What Next? How to Figure It Out When You Are Not Sure

What next? It rattles around your mind. You are ready to grow in a new direction, yet the future seems wide open, and you have no idea where to start.

Whenever this happens, I recommend focusing on doing what is right in front of you. Start with those loose ends that you know are there but have been ignoring. You know those things that keep popping up in your mind over and over again? Pay good attention to them. They keep coming back for a reason.

[Photo: Joshua Ness/Unsplash]

[Photo: Joshua Ness/Unsplash]

Make Lists of Tasks and Projects to Figure Out What's Next

During the next week, make a list of all the tasks or ideas that come up as you are going through your day. These are not necessarily fully thought out plans for execution; they are simply things that show up in your mind as things that would be good to do. Some examples are:

At Work

  • Clean up the email format that you send to your clients.

  • Tackle the mountain of papers you have been accumulating on your desk.

  • Create a contact list for the firm’s best suppliers.

  • Set up a bulletin board or online dashboard to share companywide information.

  • Research the paid parental leave program that you have been inspired to promote.

Your Education

  • Take that online course you have been curious about.

  • Read the book everybody has been mentioning.

  • Sign up as a subscriber to the magazine that you know you need to be reading.

Your Personal Projects

  • Start a blog about your passion for art.

  • Buy a small basil plant to try your hand at herb gardening.

  • Commit to helping that community service organization that has always inspired you.

[Photo: Ian Schneider/Unsplash]

[Photo: Ian Schneider/Unsplash]

Choose One or Two and Start Working on Them 

If you select two things, pick the one that has been annoying you the most (it has been on your mind for a reason) and another that inspires you.

One of two things will happen once you start moving in this direction: a task will prove to be a valuable stepping stone or a wrong turn.

For instance, you may have decided to investigate parental leave programs in companies in your industry. Through your work, you find an idea that is wonderful for your firm, and you choose to see it through. By having explored what was first a glimmer of inspiration, you become a champion for other parents in your company and maybe even find a new calling.

On the other hand, you choose to move forward on your "passion for art" blog. As you start writing the blog posts, you find that you are not as inspired as you once thought you would be. The logistics of running a blog are draining all your creative energy. You decide to end this venture.

It is ok that it didn’t work out. Some of the things you try from your list will probably fail. That is how it usually is with new ideas. However, if you don’t explore, there is no way to find out which are the thoughts that, when executed, give you the results that you envisioned. Just make sure: as soon as you know something is a bad idea, let it go. Don’t waste your time, once you know it’s over.

There is another benefit of following through on the idea that had been on your mind, even if it disappoints. By having proven that it doesn’t work, the mirage of the project’s importance disappears, and this will free up space for a better idea to emerge. In a way, it had to be explored. You may have learned something from it. If nothing else, you learned that you are not as passionate about writing a blog as you thought. You can now move on.

Keep Exploring

As you explore the different ideas and take care of the loose ends that have been on your mind, you will clear the backlog. What appears right in front of you will change as you move forward, and it will help you find your way to the area you want to grow in. Just keep exploring. You will discover what you are looking for.