7 Key Things To Know When Starting Over in Life
The thought of starting over in life can be terrifying. In fact, you may feel totally overwhelmed. However, you can begin the process of starting over in life and moving forward again to a better place and a new beginning if you remember these seven key things:
By M. Ward / Updated Dec, 18 2020
A Therapist’s Perspective on starting over in life….
Whether you’ve hit rock bottom or just know that you have a niggling feeling that change is needed, the idea of starting over again can feel daunting at best, terrifying at worst. A book that’s been hugely influential in my own life is Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.
Just like this blog, Rohr’s book takes a fresh look at how falling and failing can be a chance to review and reframe starting over as a chance for ongoing growth.
I’ve experienced that in my own life and had the privilege of supporting many clients with their own starting over journeys.
It’s helpful to have some structure or containment around the prospect of starting over some map, guide, or rough plan. This blog gives 7 key pointers that can help you navigate the territory of starting over.
“Happy is the soul that has something to look backward to with pride, and something to look forward to with hope.”
– Oliver G. Wilson
1. You’re not alone when starting over in life
Right now, you may be going through a very challenging time in your life. In fact, you may be thinking it’s time for a fresh start. Starting over in life is never easy, so you need to remember that you are not alone.
You may be experiencing a more difficult time now than you’ve ever experienced before, and it may actually be more difficult than anything you’ve faced before.
Everyone has to learn how to start over again at some point in life, so reach out to friends and family for support and help when you need it.
- That you are not alone
- Feeling down or depressed is a real-life experience
- That you do matter and people care about you
- People want to help
- You will not drive others away
- There is always hope
- You can survive this hard time
When you’re starting over in life all by yourself and feeling alone.
Remember that there are lots of people who are there to help you through whatever it is that you’ve had to deal with while trying to make a new start in your life.
The trick is that you need to reach out. Talk to your friends, family, or coworkers who will give you support and some good tips on how they start over again.
They may even have had a harder time starting over, and they will know exactly where you’re going through.
If you don’t have people in your personal life to support you right now, reach out to a therapist, priest, or a local spiritual leader.
They all want to help.
Reach out for help
You can also call a hotline or email someone, anyone with whom you can share the sorrow, the despair, the loss, or the fear that you are feeling right now.
Talking about it will help. People want to help you get that fresh start in life, so let them give you a hand.
Here are a couple of free counseling recourses that you can use if you feel that you would like to talk with someone. You can also google for free counseling in your area.
Lots of counselors and counseling organizations will be happy to help you get your feet underneath you again.
Everyone needs to talk things over with someone who can offer them helpful, nonjudgmental advice.
If you have faith in God or another form of a higher power, that is the best place to start.
Whatever God or a higher power means for you, that connection can give you the strength you need to get through tough times.
It’s there for you now, so reach out. Talking to someone who shares your beliefs can be a great way to rekindle that connection.
When we feel despair, sorrow, or loss, it can be hard to eat, talk, sleep, and think clearly.
Often, we drop out of participating in life instead of learning to lean into life and reach out for help. Let people help you.
We can all get stuck in a rut, and our lives may seem to be spiraling out of control. However, you don’t have to let your life fully unravel. It happens.
If you can stop and recognize that right now, as you’re reading this, you are actually going to be okay; you can change the direction of the path you’re on.
If there is no immediate medical, alcohol, or drug element involved, then you are probably not in grave danger. If you are in danger, please seek help immediately.
Otherwise, you can begin by trying the best you can to relax, breathe, and take things one step at a time.
You are experiencing the enormous emotional shift that can come with any significant change in life, and it can feel not very pleasant when having to start all over to make a new life. However, you will get through this.
The house, the car, the money, the relationships, the job can all go. As bad as that may seem, losing this stuff is survivable.
These are things that are not actually necessary for you to be alive, happy, and free. Recognize that without them, you are actually okay. They can all be replaced if need be.
We all have good days and bad days. That’s just life. It’s a little tough love, but it’s important to make sure that you’re not setting unrealistic expectations that everything will always be great.
All you need is the next minute, the next hour, the next day. Then the next month and the next year. Allow the rest of your life to unfold one moment at a time, and you’ll find that starting over can lead you to find more happiness and joy.
Make a list of people you can reach out to and talk with when starting over, such as a family member, friend, loved one, priest, social worker, neighbor social worker, or a help hotline.
Anyone that you can talk to should be on your list. Don’t be afraid. You are not alone. People want to help.
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2. Starting over in Life is a learning experience
Whatever has happened in your life that’s brought you to making the decision starting over in your life, that difficult event has within it more life learning and teaching potential than you can ever receive in any classroom.
