“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
There have been many times in my life where I have been stuck and not known what to do next. I have agonised over what I should do or not do and whether I was making the right choices.
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 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 solving the issue 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 5 steps will help you to find out what to do next in 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.” – Unknown
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, just focus on what you need to do to get through the day. 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 (yes it took that long) I began to realise 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 and 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, in that 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. I couldn’t see a future for myself and I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted and 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 – its just too hard. We become paralysed 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 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. Small steps at a time create the momentum for 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. 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. The first 2 goals were easy to achieve, however the 3rd one took me a lot longer to do but I did get there in the end.Advertising
This 30 day challenge gave me the momentum to begin my journey to finding out what I wanted to do with my life. Achieving these 3 goals gave me the confidence and self belief to keep going because 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 so that 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 What Ever 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 for you to Wake Up Your Conscious Mind.
To move forward you have to let go of your past and embrace change. With change comes reinvention and if you don’t know who you are and what you want, it makes it a lot harder to move forward in your life.Advertising
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. 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 wont be paralysed 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, then I started to organise 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.
If you don’t know what to do next in 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 your passion. You will know what you need to do in your life and the actions you need to take to get there!
“Look back upon your life and ask: What up to now have you truly loved, what has raised your soul, what ruled it and at the same time made you happy? Line up these objects of reverence before you, and see how they form a ladder on which you have so far climbed up toward your true self.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
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The Gentle Art of Saying No
It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.
But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.
What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.
But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:
- Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
- Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
- Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
- Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
- Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
- Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
- Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
- Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
- Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
- It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.
Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com