I’ve always been very action-oriented and love to stay busy. I am motivated by challenge and learning new things. So after six years of writing and coaching, I’m beginning to think that it’s time I did something new. Something bigger. How do I know? Because I’m feeling stuck and restless.
As a writer and coach, one key message I’ve touched on, again and again, is to know what you want. After all, without knowing what you want, you’re just treading water. Sometimes, however, we all get to a point where we say, “I’m just not sure what comes next.” Not even I am immune to that experience, which is why I’ve developed an action plan just for this situation.
How It Works
Self-discovery can be lots of fun — especially if we open up to surprises along the way. This action plan is about stepping back and disconnecting from the day-to-day. It requires you to go with your instinct when exploring interests and making a note of the results. The plan consists of five important aspects:
- Reading: Go to the library or stop by a used bookstore and without a preconceived notion of the kind of books you typically read, peruse the shelves. Pick up three books that appeal to you. Don’t judge! If basketweaving appeals to you, take it! Part of getting stuck in a rut is thinking that we have to “be” a certain way, read certain kinds of books, etc. This is about allowing the deeper you to emerge. Want to read three romance novels back-to-back? Don’t judge! Just do it. Once you’ve read those books, go back and do it all over again but be sure to keep track of the books that piqued your attention.
- Learning and Development: There are lots of ways to learn new things, many of them free. Take Coursera for example. Many of the online courses don’t cost a dime — all you need to do is invest the time. Perhaps you find you are interested in math, check out the offerings and set out on your path. (As for me, I’m studying poetry!) Again, this isn’t about looking for a course of what you “should” take, it’s about following that curiosity that you’ve long buried under obligation. Your local recreation center may also have offerings. Shake it up. Go where your heart takes you.
- Networking: I once read a blog about a man who made it a point to speak to a new person every day for a month. And in that 30-day experience, he revealed that his life was enriched. Now if you google “meet a new person every day” you’ll see it’s an in thing to do. Even Mark Zuckerman made a commitment to meet a new person every day for a year. Let’s not go overboard, 365 new conversations in 365 days might be a little challenging, especially if you are introverted! Still, the idea of making a concentrated effort to connect with new people can be revealing. Who do you find most interesting? What is it about them that makes them so fascinating? Is it something that you would like to have more of in your life? i.e., they are spontaneous, they live on the beach, they travel the world. Whatever it is that attracts you to them, says a lot about you.
- Physical Engagement: The neurons in your brain are jumping all over the place 24/7 but what about the muscles in your body? Movement has many health benefits whether you are just walking the dog or taking a pole dancing class! Look for ways to physically engage your body every day, with one activity each week working your cardio. If you are already active, try to add something new to the mix. Be sure to take notes about your selections and how you felt afterward.
- Leisure Activities: A little bit of R&R goes a long way, so I’m suggesting one new activity each week. What you consider leisure and what I consider leisure may be two different things. The operative word here is activity; therefore, vegging on the sofa to watch your regular TV programs is not, in this case, classified as a leisure activity. However, going camping or walking through the Botanical Gardens with a friend would work. Even playing a game of horseshoes or putt-putt would make the cut. It’s about mixing up your routine in a way that a) gets you out of the house, and b) engages you socially with others.
Evaluating the Experience
You’ll want to make a go of these five activities for 30 days since that is the amount of time estimated to break habits and set new ones. After 30 days, you should have read a book or two, learned something new, met and had a dialog with 30 new people, and participated in four new physical and leisure activities. Reflect on all of these endeavors and answer the following questions:
- When giving yourself permission to follow your whims, what new interest did you find most enjoyable? What made it so?
- Do you notice any overlapping themes between your new activities? i.e., you are reading about how to train your dog and also volunteering at the local animal shelter. What might that theme say about a possible future path for you?
- Of all the new people you talked to, which conversation impacted you most? What was it that made such a strong impression? How can you meet more people like that?
- How did you feel after each of your physical activities? How might you see yourself continuing in this or another physical activity?
- Which leisure activity did you most enjoy? What made it stand out above the rest? How can you add more experiences like that into your life?
- Of all the activities, which one thing made you laugh the hardest? Which left you feeling the most emotional (in a good way)? What do those answers say about who you are at the core and what moves your emotional needle?
With a month of new experiences under your belt, you’ve had the chance to notice important nuances about your interests that might have been previously hidden under mounds of routine. When you focus on adding more enjoyable experiences into your life, you open yourself up to new people and opportunities. Sometimes it only takes one conversation or experience to release the feeling of stuckness; while for others, it may take a bit longer. If you think that the process is taking too long, you might enjoy this article about finding your path in perfect time.
The idea is to proactively search for what interests you, instead of hanging back and disengaging. Who knows what you might discover about yourself in 30 days!