Tris Thorp writes in her article How to Transform Past Challenges into Learning Experiences,
“A tremendously liberating gift awaits those who are willing to look upon past challenges as opportunities for growth.”
You must look at this starting over the process as just that: a learning experience.
No matter what the situation was that brought you to this moment in your life and learned how to start over again, you can use it to your advantage by learning from it and growing in a new way.
No one has had a perfect childhood, upbringing, adolescence, or even adulthood. You are not and cannot think of yourself as a victim of life. Life throws things at every one of us in one form or another.
Learn from this experience and from all the choices that you’ve made that brought you here.
The Part You Play
Understanding how your actions contributed to the situation you’re in will make starting over and moving on in your life a better experience.
These lessons that you’ll learn from this difficult time in your life will build up a foundation of strength within yourself that will hold you up as you move forward to an ever-expanding life that is better and more invigorating than before.
Personal growth is all about appreciating the difficult times for the lessons that they teach you and knowing that you could get through them and that you’ll also survive the next challenge, no matter what it happens to be.
That is what fortitude is: the strength of character. Having a backbone, staying power, persistence, tenacity, determination, resolve, resolution, patience, and spirit.
A significant change in your life can definitely be painful and even emotionally devastating. Still, when you start to get up off the floor, and then off your knees, and begin to look up and outward again, you’ll be able to learn from these experiences and grow past them.
That’s where you are right now, and it is time to start over again.
Write down all the different lessons directly related to this time in your life. Pick out and acknowledge the most significant lesson that you’ve learned.
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3. What is real and unreal when starting over
This section may be hard to wrap your head around at first, but it can be the most powerful concept to understand on your new journey.
Once you absorb these ideas, they can ultimately be very freeing. Starting over in life requires focus, willpower, and determination.
So, determining what is real and important to you is essential when making a clean break from the past and coming out on the other side with your mind and heart intact.
The paradigm shift in how you look at your life and the world around you will help you rebuild your life and learn how to start over for the better.
Real or unreal can also be thought about in terms of true or untrue. Let’s dive into understanding what this means.
Joel Friedman writes about this in his article, Seeing through the unreal reveals purely what is real.
“The root of the word ‘reality’ is ‘real.’ How could anyone actually be ‘in reality’ without being clear what is ‘real’? And just how would this ever occur unless you were equally clear about what does not count or is ‘unreal”’?”
It’s an eye-opening article, and you should read it if you have time, but to summarize, nothing in your life that is actually real can ever be taken away from you.
Unreal or Untrue
Nothing unreal is of any actual use to you in the present anyway because it was never real to begin with.
When you allow this to become a mindful practice in your life, you will understand true peace and contentment.
Here is an explanation of this paradigm in a relationship scenario.
If someone’s love for you is real, no matter what happens going forward in your life and your relationship with them, the love they have for you and that you receive from them will never actually die.
It may change in form or space, but it is real and will be present in them forever.
It doesn’t matter if the relationship changes if the love it was built on was real.
If this particular love relationship needs to take on a different level of intimacy than you’ve had with them, the connection and the attachment to it for you and them is now and will always be real.
Real Unconditional Love
When love is conditional and actually leaves you and is gone, then it was never real, or it was actually unreal, to begin with.
Unconditional love is not just an idea. It is real.
Understanding this means that when your love is real and unconditional, you love someone as they are now and have chosen to be in the present moment, even if that means letting them go to be and experience life on different terms.
If you understand this, you can maintain the love for them in your heart and allow them to be as they are or have chosen to be.
Starting over does not have to mean forgetting, but more importantly, it’s about forgiving.
You will find peace in this and move forward in your life by letting go of the immediate pain and remembering that the love you shared is real and still with you despite the change in circumstances.
The loss of love or “love attachment” from another person is the most challenging form of separation or detachment for us and creates the highest level of grief that we can all feel.
However, the love that you feel, even if it is only within you and not them anymore if it is real, will never leave you.
This is the saving grace of real and unconditional love.
Real and Unreal thoughts
You can apply this real and unreal thinking to anything or any situation, such as a job, friendships, or even and especially physical things like a car or an apartment or house.
A Course in Miracles by The Foundation For Inner Peace is a spiritual guide intended for those who seek to achieve spiritual transformation by increasing the awareness of love in themselves and others.
The course bases its entire teaching on this understanding of the real and unreal.
We will not go into the lessons of this book here, but this basic premise from which it is written can be life-changing.
“Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.”
– The Course in Miracles –
If you’re interested in exploring this more by looking at The Course in Miracles, note that it uses Christian terminology, but it does so in nontraditional and nonreligious ways.
