For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a bit of a chameleon.
Throughout Jr. High and High School, I would constantly change my hair color, find new clothes to wear, lose weight, gain weight, wear glasses, go without glasses, or even adopt different personalities.
As with anyone, I’m sure I was trying to find my identity. And I know I’m not the only one. I’ve heard from others that they’ve gone through similar phases in their lives. In my case, I’m not so sure it was a phase though.
I think the main reason I reinvented myself so many times in the past, and the reason I still do, is because I feel like I get to start fresh whenever I do.
Almost everybody has thoughts of “staring over”, and I know some people would willingly choose to wake up a different person tomorrow if it were an option.
But we are certainly talking about a doubled-edged sword here, and that’s what I’d like to get into.
Pros of Constant Reinvention
Having reinvented myself many times over, here are some of the advantages I’ve observed:
The greatest reward of constant reinvention is growth.
You can’t reinvent yourself without being open-minded. Someone who’s open-minded exposes themselves to a great deal of stimuli, and that stimuli have a way of influencing your thoughts.
It has long been said that thoughts are things (namely vibrations). I’m not convinced one way or another.
What I do know is that thoughts sustained turn into actions, actions into habits, and habits into beliefs (because habits are always tied to outcomes, and outcomes are the feedback that inform us of their relative value).
If personal growth is what you seek, then you will be amazed at the rewards of constant reinvention.
If you’re constantly reinventing yourself, it’s unlikely you’ll ever run out of creative ideas.
Writer’s block? Nah.
Day after day, you’ll have no trouble coming up with new things to create, write about, share, or otherwise.
Because you’re open-minded, you’ll be exposing yourself to new ideas all the time, so you’ll always be open to trying things in a new way, talking about things from a different angle, or taking a new approach to preexisting challenges.
Reinvention requires both internal and external creativity. Changing on the inside means shifting your perspective, paradigm, or even beliefs. Changing on the outside means doing something with your physical appearance or environment you’ve never done before.
Feeling Like You’re a New Person
The ultimate reward of reinvention is that you feel new all the time. You’ll almost have that sense that you’ve been reborn. Maybe you’ll even feel like you’ve lived several lifetimes.
Of course, this feeling is fleeting, which is probably why us chameleons keep looking for ways to change color again.
It’s a two-way street, but you can’t write off the sensation completely.
It can be incredibly satisfying showing up in front of people who used to know you, a changed man or woman. Having the assurance that you can process life and challenges in a new way can feel incredibly empowering.
Cons of Constant Reinvention
As I’ve shared before, everything people turn into a rule for life or success principle is in fact a specific tactic meant for a specific situation.
I have no evidence to back up the idea that reinvention is a “success principle”, but what I do know, from having lived it for so long, is that it’s got its cons too. And you certainly wouldn’t want to apply it to every situation.
Here are some of cons I see:
“Same Bat Channel, Same Bat Time”
Consistency. People love it. They feel far more comfortable knowing what to expect going into any situation. Contrary to what they may say on the outside, on the inside, they generally don’t like major surprises.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s TV shows, movies, school, church, jobs, or otherwise. There’s something about familiarity and uniformity that puts us at ease.
If you’re constantly reinventing yourself, you will probably never be that person. Like me, you might end up creating thousands of blog posts, articles, podcasts, videos and more, but at no point will you be the “old reliable” or “tried and true”, the “epitome of [insert virtue here]”.
If you want to build an audience, at some point, you’ll either need to create a predictable and repeatable framework for your work, or your brand will need to be built around constant reinvention.
When you don’t show up the same every single week, people don’t know what to expect, and don’t feel like they can count on you.
The “Elastic Band Effect”
A wise man (one of my guitar students, interestingly enough) once said to me, “you do this long enough, and you realize, eventually, you just keep snapping back to your former self like an elastic band.”
I think he’s right.
I always had visions of grandeur as a teen and even as a twenty-something. I figured, somehow, I would just become the coolest guy that ever lived as I got into my 30s.
Having taken the long, circuitous road to get to where I am, I can honestly say:
I don’t think I’m more, I don’t think I’m better, and I don’t think I’m different for having taken that journey.
As another mentor of mine pointed out (and I recognize this kind of flies in the face of something I said earlier), “you don’t grow — you only grow closer to your identity.”
You are who you are. All you can do is get to know yourself better. It’s like peeling away the layers and masks that act as a disguise and protective mechanism.
Success Can be an Uphill Battle
I find constant reinvention makes success in any area tough, mostly for reasons already stated — especially lack of consistency.
A pastor shows up every Sunday to preach about Jesus. If he shared the message of Christ one Sunday and denounced him completely the next, he would instantly lose followers (though he might gain some).
The point is that people come to know you for specific things.
Today, online personal development blogging god Steve Pavlina is known as exactly that. But at one time or another, he was also known as the “30-day experiment guy” or “polyphasic sleep guy”.
Once you’ve appealed to a niche audience, you can begin to broaden your appeal. Doing it the other way around can be tough if not impossible.
As a chameleon, even within a niche, you’ll probably find a way to bounce around from one thing to another, without ever becoming known for one thing.
Also, as result, you may become a jack of all trades, a spectacular generalist. But you will likely fail as a specialist. This has its own pros and cons.
Constant growth might sound appealing. But show me someone who’s looking to change their world from the inside out, and I’ll show you someone who’s likely enduring a great deal of discomfort.
Time and again, I’ve observed that anybody who gets on the path of personal growth invites fresh challenges into their lives (this is where many give up, because something happens, they feel bad, and then blame the course, book, podcast, etc. for why they feel bad).
Life is a lot like school. The moment you learn something new, the universe gives you an opportunity to solve a problem with the knowledge you’ve gained.
Once you’ve seen it enough times, you come to recognize it. But that doesn’t make it any more comfortable.
When you’ve gone through a transformation, it feels good. Almost everything leading up to it feels bad.
I can’t argue strongly for or against reinvention. All I know is that I’ve fallen into it rather naturally.
It might be by habit, or it could be a part of my identity.
It could be because of deep-seated insecurities or pain I’ve experienced in the past.
It might just be that I’m addicted to that feeling I talked about earlier.
Presently, I’m looking for ways to be a “Steady Eddie” in specific areas of life while allowing for the reinvention to happen in other parts of my life.
After all, if I’m going to snap back into place like an elastic band anyway, and reinvention is part of the shape of that elastic band, then I might as well allow that to happen naturally and be clear on where I need to be more consistent.