Picture this: you wake up one day and no longer have to tackle the tasks you’d grown so used to handling the past several years. No more need to respond to emails from your boss or rush to hit project deadlines.
For many people, the above is their new reality. Maybe you’re one of the millions of Americans who have left their jobs during the Great Resignation. Or, perhaps the choice to leave your employer wasn’t yours.
But regardless of the reason why you’re no longer at your previous job, you’re probably trying to figure out what direction your life should take next. You don’t have to move forward by staying in your comfort zone, either. For instance, I have friends who recently left the corporate world and are on entirely different paths now, paths that they’d dreamed about taking for decades. One is planning on opening a bakery, another is taking steps to open a coffee shop, and another has a deli that’s now open for business!
By planning your next steps with intention, you can create a fulfilling new chapter of your life — soaring into it instead of merely floating into it. Here’s how to intentionally navigate this time you have.
Create Mental Clarity
Even though you’re no longer at your old job, you still have to deal with the grind of daily life, like buying groceries and paying bills. It’s important to step away from that grind and get some mental clarity on what exactly you want out of life moving forward.
One of the best ways to get mental clarity is by practicing mindfulness. According to research cited by the American Psychological Association, some benefits of practicing mindfulness include less stress, less rumination and less emotional reactivity.
There are different ways you can practice mindfulness meditation. No matter how you choose to exercise mindfulness meditation, by scheduling time each day to take a pause and sit in stillness, you can let your thoughts flow more naturally and go about your day more present in the moment, instead of constantly worrying about the seemingly endless stressors of daily life. You’ll start to hear your inner voice, the thoughts that guide you toward what you really want to do versus what you think you’re supposed to do.
Research Potential Paths
You wake up. You’re ready to seize the day and thoughtfully plan your next steps. You start your day with good intentions but suddenly find yourself binge-watching episodes of Yellowstone (I may or may not be speaking from personal experience).
It’s nothing to be ashamed about; getting distracted is human. However, if we let ourselves get distracted too often, we’ll end up in a slump. Instead of moving ahead with intention, we risk just floating into what’s next, or worse, scrambling at the last minute to figure something out.
So, how can you avoid succumbing to distractions? By scheduling time in your day to research and plan your potential next steps. Just like you should carve out time each day to practice mindfulness, you should also carve out time to think about how you want to shape the upcoming chapter of your life. Routines help us feel more in control of our lives and lower our stress levels, among other benefits.
Maybe you’re considering becoming a freelance graphic designer after years of in-house graphic design work. You can set aside two hours a day to research things like rates, availability of work and what the process of securing clients is like. Or, maybe you want to finally start that pizza shop you’ve always dreamed of having. You can dedicate two hours a day to exploring that path, researching factors like potential restaurant locations, hiring best practices and health codes.
This research can help you determine if what you have in mind is a viable option for you. Not every future possibility we brainstorm is the right route to embark on. Going back to the examples above, you might end up realizing that freelance graphic design is a path you could truly flourish in or that running a pizza shop comes with too many hurdles that you don’t feel are worth dealing with.
Once you narrow in on where you want to take your life next, it’s time to take action and start building momentum toward that goal.
If you don’t take deliberate, actionable steps to accomplish your goal, you risk falling into the trap of overthinking and analysis paralysis. Overthinking what you want to do next can look like calling up various people in your life to get more opinions, fretting over every pro and con, and stressing about everything that could go wrong.
Without taking deliberate action on a schedule, you’ll find yourself putting off your next goal. You’ll fall behind and risk not accomplishing your dream to your fullest potential. And yes, just like with mindfulness and research, you should build a routine around taking action. So, if you’ve decided to become a freelance graphic designer, you can set aside three hours each day to cold email prospective clients and tweak your portfolio. Or, if you’ve decided to open that pizza shop, you can create an incremental goal of scouting at least three potential locations each week.
Scheduling time to take actionable steps helps you ensure that you’re keeping your momentum toward your goal. For example, when I was writing a book a few years ago, I made a habit out of writing regularly. I knew that if I didn’t give myself structured time to write, I’d start worrying about everything that could astray with the draft.
As you take actionable steps toward your dream, remember to make adjustments as necessary. It’s not good to be rigid in your approach. You might realize that the type of clients you’re reaching out to for freelance graphic design work don’t have the budget you have in mind or that the part of town you’re considering locating your pizza shop in doesn’t have the most traffic. By responding to these discoveries along the way, you’ll put yourself in the best possible position to succeed.
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