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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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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you realize you aren’t really happy about this, wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while but I learned the art of saying no. Saying ‘no’ meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. I started to manage my time more around my own needs and interests. When that happened, I became a lot happier. And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying ‘no,’ you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey considered one of the most successful women in the world confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything. It was only when she realized that after years of struggling with saying no, I finally got to this question: “What do I want?”

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

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Warren Buffett views no as essential to his success. He said,

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made ‘no’ a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say ‘no.’

From an early age, we are conditioned to say ‘yes.’ We said yes probably hundreds of time in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work. We said yes get a promotion. We said yes to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because it feels better to help someone. We say yes because it can seem like the right thing to do. We say yes because we think that is key to success. And we say yes because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist like the boss.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we feel guilty we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message no matter where we turn is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

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How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

Deciding to add the word ‘no’ to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say ‘no’ but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of ‘no’ that you could finally create more time for things you care about. But let’s be honest, using the word ‘no’ doesn’t come easily for many people.

The 3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time especially you haven’t done it much in the past will feel awkward.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

Remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it, who else knows about all of the demands on your time? No one. Only you are at the center of all of these requests. are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying ‘No’ Means Saying ‘Yes’ to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word ‘no’ into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying ‘no’ is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because FOMO even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

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Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better.

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say ‘No’

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say ‘yes’ because we worry about how others will respond or the consequences of saying no or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose respect from others. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying ‘no’ can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way. You might disappoint someone initially but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to.

4. When the Request Comes In, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time, or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say ‘no.’ There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your ‘No’ with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

A clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

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6. Consider How to Use a Modified ‘No’

If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” giving you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

Final Thoughts

Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

Use the request as a fresh request to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself. If you are the one placing the demand on yourself, try to evaluate the demand as if it were coming from somewhere else.

Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project but not by working all weekend. Or, tell someone in your family you can’t loan them money again because they never paid you back the last time. You’ll find yourself much happier.

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Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

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