For some of us, there comes a point in life when we look around and realise we’ve been going about life all wrong. And whether that’s sparked by physical signs of our missteps everywhere we look or a feeling of emptiness that haunts us, you know when enough is enough and it’s time to start over again. Of course, there’s no best time to do this, so even though we’re breaking down how to start over in life at 30 or 40, keep in mind that you can use this guidance at any point in your life.
So, are you ready? Here’s the best way to start over in life.
How to start over in life at 30, 40 or older
Reflect on your current life
Every good journey starts with knowing where you want to go, otherwise, how will you get there? So, when starting over in life, the first thing you should do is get clear on what you want. What’s currently missing from your life that makes you feel a need to start over?
A great way to figure this out is to look at the eight key areas of your life: love, time, money, career, relationship to self, family and friends, adventure and spirituality.
For each, write down a clear description of what the best-case scenario would be. Then rate that area of your life out of 10 – in terms of what it’s like right now – where 10 equals exactly like your dream scenario (make sure it’s your dream, not your parents’, best friend’s, lover’s or society’s dream) and one equals absolutely horrendous.
The truth is that any area you’ve rated less than six out of 10 needs significant work, but remember that this new start is about you, so you should decide which aspects of your life you want to make a big change in. If you rate one area really low, but can honestly say you don’t care about it, don’t focus your energy on it. Instead, concentrate on the areas you do really care about.
Once you can clearly see which of the eight areas of your life you need or want to change, move on to the next step.
Identify what’s missing
The previous exercise should have helped you see where you’re falling short of the ideal life you’d like. Now it’s time to get clear on why and what’s missing.
So, for each life area you chose to focus on, ask yourself what needs to happen to take it from the current number it’s at, to a 10.
Let’s take love as an example. If your love life is currently a three out of 10, but 10 out of 10 would involve you being in a relationship with a partner who respects, loves and appreciates you; and you both strive to communicate openly and honestly with each other – even on difficult topics – and you are each others’ priority in life.
With a clear picture of what your dream scenario looks like, you now need to ask yourself what needs to happen to take your current three out of 10 situation (in which you are single and hating it, deleting and reinstalling Hinge every month but never actually going on dates with anyone you match with) up to a 10.
Obvious solutions could include:
- figuring out what your non-negotiables are in a partner
- telling friends, family, colleagues etc you’re dating so they can introduce you to potential partners
- actively dating online (if that’s your thing)
- allowing yourself to enjoy the dating process and not get disheartened with slow progress
- spending time with different types of people
Should I make a fresh start in a new country or city?
Armed with your list of solutions for taking each key area of your life from a less than six to a 10, it’s time to get started.
But should that involve changing location?
When people talk about starting over, they often imagine romantic images of packing a bag, jumping on a flight to a random country and creating a new life from the ground up.
This, of course, is an option. But bear in mind, it’s not the best one for everyone.
Starting over in a new place where no one knows you can be incredibly freeing as you leave behind the pressures you may have faced from people who knew a version of yourself you’ve outgrown (but they refuse to acknowledge you are no longer that person). This type of freedom can help you step up and start doing the things you’re currently afraid to do because of fear of judgment from others or too many closed doors by people who can’t see you’ve changed.
But starting over in a new place has its disadvantages, namely loneliness. The sad truth is that it’s harder (but not impossible) to make new friends in your 30s and 40s than when you’re younger. And that’s often because most people have families to focus on. So while in your commitment-free 20s it’s easy to spend the evenings in a bar, club or another social setting, in your 30s and 40s, many people spend the evenings with their families.
Another disadvantage of starting your life over in a new place lies in the saying ‘wherever you go, there you are.’ Simply put, if the big problem in your life is how you feel about and relate to yourself, going to a new country is unlikely to change that.
You need to do some serious inner work to move past any self-esteem and self-sabotage issues you have, and this will take time. Yes, you can absolutely still start afresh somewhere new, but it’s worth managing your expectations because changing the four walls you look at each day won’t instantly transform how you feel about yourself.
How to start over when it feels too late
Whether you jump on a plane or stay close to home, the crucial part of starting over isn’t booking the flight or signing a new lease, it’s systematically changing every area of your life that you need to change.
You should already have a list of what needs to change (you wrote it earlier in the article). The only thing that now stands in your way is time, effort and self-sabotage.
There’s not a lot you can do about the time factor – creating new habits, meeting new people, retraining and learning new skills all take time. But the effort and self-sabotage factors are within your power.
If you know you have a habit of dreaming, but not doing, or giving up easily, you need to ‘you-proof’ your fresh start.
Reflect on previous failed attempts at change. What went wrong? Why? What can you do this time around to avoid the same outcome?
Write these down and put a plan into place to prevent this from happening.
You should also reflect on past successful attempts at change and write down the keys to your success, so you can do more of the same this time around.
A powerful strategy you may want to consider is following in the footsteps of someone who also dramatically changed one or more of the areas of your life you want to change.
Speak to them and find out what making the change really involves. What setbacks did they face? What lucky breaks did they have? How long did it take? What actions worked best for them?
If you choose to do this step, make sure you pick someone genuine who will openly tell you the realities of what they went through. Don’t pick someone with an ulterior motive e.g. someone selling a product or service that will help you improve the same area of your life (they’re likely to exaggerate their results to encourage you to buy their product or service).
And that’s it.
To recap, if you want to know how to start over in life at 30 or 40, you should:
- Do a life audit and identify which of the key areas of your life are significantly worse than you want them to be
- Identify the dream scenario for each area of your life
- Write down what needs to change in each area of your life to move it closer to the dream scenario
- Reflect on past attempts at change that didn’t’ go well and create a plan for overcoming potential challenges and obstacles
- Speak to someone who’s made a similar change to find out what you can realistically expect
- Take it easy on yourself – change is a process and doesn’t happen overnight
And if you’re interested in other ways to turn your life around, try these six ways to change your life for the better.