We all want the ‘Big Life’ – that best expression of what we are capable of. The life we can look back on with pride and satisfaction. But what if we aren’t yet sure what that looks like?
Although I could write ‘til my fingers are numb about why you should be striving to live life your own way, I maybe don’t stress often enough that it is OK if you don’t know which way that is.
It is absolutely fine to not know what you want, what will make you happy or feel fulfilled. What is not OK is doing nothing to discover that. If you don’t know what will light your soul, you absolutely need to make it your life’s work to find out! Please don’t reach the end of your life and not even be able to say you tried. That you still have no idea what it is you wanted, that you never bothered to consider it or search for meaning in your life. That is the saddest thing I can imagine.
Explore, make mistakes, head off full pelt down a path, only to discover it wasn’t the one after all and change direction – that is all fine! But don’t just sit there!
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One of the simplest and best pieces of advice I have ever heard is to stop asking ‘why’ and start asking ‘what’.
If you find you are always asking yourself questions like :
- ‘Why does this always happen to me?’
- ‘Why am I stuck in a job I hate?’
- ‘Why can’t I get a break?’
Try switching it up and ask yourself what you can do to improve your situation. How can you make a change?
‘Why’ questions are dead ends. There is no way to develop there – your brain will find an answer – you are in this situation because of X, Y, Z… the end. You sink into a spiral of self-analysis, questioning your choices and ultimately deciding that is just how it is, and there is no other avenue for you.
There is always another avenue.
You do have a choice.
Instead of asking “Why can’t I just make a decision?”, ask yourself “What are my options?” “How can I approach the decision-making process to better enable me to make the right choice?”
It is so much more empowering – you break the victim mindset and give yourself a voice.
Related reading: Change Your Mindset and Change Your Life!
What would you like to try?
When you ask yourself these empowered questions your mind will immediately get to work trying to help you find answers, only this time, instead of taking you down a dead-end road it will offer you lots of alternative routes. You open up a whole world of possibility.
This is where you get to shine. Take a pen and paper, sketch out some ideas and don’t worry about making mistakes!
Brainstorming is a process, you don’t have to reach an answer – you don’t even need to come close. Initially, we are just considering ideas. Things you think you might enjoy. Things you’ve always wanted to try.
Take your biggest ‘why’ questions and turn them into ‘how’ or ‘what’ questions. Reframe the thought in your mind from a dead-end into a pathway.
Are you stuck in a job you hate? What could you do to change that? Could you look for employment elsewhere or start your own business?
Have you always wanted to travel but can’t afford to? Start saving, putting a little bit aside each month into a savings account. Don’t have the time? Start small – get away for a day here and there or take last-minute weekend breaks. Or maybe start learning a new language, so when you do get away you’ll be able to converse with people!
Start at the beginning
What did you enjoy doing when you were a child? Children are wonderfully clear about what they want out of life. Before all the fear and doubt creep in, before the world has told them it is unrealistic to dream of becoming an astronaut or to set their sights higher than a bin man. Ask any 4 year old what they want to be when they grow up and they will tell you without hesitation.
I spent 6 years working in a preschool and I can tell you, most of those kids have a clearer vision of their future than any adult I know, and without a doubt, some of them will absolutely fulfil their dreams. Some of them you really could just spend an hour with and know exactly who they are and where their destiny lies – just as long as other people’s opinions don’t crush them first.
So think back – could that have been you? Was there something you LOVED as a child? Some dream you were absolutely passionate about? Some ambition which got sidelined along the way but that now, with the wisdom of age you could possibly resurrect?
When you have an idea of something you’d like to attempt, set yourself a goal.
Draw up a plan, breaking your end goal up into chunks of time, something like:
- End goal – Be so awesome at Spanish that nobody would suspect you weren’t born in Spain
- 5 years – Be able to read, speak and understand Spanish in most circumstances
- 1 year – Have mastered the basics and be able to hold simple conversations in Spanish
- 6 months – Feel confident to have a go at speaking to people and asking simple questions
- 1 month – Study Spanish for 10 minutes every day, know some basic phrases and useful words
- Today – Download Duolingo
You might use a different structure depending on your goal:
- Today – Bake cupcakes
- This week – Take to social media, uploading pictures of your cupcakes in all their decadent, sugary glory
- 30 days – Create a simple ebook of your 5 favourite cupcake recipes
- 60 days – Launch a simple website with download option for your recipe book
- 90 days – Create a bigger, more comprehensive cupcake ebook to sell
You can split up your goal however makes the most sense for you, but the key is to break it down into small actionable chunks that begin today, however small that first step is. Being able to see the process makes it that much more achievable.