The course teaches a present awareness of love and not fear.
You need to recognize and feel at a deep level that all of the real love in your life and your heart will never actually leave you.
If it does, it was never of any actual use to you because it was never actually real.
You need to let it go so that you can allow real love into your life and heart.
What’s is actually real and important
Here is another mind-bender: nothing that is outside of you is actually real. You just think it is.
Please wait for it….
The house, the car, the money, they are not real. They can come and go, but they are not actually real.
Your attachment to them is, however, and it’s that attachment that you are actually fighting and what is causing you pain.
Things are, by their very nature, temporary.
Your health, your peace of mind, and your happiness do not and cannot come from these types of physical things. You can replace them all.
We hear this every time a hurricane goes through and wipes out a region, town, or community.
“The house, the cars, all the stuff, it’s just things that we can replace, but thank God we’re all okay.”
We all struggle with focusing on these unreal things in our lives rather than on what truly matters. It takes practice to get used to adjusting the way you view the material things in your life and recognizing what will really help you find joy.
If you consciously bring this one present thought into each day of your life, you will hold dearer those precious things that are genuinely a real part of your life and let go of the unreal.
There is a present-mindedness that is created by the question, “What if this were my last day or my last month or my last year of life? What would I do, or how would I feel?” Or even the question, “If money were no object, what would I do with my life?”
Asking yourself these types of questions can help you gain clarity in your life by forcing you to experience present-mindedness.
You want to be focusing on the fantasy of your life in the future or the baggage of your life in the past, but you don’t live there.
You live here, now.
You will find that this clarity of mind brings the important things into focus.
The only thing that matters is the love you feel for your life, the life you’ve lived, and the people and the experiences in your life that you’ve had.
Focusing on this can also bring you peace and allow you to start over and move on in your life through difficult times.
It’s always kind of amazing to hear how people that are getting divorced will fight like cats and dogs and can’t wait to get away from one another, and then become jealous when the other gets involved with someone new or quickly moves on with their lives.
The clarity of the question is that if you miss them so much, why don’t you go back to them right now? This question will usually bring a relatively quick response from them: “No way!”
Get very clear about what is actually real in your life now and let go of all those things you can recognize are not actually real or unreal that are holding you back from moving on.
Write a list of all the things that you can see now that are real and true in your life and those that you now know to be unreal or not true. Pick out those untrue things that you would never have thought would turn out to be so.
Make a separate list of all the things you know to be real and true and positive about you and your life. This is a good list to keep handy when you’re starting over again out in the world so you can look at it again when you feel that you’re starting to accept those things again that are not true about yourself and your life.
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4. There is a gift in change
Recognizing the gifts in the changes that are being thrust upon us when we are starting over in life beyond our will or control can be a tough thing to do.
There needs to be some quiet time for you to reflect and grieve the loss in the changes you face when learning how to start over again.
But you mustn’t remove yourself from the light of the world or be paralyzed by the darkness and the solitude of your pain, despair, or unhappiness.
You must start to get up and move on, putting one foot in front of the other, and start living your life. Starting over can truly be a gift, but you need to start to be open to seeing it this way.
You need to breathe deeply and move on and out into life. Grab everything real and good that is right there in front of you, if you will only allow yourself to see it.
Being able to recognize the gifts that come from change is what will move you forward and can help you with starting over right now. Today.
In a terrific article, The Psychology of dealing with change: How to become resilient, by Kathleen Smith, she writes,
“Many people spend a great deal of time and energy trying to avoid change, but it will inevitably catch up to them. If you can learn to cope with change, you’ll lower your risk for anxiety and depression.”
Let’s explore possible positive perspectives or ways to cope that can help you when you’re starting over and moving forward after a significant change in life.
Example: The loss of a loved one
- Your loved one would certainly not want their absence to hold you back from continuing to live a rich, full, and beautiful life. Not for one minute.
- If your loved one was very ill, they would not feel any more pain or discomfort and are now at peace.
- If your loved one left suddenly and without any of the usual age-related causes, then it is absolutely a situation that was out of your hands. There was nothing that you could have done to change this outcome.
- Your loved one would want you to begin rebuilding your life quickly. Undoubtedly, they’d be the first to tell you that life is much too short and that you need to live every single minute of every day as freely and fully as you possibly can.
You can apply this sort of positive change list to almost any situation that you are faced within your life that is causing you to feel loss or despair.
Take some time to write out all of the things that you might like to do in your life that you have not done yet, and remind yourself that you now have the chance to make a new plan in a new life.
Make a list of all the wonderful, exciting, and positive things that you can experience moving forward and starting over in your life.
