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Facing A New Start In Life?

What do you do when things don’t go as expected? How do you pick yourself up again and start over? Sometimes we start over because we choose to, but sometimes it can be because things didn’t work out the way we thought they would. Whether it’s a relationship that’s ended, a job, school or uni, moving cities, changing gyms, or friends moving away and we want to start finding new people to hang out with. It doesn’t always feel easy.

I grew up in the country and because I was so shy, making new friends wasn’t always easy. I would keep to myself, so that when I got into university, instead of making the most of all the social activities that many people do, I would just go to class each day and back home again. I didn’t yet know how to meet new people or start a conversation with someone new.

Sometimes people do things that make them feel safe and comfortable, even if those things are not actually what they want. I wanted to make friends but I was too scared to approach people, thinking I’d look stupid or that they wouldn’t want to meet me. Sticking to myself seemed easier. I used to get lost walking around the campus so instead of asking someone, I felt more comfortable sticking to the same pathway and the same route each day, even if it took longer. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own self. If I’d known what I know now about starting something afresh, then I think I would have gone out more, tried a new sport and joined a university club or two. I would’ve got out there and had more fun!

I did the same thing when I travelled to Europe later in life. I would go out during the day and keep to myself, going to museums and art galleries. Then I’d stay in at night at the hostel when everyone else would go out. I even stayed at hostels where there were very friendly and lovely people but I was too shy and unconfident to connect with them. Instead I would read books and listen to music before going to bed early. For many people this is what they like to do, but for me it wasn’t, I wanted more. I really did want to go out and meet people. I wanted to have more fun connecting with others, enjoying different experiences and trying new things, but I didn’t know how.

I used to hate starting over

But that all changed when I learned to change my focus. What are you focusing on? Whether it’s a new job, new city, new gym, going on dates or meeting new people. What you notice and focus on, can either hold you back or help you make an easier transition.

At times, our mind is processing so much information that it needs to have a system for sorting it. There are many different ways that our brain sorts information and experiences. In order to be more efficient, our mind will delete, generalise and distort information in specific patterns. One of the ways that we do this, is that some of us notice differences in information, experiences and data, whilst others will notice more similarities in those things.

Neither is right or wrong and no person does only one or the other. These are tendencies that we all have and there is a scale of degree.  My nan was extremely good at noticing differences and my friend is extremely good at noticing sameness. You, me, and other people might be anywhere in between.

I am excellent at noticing differences and have had to train myself to see things that are more similar. I used to notice all the things that were different, new and unfamiliar. Instead of feeling excited or curious about them, they’d make me feel uncertain. Instead of looking at them as opportunities to grow, or learn something new, I’d avoid them.

Do you notice more similarities or differences?

Like me, some people have a tendency to notice the differences about things. When they walk into a room they know well, like their lounge room or kitchen, if there is one thing sitting out of place, they’ll notice it. My nan definitely noticed differences more. If her picture hanging on the wall was just off centre she would notice and straighten it immediately. It was like her super power was noticing the differences in things.

When you’re starting over, whether it’s in a new job, a new city or you’ve started dating, if you tend to notice more differences in those situations, it can sometimes make it a little harder. If you’re like me, you might notice the different ways that people look at you because you’re new to them or because they’re also noticing differences.

You might notice people speaking with different slang words or their own office jargon that you don’t yet understand. Maybe you see people sticking together in different groups, wearing different types of clothes and you don’t feel like you fit in. Many of us have an underlying desire to be accepted and to belong, and when you notice the details of differences, it can sometimes feel like you don’t fit in.

When I used to go on dates, I’d overthink about what to say, what not to say, whether I am wearing the right clothes, whether I’ll find the place, how I’ll recognise the person (if we hadn’t met) or whether they will be interested in my conversation. I’d think of all the different potential scenarios and play them through my mind over and over again.

The problem with this is that the scenarios were all made up. They weren’t real. The only way for me to figure out what would work for me and what wouldn’t, was to actually go on dates. The more dates I went on, the better I got at them and the safer I felt inside myself. I started to feel more confident to make conversation, to have fun, to be curious, to listen and enjoy the experience.

Focus on what you want more of

People that have a tendency to see the similarities in things, and notice how things are the same, may walk into the same room as my nan and see the same picture on the wall but not notice that it’s slightly crooked. They might even comment on the picture or the room, see that there are a series of three pictures or simply be more interested in talking to the people in the room.

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I have an incredible friend who is excellent at noticing the sameness in things. What I have learned from spending time with him, is that when I am noticing the details of how someone is different to me, my friend notices that they are a person and that he is a person too. That’s simply all he needs to know to start a conversation.

It’s so fast and seemingly easy. When my friend starts a new job he will walk into the office and start meeting people.He notices how this is a job, and that his last job was also a job and because he was great at his last job, he will be great at this job too. If it was me, I would list all the ways the two jobs are different, how I’d never used a certain system before or everyone seemed older or younger than were I last worked, but he doesn’t seem to notice any of that, he just gets on with it.

Are you focusing on what’s working or what’s not working? Often when we start over it’s because things haven’t worked in relationship, or in a job, with friends, or our health and so it can feel challenging. It’s at these times when we struggle or find it difficult that we may notice more of what’s not working rather than celebrating what is working. We may start noticing feelings of overwhelm, but by shifting our focus to what is in our control, what is working and what to do next, we can make the transition much easier.

Where do we get the steps for what to do in life?

We can sometimes get overwhelmed when starting something new, if you haven’t been there before and you don’t know the details. It’s like if I asked you to make the best chocolate cake ever and you had never made chocolate cake before, you wouldn’t know where to start. You might start wondering if you should use flour, and which type of flour (there’s different kinds?) or how much to use and the list goes on.

