Where Do I Go From Here? Getting Clear on Your Next Steps
This year has definitely been different than any of us could have expected and we all had to make adjustments and changes to adapt in the best ways we could. For many people (including myself!), the goals, plans, and intentions you set back in January were either set aside or scrapped entirely and it may have left you with the burning question:
Where do I go from here?
This is often true whenever you hit a new challenge, obstacle, or setback – you can temporarily get de-railed or knocked off course. But in cases when the struggle is prolonged and there’s no clear end in sight, you can really start to feel lost and unclear about what your next steps are. All you want to do is move on and move forward, but instead you’re left feeling overwhelmed, stuck, and unsure about what to do next.
Or it may be that you’ve been so focused on dealing with the challenges right in front of you, that you feel like you’re just putting out fires every day and not really gaining any momentum or traction. You may even have times when you feel defeated and powerless, feeling as if there is nothing you can do right now but ride it out and hope things can get back to normal…someday.
But fortunately, it doesn’t have to stay that way. You don’t have to sit back and wait for conditions to improve to start moving forward.
Here are some things you can do now to help yourself get clear on your next steps and get your life back on track:
Staying Calm & Clear
When you are stressed and overwhelmed, it can be hard to focus and think clearly, and this can impact your decision-making. You tend to be more reactive – making choices in reaction to what’s happening or what you’re feeling in the moment, rather than making choices from a more grounded and intentional place. Of course, this isn’t always a bad thing necessarily. Sometimes you need to react accordingly, but when you are in a stressed state you tend to have a more limited perspective where you are more focused on the problems and what’s missing, rather than seeing the possibilities and opportunities.
When you are able to slow down and calm your mind, you are able to think more clearly and get some perspective that can help you better understand what your next steps might be. Take time each day to relax, unwind, and recharge. Give yourself a break and just breathe. Or do something calming, soothing, or enjoyable, even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time, to help move your focus away from your stress and clear your head a little.
Doing this regularly can make a huge difference, not only for figuring out your next steps, but also for helping you form a new habit that will continue to help you manage stress & prevent overwhelm in the future.
Create a clear vision & goals for yourself
To really get clear on your next steps, it helps to clarify what your vision and goals are for yourself because, of course, it can be really hard to move forward if you don’t exactly know what you are moving toward. You need to have some sense of where you are headed.
Having an overall vision & goals for yourself can help keep you focused, grounded, and oriented – you know where you are going and it keeps you on track, which makes it a bit easier to bounce back when there’s been a setback. It also can help give you a sense of purpose and meaning because if you really sit down to think about what you want for yourself, you can figure out what you’re aiming for and also why it’s important to you. Even if you already have a clear set of goals in mind, it can help to review your goals to see if there’s anything that’s changed in light of your latest challenges, and to remind yourself of what you’re ultimately going after.
Creating a clear vision and goals for yourself can be done in a number of ways:
You can try using visualization and really get into the details of the experience – imagining what your ideal life would look like, what each day would be like, how you would feel, who is in your life, etc.
You can create a vision board, which is basically a visual representation of your bigger picture goals. You can use drawings, magazine cut outs, photos, whatever you want to create a visual map of what you want for yourself.
Or you can try journaling, writing about what your life would look like if you waved a magic wand and everything you dreamed of and all of your goals had been met. This can help you identify some of your long-term and short-term goals and then from there you can pick one goal and start outlining the steps that will get you there.
Do your research & get some help
In addition to creating goals for yourself, another way to get clear on your next steps is to do some research. Start looking into what other people have to say about the steps you need to take to reach your specific goals. Talk to people, read about it, or listen to some podcasts that can help give you some guidance. Or simply start having conversations with various people so you can bounce your ideas off them to see what sticks and inspires you to take action. Getting other people’s feedback and perspective can help you get more clarity, offer you encouragement, and help you get new ideas for what to do next.
Look for inspiration
If you’re still feeling stuck, sometimes it can help to find some inspiration. Look for stories of resilience and hope to help inspire you - whether it’s a movie, documentary, book, a talk, or just hearing someone’s story about moving through hardship and overcoming obstacles. This can help offer you some perspective and hope, which can help motivate you to find solutions and empower you to start taking steps to move you forward.
Face your fears
When you’re feeling stuck, one of the most common obstacles that keeps you from taking that next step to move forward is fear. It may be a fear of failure, a fear of commitment, a fear of being judged for what you’re doing, a fear of making a mistake or doing the “wrong” thing, or a general fear that comes with uncertainty, when you’re unsure of what the future holds.
These fears can hold you back from pursuing your goals or even setting certain goals, so the first thing you can do to begin facing your fears is to remind yourself that:
fear and uncertainty are a part of the process of moving forward.
It’s normal and you can expect that it will come up, and that it will likely come up repeatedly. This way you can be on the lookout for it, accept it, and see it for what it is – a fear, not a fact. And you have a choice in how you want to deal with it.
**For more tips on dealing with fears and worries, check out my blog post:
Patience & persistence
Lastly, remember to be patient with yourself. If your next steps aren’t entirely clear after you try some of these suggestions, that’s ok. Don’t give up and be persistent. Keep checking in with yourself and with others, taking the time to relax, and focusing on your goals and vision because taking these steps keeps you engaged and active, which can help create momentum.
Getting clear on your next steps and moving forward may not happen in the timeframe that you want or in the exact way you imagined it, but with commitment and determination you can reach your goals. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and know that the path will become more clear.