For example, The traveling that you can do now that you could not have done before. The new places that you could move to and live and start over.
All the fabulous new people and friends you can meet and possibly form a relationship with can blossom into a serious partnership of some kind.
5. No one else is responsible
When things go wrong, and we have to start all over in our lives, our first impulse might be to blame someone else.
It seems normal human response when things don’t go our way that we blame something or someone else and not take responsibility ourselves.
The unfortunate, unfair, and unexpected misfortune that comes our way should not actually be surprising to us.
When we really stop and think a situation through, we are generally the ones that are to blame.
This is a straightforward and quick way to get some perspective on your situation and start moving forward.
There is a significant chance that the situation that has left you wondering how you will start over again is your fault.
That is okay. It’s mostly and primarily your responsibility, which means that you have the power to do things differently.
Think about it for a minute, excluding all of those things that everyone else did, and look at the part you played.
This might be a good time to get your favorite list-making tool and take some time to write down all of the steps, choices, decisions that you made all by yourself on the path to this life-changing moment that you are finding yourself in now.
This section is not intended to beat you up or demean you.
This look back on the journey that got you here is only to help you quickly see that you cannot blame other people.
If someone else suggested that the two of you rob a bank, you went along with it, and you got caught. It’s your fault, not theirs, for suggesting it.
If you fell in love with someone that you seemed to sense wasn’t really on board with the long-term relationship that you may have hoped for, and they drifted away or dumped you, then it’s your fault. Get it?
If you are sitting here now feeling like the victim for having to start all over in life again, you will be stuck and not able to move forward for some time to come.
No matter what has happened to get you here, until you take full responsibility, you will not be able to start over and move on with your life and leave the past behind.
While it’s important to recognize that taking personal responsibility is vital for moving forward.
This does not discount the fact that sometimes people do terrible things to others, and you are not to blame if, in fact, you are the victim of someone’s malicious and harmful actions.
In these difficult life situations, your personal responsibility is not to let this experience define your life and to allow yourself to move forward and start over without regret.
Just snap out of it
Jerry Seinfeld and Bryan Regan were joking in an episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee about what a Psychiatrist might say to them after they had just poured out their woes to them in a costly one-hour session.
After just doodling on his notepad, the Psychiatrist would look up at them and shout, “Just snap out of it!”
That is definitely kind of funny when you hear them say it, but at the same time, it’s sort of true.
It’s so much easier for us to move on and begin starting over in life again when we can recognize that we alone are responsible for our own lives.
As we stop focusing on all the things that someone else has done to us and focus instead on changing the things we have the power to change, we can unlock the door to freedom, peace, contentment, and a new beginning and a new life.
Learning how to start over in life is a daily process when you really think about it.
When we learn to forgive and let go, especially forgiving ourselves, then forgiving others and moving on in life becomes simple.
Make a list of all of the choices that you have made that have played a key role in creating the need for you to start over again in your life.
Investigate what you might have done to cause others to react in some way that caused the main changes or issues surrounding this situation.
“Our days rarely go according to plan or without unexpected challenges. Some of us can naturally appreciate the sweet moments as they happen throughout the day, while many of us need to cultivate this sense of appreciation.”
– Dr. Randy Kamen
6. Love the life that you have
It is a standard directive that all self-help articles, books, posts, speakers, and most likely, your own mother would say or would have said: “Be grateful for what you have.”
Yes, we’ve heard it before, but the truth behind it is profound nonetheless.
Until we actively choose to focus on gratitude or someone else makes us think about it and drills it into our generally thick and resistant skulls, we rarely actually follow through.
We all need to recognize that our lives are full of wonderful things even when we are starting over again and create a new life.
And that those things are so much more important than the general craziness that we allow our minds and our thoughts to revolve around.
No matter what form they come in or how they occur for you, pain and loss are going to be part of your life forever.
We have been losing things all of our lives: every day, day in, and day out.
For example, you had to give up that blankie or that nook you had as a child, and that may have been traumatic, right?
You had to let your brother or your sister or your friend share your toys, and that could have been traumatic.
You also got dumped by that nice kid, your first crush, and that was definitely traumatic.
You thought you would get some recognition at work that you didn’t get, and you got through that disappointment.
Taking stock of your life
See where we are going here? Did you survive? Yes, you did.
You’ve had tons of good things come your way, and those things have come and gone.
New toys and new friends and new places and people, all external things that have come into your life. It was mostly good, and some of it was hard.
When we stop and look beyond the heartache, the pain, the loss, the loneliness that we may be feeling right now, and look at all the good things we have now or have had that have come to us in our lives, it can warm our hearts.
