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8 Things to Remember When You Don’t Know What to Do with Your Life

8 Things to Remember When You Don’t Know What to Do with Your Life

Sometimes in life, we find ourselves at a dead end, or a crossroads, or on a path that seems to go nowhere and say “I don’t know what to do with my life…”

No matter what stage you are at in life, if you are unhappy with it, or unsure as to how to proceed, then you need to reevaluate.

When I was in high school, I remember thinking that I had to pick a career at which I would be happy for the next 50 or so years of my life. What a daunting task. How do you know what’s going to make you happy for the rest of your life, especially if you’re only 16 and you’re still getting a thrill out of watching “The Breakfast Club?”

You can’t know. You can’t know what’s going to make you happy even five years from now. But you can know what makes you happy now and if you’re current position — or school track — isn’t it, then you need to move on.

When my oldest children were contemplating their college careers and job prospects, I often told them to just go and take classes or try things they thought might be interesting and if they didn’t like the class or workshop or whatever, then cross that off your list. Life is often about trying things and realizing what you don’t want to be when you “grow up.”

I spent a year substitute teaching in an effort to see if I wanted to become a public school teacher. I enjoyed that year immensely, but after talking with teachers and doing some of their job for a year, I realized that was a career that was not for me.

1. It’s Okay You Can’t Figure out the Whole Future

Remember, you don’t know what’s coming next. Life is full of interesting twists and turns, but if we continually pursue things that we enjoy doing whether for a job or hobby, it will make the journey interesting and more fun.

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Maybe you enjoy making jewelry right now. Maybe you can sell it. In five years, you might be a successful jewelry designer or you might have moved on to another craft. It doesn’t matter. You have the experience of your jewelry design to fall back on and help you with other projects in the future.

2. Try to Be Comfortable with Discomfort

Sometimes, life is uncomfortable. Sometimes, we don’t have enough money to do all of the things we want to do. If you have something you really want to pursue, then you must be able to live with some amount of discomfort in order to do that.

For example, I want to mush sled dogs and run the Iditarod. In order to do that, I had to give up my neat, tidy suburban home and move my family to a cabin in Alaska.

We don’t have running water or regular electricity and our cabin is much smaller than our old house, but we don’t mind the discomfort of those things because we live in a beautiful place and I get to pursue my dream.

3. Life Is Uncertain, Go with It

Stuff happens. I thought I had it all. I had a great job and a great house in the woods. Then I got fired, lost my house and turned 40 all in the same week. Then I found out I was pregnant. Quite the week.

I laid on the couch for a couple of days, depressed, but then we got it together, made a plan and moved to Alaska.

Take uncertainty and turn it on its head. Every bad thing is an opportunity to make something good happen.

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Besides, it’s really never too late to change your life course when something goes wrong!

Don’t believe me? Here’s the proof: How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

4. Overcome Distractions and Stop Procrastinating

You’re not getting younger. Sorry, but it’s true. If you don’t start taking the time to pursue your dreams, you might find yourself at the end of your life with nothing to show for it but a lot of Facebook posts and a bunch of TV shows you just had to watch.

If you are serious about pursuing a dream — whether it’s designing jewelry, professional skateboarding or being a rich and famous computer guru, you better get on it.

Take those first steps. Turn off your Facebook notifications and get working. You won’t get anywhere merely thinking about how great you could be.

Better yet, learn these steps to stop procrastinating and start to focus on what truly matters: What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating)

5. Ask Yourself Questions

Take some time for yourself. Ask yourself big questions. And small ones.

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Learn about yourself. Meditate. Write down the things that interest you and things you could see yourself doing if time and money were no object. Dream big. Quiet your mind and really imagine yourself doing those things.

By asking yourself meaningful questions, you’re building yourself an invincible Motivation Engine like this and whenever challenges arise, you know how to deal with them.

6. Volunteer or Shadow Someone

If there is a job or hobby you are interested in — from grooming dogs to being a zookeeper — volunteer or job shadow and see if it’s an occupation you really want to do.

All the dreaming in the world isn’t going to help you if you don’t go and get your hands dirty. Sometimes, we think we want to do something and then once we try it, we realize it might not be the kind of work we like after all.

Or it might be more involved than we realized. It’s important to get hands-on experience and do a lot of reading by those with first-hand experience before we give up our current life to pursue a dream.

7. Save Up

If you need to move or go back to school to pursue your new dream, it might be pertinent to get a job doing something — anything — and save up the money to allow you to do it.

I worked for many years to build my writing and editing portfolio and now, I can write and edit articles from my wee little cabin, get paid, and use the money to pay for the equipment and food I need to run my dogsled team.

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Would I love to be able to make money just from running dogs? Sure. But it’s not possible right now while I’m building and training my team.

I don’t have a reputation in dog mushing yet, but I do have a reputation in writing. So I do one job I love to pay for the other.

8. Answer the Door

Opportunity may be knocking but, if you don’t answer the door, how can you take advantage of it? You must take opportunities when they are presented to you.

Sometimes it’s not the right time, but it doesn’t matter. Opportunities happen when they happen. Answer the door or that opportunity might walk on by and knock on someone else’s door.

Final Thoughts

The most important thing to remember when trying to figure out what do with your life is that no action is an action in and of itself. You must make decisions and try things — even if you end up hating them or wanting to do something else.

Remember, it’s never too late to start again. (Jack’s story is an inspiring one about rebooting life at a later stage of life!)

At the end of your life, you won’t regret trying things and failing, but you will regret not ever trying at all.

Close that laptop and go get your life.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

More by this author

Michelle Kennedy Hogan

Michelle is an explorer, editor, author of 15 books, and mom of eight.

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Published on January 7, 2021

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.

If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.

Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off

You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.

When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.

Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.

In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.

Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.

3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented

Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:

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  1. Respect deadlines
  2. Understand the work-flow plan
  3. Build in time to mess up

1. Respect Deadlines

Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.

One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.

2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan

Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.

3. Build in Time to Mess Up

You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.

Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.

For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.

Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?

This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.

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Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.

Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.

Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.

When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.

12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail

Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.

1. Learn to Listen Well

You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.

2. Pay Attention to Social Cues

Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.[1]

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3. Follow Rules

Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.

4. Take Notes

Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.

5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now

When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.

As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.

6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work

If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.

7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well

English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.

8. Proofread Before You Hit Send

Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.

9. Minimize Distractions

It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.

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If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.

10. Take Breaks

It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.

11. Make Time for Reflection

At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?

12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List

This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.

Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.

Final Thoughts

Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.

When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.

More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail

Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

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