Saturday, May 18th, 2013

Refining vs Reinventing Yourself

By Karen Dodd on Jan 28 2013 • Filed under Balance

What Does it Take to Reinvent Yourself? (Photo)I don’t know if it is because being a writer sounds like a glamorous profession (it’s not!) but I’ve had an inordinate number of people profess to me that they could have, should have, been a writer. Perhaps you’ve had someone say that about what you do.

Over the holidays we had an elderly family member staying with us. Within a short period of time we noticed that no matter what someone brought up about their interests or profession, our houseguest said, “Oh, I could have been…”
The person I speak of is a highly intelligent woman and an accomplished photographer in her own right. However, it soon became clear that she felt regretful – perhaps even resentful – for all the things that she feels she didn’t try to become.As she is probably in the final decade of her life, I found this sad. But, it taught me a valuable lesson
Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda
The ancient Greek sage and philosopher, Epictetus once said, “First say to yourself what you would be; then do what you have to do.”
Rather than lament about what you could have been, why not quietly take inventory of where you’ve been and where you want to go? Because the obvious question is if you could have been a (fill in the blank) then why didn’t you?
Your Growth is in Your Journey
Have you ever judged someone (yourself) to be “flakey” because they’ve changed professions or businesses multiple times? 
Would you judge your child harshly as he or she goes from being an infant to a toddler? From an adolescent to an adult? Just as each of these growth phases brings different behaviours and manifestations of who your child is, I believe the same holds true for us as we go through our business lives.
Yesterday, we knew and trusted someone as a graphic artist and now she’s going to be a social media coach. Why does that bother some people? Do they worry that she doesn’t have the qualifications or the “right” to hold herself out in a new light? 
Often, this is referred to as “reinventing” oneself. I prefer to think of it as what it is: growing, maturing and refining what you already are.
Everything You Do Prepares You For What You Become
The term reinvention seems to have a connotation that we’re not good enough the way we are. That somehow we have to be better to be able to succeed. One of the most succinct writings on this subject is by my good friend and Woman on Fire, Debbie Phillips in her article, Time To Reinvent Yourself? Not!
Instead of re-inventing yourself, why not consider that everything you’ve done (yes, even flipping burgers) has been preparing you for what you are to become? The most exciting part is that you don’t even have to know exactly what that end result may be. Do any ever of us really know?
Authors often say that it takes a lifetime to write a book. This is not because it literally takes all that time to produce a novel or work of non-fiction. Rather, for some it takes a lifetime of experiences to have something worthwhile to write about.
Don’t Die With The Music Still In You
The Buddha is purported to have said, “Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart, give yourself to it.”
Note, he didn’t say: “Feel inferior as you are and keep reinventing yourself until you make it.” Just discover and give your heart to it!

Former CEO of the Global Institute of Small Business Marketing, Karen Dodd is writer-in-residence at, a blog for those who consider themselves empty-nesters, late-bloomers, or finally have time to explore their interest in writing. Her mission is to support, inspire and share insights so that latent writers don’t live one more day with their “music” still in them. Avid readers are welcome too!


  1. Karen, very well written, and so true. Over the years I have taken a number of different paths – and the idea of “re-inventing” myself didn’t sit right with me. I do prefer to think of it as growing, maturing and refining what I already am. Learning from the experiences I have had, the paths I have taken, and how they have helped to carve me into the woman that I am. Thank you for putting it in that context.

    • Thanks so much for weighing in, Tracey. I totally agree. And though I think we want to be be growing at different times in our lives, it seems that we’re always being pushed to upscale, uplevel, elevate, and the like. I think the danger in that message is that we’re never good enough the way we are!

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