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Last Updated on May 12, 2020

Don’t Know What to Do with Your Life? 5 Steps to Get Unstuck

Don’t Know What to Do with Your Life? 5 Steps to Get Unstuck

“What should I do with my life? I don’t know what to do with my life… “

There have been many times in my life where I have been stuck and not known what to do next. I have agonized over what I should do or not do and whether I was making the right choices.

“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing. It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive”. – Oriah Mountain Dreamer

This state of not knowing what to do next applies to all of us, at any age and at different stages of our lives.

Whether we are heading off to university, graduating, choosing our career path, recovering from a heart break, being made redundant, or entering into retirement, we all have a point in our lives where we don’t know what to do next.

The answers or solutions we seek vary according to where we are at in our lives.

A young graduate will focus on answering this question in relation to their future and choosing the right career. A person entering into retirement will ask the question in the hope of doing something that has value in their life; and a young mother recently divorced will be asking this question in the hope that she can find an answer that will enable her to survive another day.

Personally, I have discovered that following these 5 steps will help you to find out what to do with your life:

1. Put Your Running Shoes on and Clear Your Mind

“Not knowing what you want is a lot better than knowing exactly what you want but not being able to get it, at least you have hope.”

At one time in my life, that was very challenging and emotional; all I could do was think about what I needed to do to get to the next day.

There were no thoughts of what I wanted to do in the future nor were there any thoughts of how I wanted my life to be. It was just a matter of surviving from one day to the next.

If you are in this situation, don’t panic. And you may want to learn about Nancy’s story, a story that resonates with a lot of people.

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For me, during this challenging time, exercise was the solution to helping me get through my day.

Every morning my alarm would go off at 6am. I would have my running gear ready by the bed, I would get dressed, walk out the door and start running for 45 minutes. I would come back from my run, have a shower and my protein shake, then wait for the kids to wake up and my day would begin.

For a long time, it was hard to get out of bed and go for my run because I just wanted to hide away.

After a few months, I began to realize that when I started my run, I would feel terrible and then when I got to the end of my street I would start feeling better and the sick feeling in my stomach would disappear.

Over time, I began to look forward to my morning run as I felt more energised and I was sleeping better.

Recently, I was talking to a healer about how I survived my life challenges. She said that exercise was one of the best ways to dissipate the emotional pain that we feel and hold in our bodies.

She said that I was lucky to have found a solution that worked well for me. It enabled me to manage my emotional pain, so that I could move to the next stage of sorting out what I wanted to do next with my life.

It took me 12 months to reach a point where I was ready to look at my future. It was then, that my next phase of my journey began. And I am happy to share with you how I discovered what I wanted to do with my life.

2. Take Action to Wake up Your Conscious Mind

“Nobody is going to do your life for you. You have to do it yourself, whether you’re rich or poor, out of money or making it, the beneficiary of ridiculous fortune or terrible injustice. And you have to do it no matter what is true. No matter what is hard. No matter what is unjust, sad, sucky things befall you. Self pity is a dead end road. You can make the choice to drive down it. It’s up to you to decide to stay parked there or to turn around and drive out” — Cheryl Stryed.

Life isn’t predictable and the solutions we seek to answer our life questions don’t always come nicely wrapped. There are no rules to follow and we have to work hard to define our life pathway.

Waking our conscious minds to accept our reality, embrace change and the unpredictability of life is one step toward finding out what we need to do next in our life.

For me, I had to deal with my limiting self beliefs which were very much a part of my conscious mind and my road blocks to moving forward.

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I couldn’t see a future for myself and I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted. Making a decision as to what to do with my life was impossible.

This was the hardest part for me, figuring out what I wanted, what I loved to do and how to be me or even believe in me.

I remember reading somewhere that if we have to make important decisions or choices in our lives, we can become overwhelmed. And so we choose to do nothing – it’s just too hard.

We become paralyzed rather than liberated by the power of choice. Because I didn’t know what I wanted, I couldn’t make a decision as to what direction I wanted my life to go. So for a long time, I did nothing and just drifted.

Eventually I became very dissatisfied with the direction my life was taking. I knew I had to take action and take it fast because I had very little faith in myself; my confidence was low and my vision for my future was bleak.

