One of the main reasons why I moved to Spain, in addition to the fact that I will be studying at one of the best paleo programs in the world right now, is to start over. From scratch. No strings attached from a previous life. No unresolved conflicts following me from my past. Here, in a place where no one knows me, I can be myself or I can reinvent myself, and no one would know the difference nor be the wiser.
Starting over holds a deep fascination for all of us. But if you really want to start over, you need to take a good, honest look at yourself and see who you have been and where you’ve been. A good, honest look. No rose-colored glasses. A good, very good look. Don’t only see but recognize your mistakes. And instead of seeing them as mistakes, see them as learning opportunities. What can I do better in case a similar situation arises again? Seeing failures as learning opportunities, and not as failures–which is such a negative word–is the first step to starting over. This is something I had to learn in order to not have my mind ruminating about “failures.”
The next step is to imagine what your best self can look like. Imagine it fully. Can you be more organized? Can you be more punctual? Can you deliver on what you promise? Can you say “no” more often, thereby avoiding too much and spreading yourself too thin? Can you love yourself more and criticize yourself less? Can you finish a project that’s been lingering on forever? Can you be more fully present to your loved ones? Can you listen more and talk less? Can you listen attentively and not be thinking about the next thing you’re going to say right after someone stops talking? These are a few questions that you can ask yourself as you envision the kind of person that you want to become.
But you must believe that you have the potential of transformation, no matter what other people have told you and no matter what you have told yourself. Some people like to put you down before you even start to blossom. These are the people that in your new life you must avoid as you start over. And they can put you down in multifarious ways: in being emotional vampires and sucking all of your energy; in being so chatty you can’t get a word in edgewise; in narcissistically talking only about themselves but when you talk about you they invalidate you and your experience; in blissfully ignoring your talents and telling that to your face in backhanded ways. People can be subtle and not so subtle in their attempts at aborting your potential to blossom. Don’t let them. These people are troubled, and they are not your responsibility, no matter what they claim.
So that’s the third step, avoid people who constantly invalidate you and surround yourself with people who love you and are actually there for you when you need them. Start discarding negative people, start accumulating positive, gentle souls.
The fourth, and final step, is to live as if you’re already the person you envision. Start right now. If that entails dressing differently, do so now. If that entails setting boundaries with people who constantly overstep them, do so now. If that entails worrying less and practicing mindfulness, do so now. If that entails stopping procrastination at some project, do so now. If that entails going on a diet that works, I suggest going on the keto diet, and doing so now. If that entails exercising more, start right now in your own home. You don’t need a gym. You can start right now in your own home. Just simple, gentle stretches. Start slow and be gentle with yourself.
And reward yourself in your road to starting over and don’t punish yourself if you’re not getting there as fast as you’d like. There’s no better proven system than the action-and-reward system. Think of the popularity of clicker-training with dogs. Think about why this technique of positive reinforcement is so good and fast at training them. There’s no punishment, just positive reinforcement when a desired behavior is obtained. Negative behavior is ignored, and not rewarded. In that way, that negative behavior is extinguished. Clicker-training is so popular it’s even done with horses and dolphins!
This morning I went for a walk with a new friend I made at Bonaparte. She showed me the neighborhood of the town that is next to the university, and now that I know it, I can start walking in the mornings. Back when I was living in Boston, I was walking between 10,000 to 15,000 steps a day, which was great because it kept my anxiety at bay while keeping me in shape. Walking here has been a bit more difficult because of the heatwave, but now that I know that the temperature is under 25 C very early in the morning, I can walk all I want and regain my walking routine.
And that’s the only thing I’m bringing from my “past” with me: my walking routine. Walking for me has always served as a meditation. The constant cascade of thoughts becomes more of a gentle stream, I get answers to questions I have on what to add or delete from a creative writing piece, my intuitive understanding of a subject I’m studying becomes deeper and fuller. Even writers have talked about what they think about while they walk or run. For instance, Haruki Murakami’s excellent What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Everything else I leave behind. Everything else I choose to leave behind because it no longer serves me.
Because I’m starting over.
Make sure to check out the song lyrics of A Quiet Life by Teho Teardo on the Web site’s right-sided content bar. It’s a beautiful song about starting over.