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Life 101: How to Start Over

The new year is here, but why is starting over so hard? In our new monthly series, Life 101, Endicott faculty parse this question and other timely, real-world topics.
The new year is here, but why is starting over so hard? In our new monthly series, Life 101, Endicott faculty parse this question and other timely, real-world topics.
By: Danna Lorch

Life 101 is a new monthly series delving into timely real-world topics with the help of Endicott College faculty expertise. This is the first in the series. 

Every year, more than 40% of Americans make a New Year’s resolution. Yet research shows that just 8% succeed at sticking to their goals. Why is starting over—and trying to make something new work out over the long term—so hard? To put it simply, starting over can feel terrifying. 

The legendary Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale was developed in 1967 but is still used today to rank the most stressful life events and the level of attention required to cope. It’s no surprise that some of the biggest highs and lows in life include the death of a loved one, loss of a job, illness, marriage, welcoming a child, or relocating.  Part of being human is coping with these valleys and pits of the life cycle, and the first thing to know about starting over is that it’s inevitable no matter how hard you try to plan. 

Getting in the Right Headspace to Begin Again

Starting over after a setback or navigating a major shift in circumstances requires some serious mental focus. “Part of starting over is letting go of something,” says Reverend Gail Cantor, Endicott’s Director of Belonging and Spiritual Life. “You’re in a transition and continuing forward on your journey and letting go of what has been familiar.” 

Cantor suggests harnessing anxious, nervous, or excited physical energy with some mindful breathing exercises. Consider the Buddhist belief that humans are starting over fresh in every single moment. “Lighten up,” she laughs. It’s okay to fall off the horse and keep climbing back on. 

If you’re starting over after the loss of a love, dream, or person, Cantor suggests, “Take some quality of that person, relationship, or ending and honor them by incorporating it into your next chapter.” 

The Big Move

Not everything has to be new to move on. “You can bring your grandmother’s antique dresser with you to the city where you’ll be starting your new job,” suggests Sarah Bischoff, Associate Professor of Interior Design at Endicott College. “Some meaningful pieces are great to always see in your space, so every home doesn’t feel new and unfamiliar.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans move an average of 11.7 times over a lifetime. Each home offers a fresh chance at starting over. Bischoff suggests embracing that change by choosing a color palette that symbolizes turning over a new leaf. Literally. “Color psychology is evidence-based design proving that colors impact our mood. Green is the color of growth, a fresh start, hope, and healing. It represents our ever-present connection to nature.” 

And for those starting a new job after graduation, moving on after a bad breakup, or taking on some healthier life habits, even without relocating, it’s possible to refresh a space. Bischoff recommends recycling or donating anything you no longer use and rearranging furniture to update a familiar space with fresh, optimistic energy. 

Athletes Start Over Every Season—And So Can You

Borrow your winning strategy from the playbook of professional athletes— individuals who have mastered keeping their minds in the present moment. Athletes constantly accept and move on from losses to train for their next big wins. They never assume that the wins will just keep coming either. 

Sometimes starting over is beyond your control. Even the best laid plans go south sometimes. Maybe you experienced a health setback, or you were laid off from the job you loved. Getting back in shape or succeeding on a new professional path is possible—with a lot of conscious effort, says Anthony D’Onofrio, Director of the Graduate Sport Leadership Program at Endicott College. 

“Life’s going to happen,” says D’Onofrio. “Similar to when you’re exercising—you may get sick, or there might be bad weather, but you build that into your program, knowing that’s part of the process.” 

He often advises retiring athletes who are feeling tentative about trying to move into a new professional role. “Focus on your transferable skills,” D’Onofrio recommends. You are more prepared than you think to thrive in any environment. Make a list of what you offer and re-read it often. 

“Talk to a seasoned mentor and ask them how they got where they are,” he says. 

Chances are the path zigged and zagged, requiring pivoting. Maybe it’s rolling with these bumps that makes you the strongest, wisest, and most powerful version of yourself.