Bear in mind, this doesn’t have to be the huge, definitive life goal – you just need to get into practice planning and experimenting. If your only goal, for the time being, is simply to keep trying to work out what it is you want out of life then that works. As long as you map out a timescale and come up with some avenues you can explore.
Related reading: Stop Setting Beige Goals!
Reflect on your behaviour
Keep an eye on yourself. Are your actions in line with your goals?
Clearly, it does no good to be splurging on the latest, greatest, must-have gadgets if your goal is to save enough money to retire by the age of 30. Similarly, if your goal is to be fit and fabulous by 40, then don’t spend all your time watching Netflix and binge eating all the pizza and ice cream.
These are fairly straightforward examples, but also pay attention to the little things, the way you behave on a day-to-day basis.
If you are trying to make a change, be clear about it. Tell people. Don’t talk yourself down or act in a way that belittles the awesomeness that is the new you. Live every day as though you already have the thing you are aiming for. Actions have power. Words have power. These little things could be the difference between you getting everything you ask for or not.
Having mapped out your action plan, set yourself regular reminders to follow through on the items listed. Make sure you are always moving forward with your goals. You can set alarms on your phone, use a calendar, or, for daily motivation, utilise an app such as The Fabulous App, which allows you to select certain goals and set up regular reminders for them (as well as advice for how to make them stick!).
Plan your days
Every week, make sure to set aside a little time to check-in and see how you are doing and what you can tackle in the coming week to get you closer to your end goal. I like to make a loose plan at the weekends, and every evening just make a note of the 3 things I will achieve tomorrow. For me, this has worked brilliantly. I used to make huuuuge lists of all the things I wanted to do, and ultimately get frustrated when I didn’t ace it.
Simplifying my daily plan to just the 3 most important things has helped me prioritise my goals and stop wasting time on things that can wait.
In addition to this, something I like to fill in is my ‘have-done’ list. This is where I log all the things I achieved that day that weren’t necessarily on my to-do list. It’s all too easy to feel like we aren’t moving forwards, sometimes we don’t manage to do all the things we had planned, but since logging all the things I have done, I have learnt to celebrate my achievements. We don’t celebrate our successes enough, always moving on to the next thing on the agenda without pausing to acknowledge how far we have already come.
Keep a journal to help keep you motivated
Regularly journalling, whether through utilising a ‘have done’ list, or just taking a moment each day to record your thoughts on your life goals can really help to keep you on track. Sometimes it can be hard to keep your goals at the forefront of your mind. When you get lost in your day-to-day life, just moving from one moment to the next, it’s all too easy to slip back into routine, habit and the comfortably familiar. And if you are already living your best life, that’s fine. But if you have bigger plans, chase them! Journalling connects you to your heart, it reminds you of what your frustrations are and how you can overcome them.
Watch YouTube videos, create a vision board, follow people who inspire you on social media, read motivational books, do anything that reminds you of what you are trying to do!
By surrounding yourself with things that inspire you, you will feel more enthused and excited to keep trying to find what it is that you want out of life.
- Start small, take it day by day. It is OK to not know which direction you are heading, to not have it all figured out yet. But one thing is certain – you won’t get anywhere if you just stand still.
- If you don’t know what it is you want to do, start by considering which things you enjoyed as a child, or play around with things you’d like to try. Explore possibilities, brainstorm, be inspired by others.
- Set goals, giving yourself clear deadlines to help you hit your targets.
- Keep yourself in line by regularly checking in and making sure your actions are in line with your goals.
- Set reminders to make sure you don’t drift back into old habits and routines.
- Make a plan every day, make sure you set mini-goals to help you on your path
- Journal your progress and celebrate your successes
- Stay inspired