in boosting your confidence.  The best part?  You can retain your reinvention group long after the weekend passes, calling each other up when you hit a bump in the road, and taking any slackers to task.


  • Embrace your fear.  Making any transformation, big or small, is going to stir up some apprehension.  That fear is completely natural – in fact, most of us are terrified by changes.  At the same time, though, we need to make them in order to have a full, interesting life.  “As long as you’re intending to move forward,” said Crandell, “there are probably no wrong moves.” Repeat that mantra to yourself, then turn your fear into motivation. Remember that without it, your focus might waver.


  • Find your confidence.  Think about why you started making changes in the first place – you wouldn’t have made that push without the confidence that you could follow through.  “It’s important to trust yourself, and that ties into what I call the power of letting go. Let go of the old life to reach for the new life, and trust yourself that it will be there,” said Crandell.  With that attitude comes the ability to silence any naysayers around you – if you know that you’re making the right choice for you and your family, then you can try to push your nosy neighbor’s comments out of your mind.

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Reinventing Yourself was last modified: by

Jean Chatzky

Jean Chatzky

Jean Chatzky is the financial editor for NBC’s Today Show. She is a personal finance contributor to Newsweek, a contributing editor for Men’s Health and USA Weekend magazines and a columnist for The New York Daily News. Jean is the author of seven books, including her latest New York Times’ bestseller Money 911 and her first book for teens, Not Your Parents Money Book. Her book Pay It Down was the basis for The Debt Diet on the Oprah Winfrey Show. 

  9 comments for “Reinventing Yourself

  1. May 22, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Oh, this is a wonderful post. Great points. I am in the midst of reinventing myself, too. I suggest anyone wanting to reinvent themselves copy your point “Embrace Your Fear” and tape it on their bathroom mirror. Fear means growth. But so often we allow fear to stop us. Great article, Jean. Here’s how my journey started: and continued as a 30-day trek thru NYC

  2. JoAnn
    May 22, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    All good advice. Wish I had had this opportunity. Unfortunately I had to reinvent myself when my husband died and I lost my job all within a 6 week period. It took six months at my age to find “A JOB” and it does not even cover the monthly bills. I am having to work 2 jobs. Not what my life was suppose to be like, but you do what you have to to keep the home together, get your kids out of school and on their way. Then, if there is anything left of me, I can do the reinvention I wanted.

  3. May 23, 2012 at 10:24 am

    This article is NOT about mid-life crisis it is about mid-life transition. There is a difference!

    I know cause I went through a Crisis because my whole world fell apart and I almost blew it all to heck because I didn’t follow the “Transition” advice, which placed me in a Crisis. Also six years ago, no one was discussing women in mid-life crisis…I felt like the lone soldier!

    Since my own MLC, I have been helping women and their spouses get through the Crisis…the shock and awe…burning bridges…destruction of marriages and families because they were unable to cope with the changes, were unable to resolve childhood or life issues and decided to run away from the life and people that they believe are causing their issues. This article great for those who have coping skills and are willing to do the work they need to do to transition…BUT…if a woman has moved into the Crisis zone…it has given that woman a permission slip to act badly, walk away from responsibility…justifying and rational-lieing to herself.

    Be careful with this information…before applying it, determine if you are in transition or in crisis…KNOW the difference it will save you from a lot hurt and pain. You can determine this by coming to where there is link to our forum…read the stories there…you will see what a REAL Mid-life Crisis looks like…it is not pretty!

    • felice
      May 23, 2012 at 10:29 am

      I really agree with you and know many who have burned too many bridges in a stage that could have been handled quite differently.
      would you consider writing an article about this for BA50 — this is sooo important – so glad you are part of the BA50 community
      Sincerely, Felice Shapiro

      • May 23, 2012 at 11:38 am

        You would really be quite amazed at how widespread it has become and the extent of the hurt and pain that it can cause.

        My forum is not only discussing with women and men in the USA, but also in the UK, Canada, Australia, Spain, Italy and Asia. I believe that Mid-life Crisis is a crisis of the mind, body and spirit…an inability to cope with changes that occur in these three categories of our lives. It is a Perfect Storm!

        Our society has tried to glorify the Mid-life Crisis by wrapping it in an “Eat, Pray,Love ” wrapping that is supposed to remind us of a man’s Mid-life Crisis where they ran off to Tahiti! Few men ran off to Tahiti and few women in MLC Eat, Pray and Love.

        I look forward to writing an article on what I have found in my six years of research since my own MLC. There is no need to deny what women at mid-life are struggling with AND there is no need to walk away from everything to get what we want in the Second Chapters of our lives.

  4. Renee
    May 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Looking to get out of healthcare sales and into a non-profit or charitable organization where I can really make a difference… Gathering all the info I can in preparation for the inevitable!

  5. Pamela Cameron
    May 23, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    I recently started a page on Facebook that I named, “Women Over 40 Reinventing Ourselves”. It’s steadily growing, and I am enjoying meeting women all over the world, and finding resources for them. It’s helping me, too. I will be 57 soon, and I was laid off Nov. 2010. I wanted changes, and I sure got it! I’m still in the process of figuring out how I want to reinvent myself, so something like this newsletter might be helpful. I can also share what I learn on the FB page. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist and actress, so I might take your suggestion of starting a Reinvention Group for women! Thanks, Pamela

  6. May 23, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    The scariest thing for me about transitioning to the next phase of my life after being a stay-at-home mom for 20 years was taking the risk of doing what I love (writing) and not being any good at it. I think that’s why I’ve gotten such joy out of finding connections and an audience through my blog – it was in many ways very unexpected. The community online of 50+ women is growing all the time – we are a strong, passionate bunch!

  7. May 23, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    I embraced my fear and took the leap.
    I am also in the midst of reinventing myself and whilst it is scary I am having lots of fun.
    Great post, there are lots of us making a move.

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