I was confused, conflicted and I had no hope.

My conscious mind was wanting solutions that were practical and safe, however my heart, well it wanted to follow my dreams.

It is hard to follow your heart, to overcome your limiting self beliefs and find your power. However, you can do it and it all comes down to taking action to change.

3. Embrace the Power of Taking Small Steps With a 30 Day Challenge

The first step I took to reprogram my conscious mind was I set myself a 30 Day Challenge.

You may ask, why 30 days? Because this is how the small steps you take gradually become your powerful habits. (In fact, the power of these little habits are beyond your imagination! Here’s why.)

I wrote down 3 goals I wanted to achieve in 1 month, that would make my life better than it was now. The 3 goals were:

To lose 2 kg, to sign up and start training to run a marathon in 6 months time, and to spend one weekend by myself writing my Life Vision.

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The first two goals were easy to achieve. However, the third one took me a lot longer to do but I did get there in the end.

This 30 day challenge gave me the momentum to begin my journey of finding out what I wanted to do with my life. Baby steps do matter.

Achieving these 3 goals gave me the confidence and self belief to keep going. I knew that if I did nothing, then I would have to accept a life of disquiet, unhappiness, sadness and no hope. There was no way that was going to happen.

4. Seek the Wisdom and Knowledge of Others Who Have Been There Before

“The more extensive a man’s knowledge of what has been done, the greater will be his power of knowing what to do” — Benjamin Disraeli

I like to read other people’s stories about how they lived their lives, their life philosophies and how they overcame their challenges in life.

I find that their stories inspire and motivate me, especially when I am unsure about what to do next in my life. These stories helped me to build my knowledge base. Then I could sort out the confusion in my mind and in my heart, as to what I should do next.

I have read many books, however for me, the two most inspiring books that I have read that helped me gain clarity and purpose in my life are Nelson Mandela’s book The Long Walk to Freedom and Richard Branson’s book Screw It Lets Do It – Lessons in Life and Business.

These 2 books are very different but the life lessons that Nelson Mandela and Richard Branson shared are priceless.

5. Do Whatever It Takes to Get to Know YOU

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” — Theodore Roosevelt.

Find out who you are, what your passions are and what you want to do with your life. This strategy is closely aligned to Strategy 2, in that you have to know who you are in order to Wake Up Your Conscious Mind.

To move forward, you have to let go of your past and embrace change. With change comes reinvention. If you don’t know who you are and what you want, it makes it a lot harder to move forward in your life.

Having a Life Vision, knowing your purpose and how you want to live your life are the foundations to building belief in yourself, your confidence, resilience, courage and accountability.

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There will be times in your life where you may not know what to do next, or you will make the wrong decision and that is okay.

With a purpose and a vision when these situations occur, you won’t be paralyzed by the fear of not knowing what to do; you will seize it as an opportunity to experience life.

If it doesn’t work out, that’s still okay because you will be empowered to make another choice.

My first step toward knowing what I wanted in life was to commit to my 30 day challenge — setting and achieving 3 goals in 1 month.

Once I did that, I started to organize my world and I researched for ways where I could get to know me, my purpose, my passions and how I wanted to live my life.

It took some time (2-3 years) but I did get there. I’ve read books, I’ve searched the web, I’ve talked to people and I’ve attended personal development workshops until I found a programme that I thought was right for me.

I didn’t have my Life Plan perfectly worked out. But when my next life challenge presented itself to me, I was far more prepared, informed and resilient to dealing with challenge.

It still hurt and it was very emotional but through it all I knew what I needed to do next to move forward in my life.

Final Thoughts

If you don’t know what to do with your life, consider these strategies I have shared.

It is a tough journey but it is also rewarding, in that you will discover your life purpose and find your passion. You will know what you need to do in your life and the actions you need to take to get there!

But remember, it’s never too late to live the life you want. Here’s why: How to Start Living Your Life Above Limitations

More Tips to Help You Get on Track

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

More by this author

Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Published on September 23, 2020

6 Effective Negotiation Skills to Master

6 Effective Negotiation Skills to Master

I don’t know about you, but many times when I hear the word negotiate I think of lawyers working out a business deal or having to do battle with a car salesman to try to get a lower price. Since I am in recruiting, the term “negotiation” comes up when someone is attempting to get a higher compensation package.

