How can we not immediately empathize with the anticipation and trepidation all over the young faces of eager students on our Facebook feeds? As a child, I loved the time leading up to the first day of school. It meant new supplies, unscuffed shoes and the purchase of new books – freshly protected by brown paper grocery bags and scotch tape. The anticipation of new teachers, new schedules and learning new stuff was both exhilarating and scary. But by far, the best part of the first day of school was the thrill of potential. This was our best opportunity to rethink and recraft who we were and who we wanted to be going forward. We climbed onto that bus with new goals: “This year I am going to…” There was no better time for reinvention.
Re-evaluation and Reinvention for Grownups
As working adults, we no longer have the luxury of pressing the reset button every autumn. Unless it is a start at a new company or a promotion to a new job, it’s hard to suddenly start fresh in the workplace. And yet, the art of re-evaluation and reinvention remains a critical life skill. A CEO I once worked for kept a box of Crayola crayons on his desk. When I asked him why, he opened the box, handed me a crayon and said, “smell.” I was immediately taken back to the Septembers of my childhood and the thrilling anticipation of a new school year. He told me that he kept those Crayolas on his desk to remind him of times of fun, laughter, and creativity. These mementos from the past encouraged him to constantly reinvent a fun and creative future. Years ago, I read a book by David Shapiro and Richard Leider called Repacking your Bags. In it, the authors encourage us to take a hard look at what we have packed in our bags – our activities, our possessions, and our relationships. We are all on a life journey, and we need to unpack and repack our bags for different legs of travel. It may be that past patterns are weighing us down, or the person we are isn’t necessarily the one we want to be. It’s time to open the backpack, toss out the old books, break out the brown paper bags and scotch tape, and start anew. Take a hard look at what is inside your bag. Unpacking means you have to take out and re-examine the responsibilities, possessions and people in your life. Are these people and things moving you forward or dragging you down? Is it time to be realistic about your bag’s ability to expand in and take on more? If you’re anything like many business leaders, heaven forbid you have to haul that bag up the school bus steps – or weigh it at the airport check-in and pay an exorbitant fee!
Now is the Best Time to Re-evaluate and Reinvent
When the kids start showing up on your Facebook feed with new clothes and looks of anticipation, think about repacking your own bag. Take the neighborhood kids’ cue. Be thoughtful about what you really need going forward. When you embark on this activity, the first thing to consider is whether your bag has space for the new. Without enough space, you can’t add in life’s wonderful surprises that propel you along your journey. I have found that each year I repack my bag, less goes inside. I’ve learned that more space equates to more opportunity. It’s not an easy thing to take things out of your bag. But trust me, it’s less scary than stepping onto that big yellow bus for the first time each Fall.
This September, I encourage you to start with a new mindset. What do you really need in your bag to carry you forward? How will you balance the load? What kind of person is going to carry that bag around?