By: Karen Sands
One of my Linkedin groups shared a Harvard Business Review article written by Marc Freedman, CEO and Founder of Encore.org, whom I respect greatly as a colleague, entitled “The Dangerous Myth of Reinvention.”
As you can tell from his title, he writes about reinvention as a myth that is dangerous to those who pursue it because it “is not practical—or even desirable. On a very basic level, it’s too daunting.” He prefers the term “reintegration,” more of a branch off our life’s path rather than a new one.
For decades, I’ve been blessed to be a “Sherpa” for adults, especially Boomers, considering and making the “reinvention trek,” lighting the way through this great midlife shift into elderhood. I differ in my view of this universal archetypal journey, not only because of the experiences of those I serve, but because of my own journey of successful serial reinvention…both radical reinvention and not so radical.
My take is that reinvention is an apt catchall term that captures all the facets of these major transitions, and hopefully transformations, that we will engage in (or not), across our life course. Now that we are elongating our life span, and our potential to be “visionaries with wrinkles,” conversations like this are so welcome.
In my work over the decades, I have learned that people say they want change but then limit their own sense of what changes are possible for them (especially those who’ve been there, done that). My concern with the concept of “reintegration” is that when viewed as the only option, it feeds the limitations, sucking us back into the status quo—doing more of the same—rather than inspiring us to climb the summit that takes us beyond what we believe is possible to doing what we never thought we could.
Viewing reinvention and reintegration as mutually exclusive is a false dichotomy. We do not have to choose between either reinvention or reintegration. We can choose both/and. Reintegration is for many a step along the way to radical reinvention, and for some it’s an endpoint.
For those who need to get back into the workforce in the most expedient way, reintegration makes total sense: scan your past, recover or build your skill sets, reintegrate them, and step back into the fray. On the other hand, reinvention demands reintegration as an integral aspect but one that does not stand on its own.
We are all different, at various points on the spiral of life. Post-Recession, some by necessity must re-enter the workforce or focus on remaining there, and for them, for now, reintegration is absolutely a positive move, a way to improve on the status quo without taking risks they can’t afford to take or simply do not wish to take.
Among those who are focused solely on reintegration, as well as those doing well and currently focused on staying in business, are those who still aspire to more, for whom reintegration is not the ultimate goal, as Freedman makes it out to be, but a necessary step on the journey to larger transformation, to not just surviving but thriving.
To mentally close that door to more by assuming it is impossible and dangerous to move through is as much a mistake as diving through that door blind and without any preparation.
Closing the door to reinvention is also dangerous, but in this case, the danger is not just to the individual, but to our planet as a whole and the next 7 generations who will suffer if enough of us do not collectively strive for nothing short of transformation, from the personal to the global level.
For many of us, now is the time for going forward to radical reinvention, rather than backward to reintegrate—what all the evidence, from the biosphere to our personal lives, is screaming at us no longer works on its own. We are in the midst of an epochal shift of enormous evolutionary impact.
These times demand not the “same as before” approaches, but rather new approaches to meet and thrive in the midst of massive creative destruction. Disintegration and reintegration are a necessary part of this evolutionary reinvention now beckoning us into the future.
Reinvention is not a myth, although it may require a mythic call for action…our call to greatness…based on the archetypal Hero and Heroine’s journey, which each of us traverses from midlife into elderhood, what I call “Crossing the Canyon of the Soul.” Now is the last chance we get to embrace the gift of turning crisis into opportunities.
Myths are stories to help us re-story our own journeys. Now Boomers need to re-story both our generational journey from the sixties and our own individual stories as we move through midlife into our older years…and for some of us into our elder years.
Not everyone will be called or will answer this call, but those of us who do cannot afford to dismiss it as impossible or even impractical. We all face the same questions, even if our answers may differ. The right questions are far more important than the answers.
- What will our new story be?
- What kind of humans do we want to be?
- What future do we want? Same-old or transformative?
Transitions force us, if we hear the call, to sift through the kernels of our prior story like the fairytales of our childhood. This breakdown and its enormous potential for rebirth, reclamation, and re-storying is classic for the archetypal Hero’s and Heroine’s journey and necessary for the future of us all.
We are the “visionaries with wrinkles” on our faces from all we, Boomers and those on the cusp, have faced as a generation. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We must not miss our cue to radically reinvent not just ourselves, but our world, now that we have the hard-earned wisdom and experience to do it.
What do you choose?
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