If we think about it, we tend to negotiate almost every day in a wide variety of things we do. Getting a handle on the important negotiation skills can be incredibly beneficial in many parts of our lives. Let’s take a look at 6 effective negotiation skills to master.

What is Negotiation?

First, let’s take a look at what negotiation is. Put simply, negotiation is a method by which people settle their differences. It is a process in which compromise or agreement can be reached without argument or dispute.

Anytime two people or sides disagree on something, they are almost always looking for the best possible outcome for their side. This could be from an individual’s perspective or someone representing an organization.

In reality, it’s rare that one side gets everything they want and the other side gets nothing that they are seeking. Seeking to reach a common ground of sorts where both sides feel like they are getting most of what they want is the key to being successful and maintaining the relationship.

Places We Negotiate

I’ve mentioned that we negotiate in just about all phases of our life. For those of you who are shaking your head no, I invite you to think about the following:

1. Work/Business

This one is the most obvious and it’s what naturally comes to mind when we think of the word “negotiate”.

When you first started at your current job, you might have asked for a higher salary. It could be that you delivered a huge new client to your company and used this as leverage in your most recent evaluation for more compensation. If you work with vendors (and just about every company does), maybe you worked them to a lower price or better contract terms.

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In recruiting, I negotiate with candidates and hiring managers all the time to land the best talent I can find. It’s very common to accept additional work with the (sometimes spoken, sometimes unspoken) agreement that it will benefit your career in the future.

Recently, I took over a project that was my boss was working on so that I would be able to attend a conference later in the year. And so it goes, we do this all day long at work.

2. Personal

I don’t know about you, but I negotiate with my spouse all the time. I’ll cook dinner with the understanding that she does the dishes. Who wants to mow the lawn and who wants to vacuum and dust the house?

I think we should save 10% for retirement, but she thinks 5% is plenty. Therefore, we save 8%. And don’t even get me started with my kids. My older daughter can borrow my car as soon as she finishes her chores. My younger daughter can go hang out with her friends when her homework is done.

Then, there are all those interactions in our personal lives outside our homes. The carpenter wants to charge me $12,000 to build a new deck. I think $10,000 is plenty so we agree on $11,000. I ask my neighbor if I can borrow his snowblower in the winter if I invite him over the next time I grill steak. And so on.

3. Ourselves

You didn’t expect this one, did you? We negotiate with ourselves all day long.

I’ll make sure I don’t skip my workout tomorrow since I’m going to have that extra piece of pizza. My spouse has been quiet the last few days, is it worth me asking her about, or should I leave it alone? I think the car place charged me for some repairs that weren’t needed, should I say something or just let it go? I know my friend has been having some personal challenges, should I check in with him? We’ve been friends for a long time, I’m sure he’d come to me if he needed help. I’ve got the #4 pick in this year’s Fantasy Football draft, should I choose a running back or a wide receiver?

Think about that non-stop voice inside your head. It always seems to be chattering away about something and many times, it’s us negotiating with ourselves. I’ll finish up that report that the boss needs before I turn on the football game.

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Why Negotiation Skills Are So Important

Put simply, negotiation skills are important because we all interact with other people, and not only other people but other organizations and groups of people as well.

We all rarely want the same thing or outcome. Most of the time a vendor is looking at getting you to pay a higher price for something than you want to spend. Therefore, it’s important to negotiate to some middle ground that works well for both sides.

My wife and I disagree on how much to save for retirement. If we weren’t married it wouldn’t be an issue. We’d each contribute how much we wanted to on our retirement funds. We choose to be married, so we have to come to some agreement that we both feel comfortable with. We have to compromise. Therefore, we have to negotiate.

If we each lived on a planet by ourselves, we would be free to do just about anything we wanted to. We wouldn’t have to compromise with anyone because we wouldn’t interact with anyone. We would make every choice unilaterally the way we wanted to.

As we all know, this isn’t how things are. We are constantly interacting with other people and organizations, each one with their own agenda’s, viewpoints, and opinions. Therefore, we have to be able to work together.

