The Challenge of a Fresh Start
The labor pains birthing a new chapter of my life are, quite frankly, making a mess. In my therapy and life coaching sessions, a common topic that comes up in session is how to be more confident and motivated for a fresh start. Leaving everything that you know behind and letting go of the emotional garbage we all carry – it’s easier said than done. It’s all about finding what motivates you. But, it’s also about learning what’s holding you back so you can find the way to get unstuck and move on with your life – your new life.
The Power of a Fresh Start
As I write, I sit surrounded by the detritus of a life that I’m shedding. The drawers of my kitchen have vomited their contents: Among other things, mismatched Tupperware lids are sprinkled with paperclips and orphaned mechanical pencil leads, and a stack of blank Christmas cards amiably lean on a USB headset that no one in this house has used since 2003.
In the center of the pile, Sea-Monkeys drift in the salty ignorance of their gunky plastic tank, oblivious to the chaos around them.
All this junk is preening and posing, waiting to be evaluated, auditioning for a part in my new life. None will make the cut.
With great joy and satisfaction, I will be showing all of this stuff, and much more, into large trash bags and muscling it all into a dumpster. Except for the Sea Monkeys, of course, for whom I’ll need to find a suitable foster home. Because I’m not the kind of mom who would just surreptitiously pour them down the toilet while my kid isn’t looking and then make up a story about how the Sea Monkey Mother Ship came to take them home. Really.
The thought of being free from the burden of this clutter and crap feels like a re-birth. Decluttering has the power of giving you a fresh start. A time to usher in “Lisa v.2” (More like Lisa v.27, but who’s counting?) I need this kind of renewal periodically. We all do.
Releasing the physical weight of our past allows us to move forward and spiral upwards through layers of personal evolution.
The Ritual of Renewal
It seems to me that the experience of rebirth and renewal must be a basic human need because it’s embedded so deeply in the rituals that have endured in our cultures for millennia.
Baptism washes sins away and allows you to be born anew. Catholic confession and atonement clear you to sit at the table again. The ritual bathing and purification of Mikveh, the sage smoke of a Sweat Lodge, fasting of Ramadan, or periodically touching Nirvana with your mind — all these rituals are doorways.
As we step through, we’re swept clean — ready for a fresh start—a second chance.
It’s not just in religion either. Our secular environment has even more opportunities for renewal in everything from moving house to the master cleanse. Makeover shows, slurry New Year’s resolutions, and the ritual purchasing of new backpacks and clean, hopeful school supplies in August — all bring the hope of redemption.
We need to believe in second chances. This time, things will be different.
And things CAN be different. The ritual of releasing the past and entering into the future can be a powerful part of the change process. A big, dramatic clearing of the cobwebs can help you draw a clear line between the time before and after.
But it must be done intentionally. (And running away doesn’t count.)
4 Tips to Start Your Life Afresh
You can reinvent yourself and launch a “new you” by creating personal rituals for change and renewal. Here are four tips that will help you harness the power of a fresh start.
1. Focus on Timing
While certain times of the year are more natural opportunities for clearing, cleansing, and starting fresh (like around the New Year and in late Summer), there is always a perfect time for starting over.
When you are sick of your old life, it’s time to start dumping your metaphorical Sea Monkeys. When what is currently happening is the emotional/psychological or energetic equivalent of wearing a heavy, scratchy sweater – it’s time to start afresh.
2. Setting an Intention
You can shampoo your rugs, get a tattoo, do a cleanse, or go to confession, and it won’t mean anything unless you make it mean something. The actions of renewal are hollow unless you put some thought in.
So before you start rearranging the furniture, think about what you are releasing on a symbolic level and what you want to embrace in this next chapter. This will be most effective if you write down the intention of what you’re releasing and what you’re embracing.
3. Pick Your Ritual
The power of this moment is the energy of your intention, combined with a meaningful ritual that sanctifies it. Find a physical way to express your intention to release something old and embrace something new.
As previously mentioned, many opportunities for renewal and redemption are built into every organized belief system.
If you feel like you need a spiritual experience, talk to your Rabbi, Priest, or yoga teacher and get some direction. But the possibilities are endless when they’re approached with intention.
Everything from taking a long bath, to changing your hair color, to cleaning your house, to planting a garden can represent the physical manifestation of your intention. Determine the symbolic expression of your desire, and do it.
4. Follow Up
While we all need a periodic schvitz – the cleansing and clearing that releases us from the past and launches us into a new plane of existence, we also need to follow up. No one wants to hear this, but I must say it anyway: nothing is going to change your life except changing your daily habits. Keeping commitments to yourself means following through at the foundational level.
Without tweaking small, daily habits, our dramatic, sweeping gestures of change are quickly forgotten, and we collapse right back into the old story. So to wring all the power and meaning out of these rituals of transition, we also need a plan — a course of action that we’re committed to following that will help the intention of the experience last beyond the moment.
That means thinking about the one or two easy daily activities you can incorporate into your new life that will sustain the newness you’ve just ushered in.
If you’re clearing out all the junk in your house, you can choose to enforce a “one in, one out” rule. If you’ve just done a cleanse, you can not eat cheese every day. If you’ve engaged in a spiritual experience, you can commit to 10 minutes of reflection time each morning.
You get the point — find ways to make it last, and recommit to this most recent incarnation of yourself every day. Or at least, until you’re ready for a new one.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.