Legacy Journal readers, like our clients, tend to be accomplished and successful, mid-career business owners and professionals looking beyond their current work to building “what’s next.” Not for retirement, that is mostly a foreign word and applies perhaps to finances but not to life and work in the world. While financial independence – minding your business – is definitely a part of what’s next, continuing to be productive – minding your profession – is as well. Some need to get businesses or professional practices set up in a way that frees them to focus on what’s next, and some have already done that or are in the process. Others feel stuck or lost, or just can’t see what’s next after being so immersed for so long in what has made them successful to begin with.
They can see milestones – like, my kids will all be in college or out on their own in the next few years, or my investments have reached a point where I can draw some of my income from interest, dividends, lease payments and the like, and not rely on earned income alone. But they can’t see “what’s next.” And considering stepping away from a business or professional identity they’ve long held can be a bit immobilizing – “who will I be then?”
Does that resonate with you?
I’ve been there; asked similar questions. And ultimately what I learned is that “who you will be then” is all you’ve ever been (you bring it all along with you) … plus. You get to use the best parts of it all in new endeavors about which you’re really passionate. But getting there is a process, and sometimes that process starts with simply feeling lost.
So, here are some ways to address feeling lost, confused or like you’re dealing with a real creative or productive personal “dry spell” that you don’t seem to be able to see your way out of:
1. Accept Your Current Situation. First, maybe foremost, is to accept that’s the way things are … for now. Having the awareness of your situation, and then fully accepting it, are the only “ways through” to do something about it. Denial or pretending things are fine don’t even get your started – the nagging feeling that you know the truth, that you’re ready for things to change – can start to eat away at you.
Doubt is part of the process. So, go ahead and just say so: “Whether things are just fine, or not, I’m ready for a change even if I don’t know what it is yet and I’m not sure if I’m capable.” There. How does that feel? Lightning didn’t strike. Like everything else, this too shall pass.
2. Let go. Start by dropping or at least temporarily letting go of the things you can’t control. Tune out the mainstream media, for sure, at least for awhile. Let go of your current expectations – for yourself, others, or the direction the world is going (or not going).
There is an old saying that ‘expectations are pre-meditated resentments.’ Meditating on them, that is, holding them in your thoughts, takes energy. When that energy is of the negative form (a resentment) you are really turning your capacity away from what you could be doing something about – what you can control, like you and your life, and the consequences of your actions.
Maybe there are some things you need to clean up and get complete with. Maybe there are some things you want to do for you – like take the time to work out, read, write or learn something new. These are things you can do now, and finding the time is just about letting go of things that are not yours to do.
This is not about abandoning responsibilities, though you may have to get yourself out of a few you’ve already agreed to and are ready to let go of. It’s also not about being self-ish; it’s about being self-directed rather than other-directed. Only from there, can you begin to engage in things that truly excite you. Remember, whatever they are they will benefit someone else in some way, too – so you can still be responsible to others. But benefitting others without also benefitting yourself is choosing to play win/lose, and agreeing in advance to be the loser.
3. Re-charge yourself. Recognize the ebb and flow of nature. Like waves and tides, our creative and productive energies sometimes wax and wane. We can’t be at our peak all the time. To be our most effective, we may need to challenge ourselves with big meaningful goals. But that doesn’t mean we have to pursue them 24/7/365. In fact, we can’t. There needs to be a balance of self-care time for rest, relaxation, rejuvenation, fun, laughter, and enjoyment. So when you don’t know what else to do, choose something that fits in one of those self-care categories and re-charge yourself.
4. Focus on your spiritual nature. When you’re ready to take some action, but are still not sure what’s next, focus on the spirit that moves you, whatever form that takes. Connect with what is meaningful for you. Visit environments you find soothing and inspiring, where you can breathe deeply and fully. Engage in prayer and meditation. Spend some time simply engaged in the wonder of it all. (Here’s a poem by Mary Oliver to help you remember this). Ask for help from the powers greater than yourself you most resonate and connect with, by whatever name you call them. See what comes up for you when you do, and what shows up serendipitously in your world as a result of your requests. Keep track of this information in an idea journal.
5. Create rituals that comfort you. Often when you are in that “space in between” – where you know you don’t want to stay where you are but have yet to devise a plan for where you are going next - it is most helpful to just relax, take one day at a time, and do things that you know are good for you and that you’ll feel good about.
Develop and engage in pleasing routines you may not otherwise because it seems too indulgent. (Be a little indulgent!) Listen to soothing music and just relax and breathe and “just be” for a bit, without doing anything. Fill the open space that appears in your mind with gratitude for all the good in your life. Create a new exercise routine, and stay with it. Walk in a beautiful park on a regular basis at a similar time each day and learn what nature has to teach. Visit a labyrinth and engage in a moving meditation – or participate with a group in a gentle yoga class. Now’s the time to be gentle with the current you, while the “new you” is forming and getting ready to emerge.
6. Muster some courage. It may only take a tiny bit to begin considering what’s next. The English word courage derives from Old French, based on the Latin root “Cor” meaning heart. So focus on your heart, and what you deeply need to feed you. Then consider what having courage really means. It has three parts – one of which we’ve already addressed: doubt + commitment + action. That is, courage is to make a commitment to act even in the face of your doubt. The actions you choose can be small steps, and they will likely be at least a little uncomfortable – though they should be bearable. Getting out of your comfort zone is what making a change entails. Turn doubt into wonder or curiosity or exploration and just take one step.
7. Interact with your communities. Get together with people you know care about you, who are nurturing, will listen and will help re-charge your batteries (not the ones who drain you!) These are supportive people who will lovingly tell you the truth, rather than just what they think you want to hear. Engage with bigger groups who are doing something important in the world that you support. Notice who you’re drawn to and what their qualities are. What might you emulate? Where do you feel yourself wanting to be engaged?
When all else fails, just do something completely different. This doesn’t have to be a big change. Just engage in some things you’ve never done before – for an hour, an afternoon, a day, weekend or even longer. Go somewhere new. Stretch yourself. Immerse yourself in something you’ve wondered about. Take a friend so you can compare notes (and so you’ll actually do it).
Or you could hire a coach (especially recommended!) who can help you explore your deepest desires and interests, shed what is no longer yours to focus on, design what’s next based on your gifts, talents and resources – and then begin actually doing something about them. Finding that sense of authenticity and personal integrity, and then demonstrating it in the world feels great and can lead to amazing things you feel truly proud of. That will allow you to feel more like the “you” you are ready to become.
The first part of the “7 Steps to Creating Your Legacy” program is built around these notions of defining, discovering and designing, and we utilize them in working with private clients one on one as well. From there, we help you get into action on building what’s next when the gentle rains begin to fall and nurture the growth of both you and something that deeply interests you.
I’d love to join you in that journey!