6 Negotiation Skills to Master

Having strong negotiation skills helps us create win-win situations with others, allowing us to get most of what we want in conjunction with others around us.

Now, let’s look at 6 effective negotiation skills to master.

1. Preparation

Preparation is a key place to start with when getting ready to negotiate. Being prepared means having a clear vision of what you want and how you’d go about achieving it. It means knowing what the end goal looks like and also what you are willing to give to get it.

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It also means knowing who you are negotiating with and what areas they might be willing to compromise on. You should also know what your “bottom line” is. By “bottom line” I mean what is the most you are willing to give up to get what you want.

For instance, several years ago, I decided it was time to get a newer car. I say newer because I wanted a “new to me” car, not a brand new car. I did my research and figured out what type of car I wanted. I decided on what must-have items on the car I wanted, the highest amount of miles that would already be on it, the colors I was willing to get it in, and the highest amount of money I was willing to pay.

After visiting numerous car dealerships I was able to negotiate buying a car. I knew what I was willing to give up (amount of money) and what I was willing to accept, things like the color, amount of miles, etc. I came prepared. This is critical.

2. Clear Communication

The next key skill you need to be an effective negotiator is clear communication. You have to be able to clearly articulate what you want to the other party. This means both clear verbal and written communication.

If you can’t clearly tell the other person what you want, how do you expect to get it? Have you ever worked through something with a vendor or someone else only to learn of a surprise right at the end that wasn’t talked about before? This is not what you would call clear communication. It’s essential to be able to share a coherent and logical vision with the person you are working with.

3. Active Listening

Let’s do a quick review of active listening. This is when you are completely focused on the speaker, understand their message, comprehend the information, and respond appropriately. This is a necessary ingredient to be able to negotiate successfully. You must be able to fully focus on the other person’s wants to completely understand them.

If you aren’t giving them your full attention, you may miss some major points or details. This leads to frustration down the road on both sides. Ensure you are employing your active listening skills when in arbitration mode.

4. Teamwork and Collaboration

To be able to get to a place of common ground and a win-win scenario, you have to have a sense of teamwork and collaboration.

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If you are only thinking about yourself and what you want without giving much care to what the other person is wanting, you are bound to wind up without a solution. The other person may get frustrated and give up if they see you are unwilling to meet them halfway or care little for what they want.

When you collaborate, you are working together to help each other get what is most important to you. The other upside to negotiating with a sense of teamwork and collaboration is that it helps create a sense of trust, which, in turn, helps provide positive energy for working to a successful conclusion.

5. Problem Solving

Problem-solving is another key negotiation skill. When you are working with the other person to get the deal done many times you’ll face new challenges along the way.

Maybe you want a new vendor to provide training on the software they are selling you but they say it’s going to cost an additional $20,000 to provide this service. If you don’t have the additional $20,000 in the budget to spend on the software but you feel the training is critical, how are you going to solve that problem?

From what I’ve seen, most vendors aren’t willing to provide additional services without getting paid for them. This is where problem-solving skills will help continue the discussions. You might suggest to the vendor that your company will also be looking to replace their financial software next year, and you’d be happy to ensure they get one of the first seats at the table when the time comes if they could perhaps lower the pricing on their training.

There’s a solution to most challenges, but it takes problem-solving skills to work through them effectively.

6. Decision-Making Ability

Finally, having strong decision-making ability will help you seal the deal when you get to a place where everyone feels like they are getting what works for them. Each step of the way you can cross off the list when you get what you are looking for and decide to move onto the next item. Then, once you have all of your must-have boxes checked and the other side feels good about things, it’s time to shake hands and sign on the dotted line. Powerful decision-making ability will help you get to the finish line together.

Conclusion

There you have it, 6 effective negotiation skills to master to lead a more fulfilling life. Once we realize that we negotiate in one form or another almost every day in every phase of our lives, we realize how critical a skill it is.

Possessing strong negotiation skills will help you in nearly every one of your relationships at both the workplace and in your personal life. If you feel your arbitration tools could use some sharpening, try some of the 6 effective negotiation skills to master that we’ve talked about.

More Tips to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

Featured photo credit: Windows via unsplash.com

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