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Last Updated on October 16, 2018

If You Don’t Know What to Do with Your Life, Read These 5 Strategies

If You Don’t Know What to Do with Your Life, Read These 5 Strategies

“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 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.

Small steps at a time create the momentum for change. These 7 Cornerstone Skills will help you take these small steps and lead you closer to where you desire to be.

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:

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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 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.

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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 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 discover your purpose and live your passion. Don’t believe me? Here’s the proof:

How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

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.

How to Always Choose Happiness Even During Tough Times Adapting to Change: Why It Matters and How to Do It 7 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of the Unknown And Get More Out of Life How to Persevere (And Get Ahead!) When the Going Gets Tough Anxiety Coping Mechanisms That Work When You’re Stressed to the Max

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1 15 Inspiring Ideas to Boost Your Motivation for Success 2 How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success 3 How to Turn Your Fear of Missing Out into a Joy of Missing Out 4 What Is Resilience and Why Is It Important? 5 Positive Motivation vs Negative Motivation: Which One Is Better?

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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