It would make sense to find someone who has a recipe, right? So you go online to search, only to have a million different results come up. How do you know which one to choose? Then you find someone who has been there before, who has an excellent reputation from all the thousands of people who they’ve helped to make a chocolate cake. For a chocolate cake, you might find Jamie Oliver and use his recipe, and it works! Now you’re feeling more confident because you have the steps to know you’re going in the right direction.

There could be guidelines of how to do certain things, or you might have an idea of what you want to do, but finding the recipe that’s specifically for you can be more difficult. A recipe on how you can approach change, start anew or navigate life’s ups and downs, might work for you but not for someone else and vice versa. There is no-one else like you. I used to feel overwhelmed thinking about the changes that were happening in my life, so I started to break it down into small steps that I could do consistently. I began to create a recipe. 

Sometimes I still feel less sure of myself than I’d like, and that’s when I rely on my recipe the most. It keeps me going when things feel more challenging, and it helps me to be able to embrace the changes that life may bring. Now that I’ve done this so many times, I love starting over! It’s more fun and almost like I’m embarking on an exciting adventure. I can’t wait to see what’s around the next corner, and I know that whatever happens, I’ll be ok.

My Recipe For Starting Over

Music! I noticed that some songs would help me feel excited, happy or fun and when I listened to other songs I’d feel more sad, thoughtful or quiet. I made a playlist of fun, upbeat, playful songs that I could put on before doing something that I was uncertain about. When I was starting a new job I’d play these songs on the way to the new office so that when I walked through the doors I was feeling more certain in myself.

I felt more confident about being able to handle the day, meet new people and to just be my friendly and fun self around them. I listen to music a lot these days! I’ve also met people who prefer to watch movie clips or motivational clips to help them feel confident and ready for the day. You can try a few different ways of doing this until you find what works best for you. Maybe you do all three? Why no try them all!

Take one step at a time. Focus on what is in your control. There is no use getting overwhelmed by all the details of what needs to be done or by the immensity of the change or focussing on all that isn’t working. You cannot change everything, only one thing at a time. When a baby is learning to walk they don’t get it right and perfect first time do they?

They take one step and then fall down. They also don’t beat themselves up for it, they simply get up and do it again and again and again. Right now you probably don’t even think about walking because it’s so natural to you that it feels as if you always knew how. But you started with just one step at a time.

Keep it simple. When you’re starting over,  break it down into small achievable steps. When I moved to the city I found a cafe that I liked and I would go there everyday, getting the same drink. After a week or two the staff got to know my order and we started having small conversations. It started feeling like home to me. What are the things that make you feel comfortable, safe, like home?

It may be a favourite shop, spot on the beach, running or walking track, a favourite seat in your home or apartment. Set that up first. Look after your environment and establish the routines and things that help you feel like home. Everyone’s different, what are yours? I do the same thing when I start a new job. I scout out the cafe that I will stop at on the way to work and order the same drink and get to know the staff. You might have a favourite mug or type of tea or coffee that you take into the office. Maybe you have a certain morning routine that you like to stick to, a playlist that keeps you upbeat, or a certain path that you walk. These may seem like little things but they add up.

Focus on the positives. Building and establishing new relationships in a new city, new job or when dating may not be instant or feel groundbreaking immediately. I’ve learned to celebrate little conversations, or saying hello to people. Sometimes it’s as simple as appreciating a smile. It’s those little gestures such as helping someone, smiling, sitting at the same table at lunch even if you don’t say anything to start with, that make all the difference.  These moments can add up to a conversation or a friendship with a colleague. They can be the difference between an amazing day and a not so great day.

Some people are more outgoing than others and in new situations will want to get to know people straight away. If that’s not you, you might be more like me and have a more gradual approach. It’s important to keep moving forward, be open to new conversations and to going out for coffee or lunch.

When you’re starting over, building up connections with people can help you to feel not so alone, can give you support and can be fun! If you’re not sure what to say, you can always ask ‘what do you like to do for fun?’ it’s a great conversation starter, it’s fun to ask and fun to hear about what other people do for fun. Plus, it’s way more interesting than the weather!

The most important ingredient: Celebrate!

Appreciate and celebrate the little things that you are doing. If it feels difficult, then this is even more reason to stop and notice the little things that are going well. You can celebrate everything! If you’re setting up your new home, celebrate walking through the door. You could get one spot organised first such as the placement of your favourite chair, or setting up your bedroom, or maybe it’s that all important tea cupboard! Once it’s done, take a moment and enjoy that spot. Make a cup of tea, sit in your chair, lie on your bed and enjoy being in that space.

If you’re starting a new job, you could celebrate talking to someone new, learning a new skill or enjoying your first cup of tea in the new office. Maybe you can appreciate a great view, or celebrate just walking into your workplace at the start of the day. It doesn’t matter what you celebrate, or how big or small they are.

The more you celebrate the better! The things we enjoy the most, we enjoy because we remember how good we felt when we were doing them in the past. The reason why you might enjoy reading, swimming, hanging with friends, drawing, or anything you enjoy,  is because most of the times you’ve done this fun thing, you experienced a positive emotion.

Celebrating is actively choosing to feel a positive emotion. That’s how you can take control back when you’re starting over. You get to choose how you feel about it. You might not enjoy the whole process of starting over and it may be challenging to start with, but the more little things you can appreciate and celebrate, the easier and more fun you may find it to be.

It’s easy to celebrate! Find a song you love and play it loud, dance, jump up and down, smile, laugh, feel amazing for a moment to feel the celebration. Feel the positive emotion for a moment. Remember that the little things add up over time, including the positive emotions, if you choose.