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AARP The Magazine

Reimagine Your Life

In a rut? Feeling stuck? 6 steps to help you make a change in your life

Reflect: What's real for you?

Lasting change often begins by looking inward. This doesn't mean you must retreat to a monastery or spend hours in the lotus position. Instead, think of reflection as a break: a mini-vacation from the daily business that absorbs so much of our time. It's a chance to go inward and listen to your own story.

See also: Let Life Reimagined help you jump into new possibilities

Reflection involves revisiting the narrative in your head about your life up until this time. You don't have to automatically extend that narrative into your future; you can weave an entirely new story for yourself.

Start the process by asking how you wound up where you are today: What goals and values led you here? Looking forward, what is most important to you? What choices are you likely to face in the years ahead? What possibilities would you most like to pursue? Are you satisfied with how you spend your days? As you ponder these questions, you can begin to say no to the things that clutter your life, and yes to those that give you purpose.

Connect: Convene a feedback panel

In the early phases of our adult lives, we often make connections and form communities around family and work. As we age, the basis for those connections tends to fade. Forty years later, for example, the parents of your children's friends are less likely to be your friends. You may have moved to another city or simply drifted apart socially. The same is true for work friends: You may have changed jobs or left the labor force entirely.

At this stage of life, it's all too easy to end up with a wealth of casual acquaintances and a dearth of real friends. And this occurs just when we all need authentic connections.

1. The cornerstone of connecting is building a sounding board, which is a small group of people who can help you think about what's next in your life. They may see you more clearly than you see yourself.

2. To convene your sounding board, find one committed listener who can offer you support. Ideally this will be someone willing to hear you out on the questions you've been asking yourself, then deepen and magnify them.

3. Once you've found your listener, bounce ideas off him or her every few weeks. Then slowly add new sounding board members. Strive to recruit a catalyst, a connector, a taskmaster and a mentor.

4. Don't forget that connection is a two-way street: Once you've asked people to serve on your sounding board, you may be asked to serve on theirs. Say yes; you're well on your way to being a reimagineer.

Next page: Explore, choose, and essentials for the road ahead. »

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