Have you ever wondered what’s next in your life? Whether it’s about your career, lifestyle, or health, pondering this question can seem daunting.
Because I’ve faced this question before, I’d like to share the process I’ve used to help me get relevant and inspiring answers.
When you ask such a big question like “What’s Next,” it’s important to not get overwhelmed. This can happen if you let your imagination run wild. Instead, it’s a time to open up and do some exploration using my three-phase What’s Next process.
To start, the Discovery Phase is all about giving yourself time to study yourself. Who are you? What are your strengths? And what have you always wanted to do? By starting with self-discovery, you lay a foundation to build on.
Let’s start with Strengths. I’m a huge fan of Clifton Strengths Online Assessment. Don Clifton is considered the father of strengths psychology, which is based on the premise that when we are operating with our strengths, we will always be happier and more productive. It’s the opposite of what many of us have experienced.
Does this sound familiar? You start a new job and, as part of your on-boarding, HR puts you through a series of assessments.
The results come in and they immediately start looking for weaknesses they believe they should fix. But the truth is that if I am weak with finishing projects, but great at starting them, I’ll never be as happy or productive as the person who has that inherent strength.
Now having your Top Five Strengths, you can begin to reflect on their meaning and what clues they might give you for what to do next. Here’s an example.
Let’s say you learn your top strength is “Belief.” This strength is naturally grounded and says, “This is what’s important to me.” While not specifically religious, it does mean that core values and meaning in life are important. A person with this top strength would want to consider working or volunteering for nonprofits, spiritually oriented causes, or organizations.
A top strength of “Achiever” is naturally driven and would want to look for opportunities to accomplish something. Achievers don’t want to be just a cog in the wheel. They want to check things of the list.
This first step of self-discovery shows you where you have natural talent, and normally interests will be very closely aligned.
In the Planning Phase, take what you’ve learned and begin plotting a course of action. Ask yourself what five steps must you take to move toward this new ideal. Start a list.
Let’s say your Discovery work led you to explore a need to be a part of a team. Your report shows you are people-focused and highlights the fact your current work-from-home situation isn’t really very gratifying. Your list might include items like researching companies who have won “Best Place to Work” awards. They are generally made up of team-oriented or at least very people-focused cultur es.
Continue listing ideas for steps you can take until you have at least five.
Finally, we come to the Action Phase. This is when you must actually do the things you’ve listed in the plan. And if you are a high “Achiever,” you’ll love this part.
Begin by breaking down your five steps into actionable tasks. For example, under Research Best Places to Work, you might list: “Google local winners; ask family and friends; put a note on social media asking for this type of organization,” and more.
To be effective and to progress at a consistent rate, block time on your calendar every day or week to work on the tasks you have identified. Otherwise, you will just have a nice plan, but no results to show for your efforts.
So, explore what’s next for you through Discovery, followed by Planning, and then Action. Using these three steps, even multiple times, will yield you a lot of meaningful ideas to consider for what’s next.