We can take stock of all the good that has come our way. It’s not rocket science.
It’s simply one of those self-motivated mental processes that we need to learn to do for ourselves, if only just for a moment, every single day. And the first day when having to start over again is no different.
It moves us forward, past any pain, and the more that we do it, the quicker we can right the ship and sail off into the sunset on what currently seems like a ship that is sinking.
It’s not actually sinking; you are just caught in what is commonly known to all sailors as being becalmed. The wind in your sails is dead, and you can’t move in any direction at all.
You need to wait for the breeze to come along and move you forward. It will, but you need to remember that you and only you are at the helm of your ship.
You need to be patient, and the wind will come up and push you forward, but right now, you need to see all of the beautiful things and wonderful things around you and be grateful for them.
Be thankful that no matter what else is happening to you when you are starting over again that you can, and you must still dream of happier days to come.
Each day, perhaps each morning when starting over, it can be compelling to make a list of all the things that are around you that you can be grateful for.
For example, note the beauty of the day, no matter the weather. The birds, squirrels, rabbits, and your pets are wonderful to watch all around you.
Write down all the nice things you have that you enjoy, the people you have in your life now and in the past. You will soon find that this list can be a huge help in your new life.
“Man cannot live without faith because the prime requisite in life’s adventure is courage, and the sustenance of courage is faith.” – Harry Emerson Fosdick
7. Look forward to your new life with faith
Faith does not necessarily have to do with any form of religion or religious deity.
Whatever spiritual ideology is up to you, but when you’re faced with having to start all over in your life, having faith is the key to getting through it all.
If you have a spiritual or religious belief, you likely already know the strength it has to get you through difficult times.
But faith in its purest form is a belief that we build through our life experiences. We have learned to have complete trust or confidence in ourselves, someone, or something.
Faith can be broken down to a very raw and bare reckoning. The faith that “I can,” the faith that you can, and the faith that we can.
Faith is born out of the present realization that I, you, or we have overcome very difficult or painful life experiences in the past.
There is absolutely no reason to believe that I, you, or we cannot overcome them now when starting over.
It’s that simple.
“Faith is like a fragrance, if you like, of the heart’s knowing. There’s an intuition of the transcendent that is not confined to a church or a mosque or a synagogue. It’s secular in the sense that it can be part of our everyday ordinary existence if we are open to it.” Roger Housden
Whether or not you are spiritual or religious, you will experience a variety of hardships in life.
Faith does not insulate you from life.
That is why after or during tragedies, people ask how an all-powerful God could allow this to happen.
Because it has always happened, through all of history, and will continue to do so.
That’s life. Life can be very hard, and it’s often painful and sometimes unbelievably cruel.
Nonetheless, you can begin the process of starting over in life again right now by remembering these seven key points.
- You are not alone
- Life is a learning experience
- What is real and unreal
- There is a gift in change
- Understanding that no one else is responsible
- Love the life you have
- Look forward with faith
As the next minutes tick by, and the next hour and the next night and the next day, we move forward.
One step at a time.
Meditate, pray, or just be quiet. Breath in and out and relax.
Reflect on the wonderful life and the new opportunities that you have now, that you have had in the past. The new things you will add to your life as you move forward and begin again, starting over in life with hope, excitement, some new dreams, and a new sense of purpose.
Marty Ward is the creator and publisher of the 1-Vibrant-Life blog. Marty has over 35 years of sales and marketing experience, along with some success as a musician in his earlier years. At the age of 26, Marty was injured in a car accident in which he sustained a traumatic brain injury. This injury and recovery led him down a path of self-improvement, and self-discovery… Learn more on the 1-vibrant-life about us page.
Claire Law is a UK-based Counsellor and Psychotherapist from Preston, Northern England. Claire became a therapist after a career of almost two decades of High School teaching experience. She’s also worked extensively in the Social Care and Charity Sectors, and as a Mental Health Advisor in Higher Education. Claire combines her current Psychotherapy practice with freelance writing on Mental Health, Wellbeing and Psychology topics. She has a passion for Social Justice and environmental causes.
Claire holds a degree from Nottingham University, a Post Graduate Certificate in Education from Leeds Trinity University College and a Post Graduate Diploma in Integrative Psychotherapy from the University of Central Lancashire. She’s completed a wide range of extensive training and certifications in Domestic Abuse, Survivors of Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence, Suicide and Self-Harm, Expressive Arts Therapy, Gender Variance, Online and Telephone Counselling and Polyvagal Regulation developed by Stephen Porges, a professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina and “Distinguished University Scientist” at Indiana University.