There have been many times in my life where I’ve felt adrift, discontent with my life as it was. And, worse still, completely unsure where I’d go next.
This was true in my early 20s. I had finished college and after spending the last two summers working in a law firm I concluded I no longer wanted to be a lawyer. It was true as I carved a rather wayward path to my career of choice, starting off as a magazine journalist, becoming a corporate writer before finding my place in corporate communications.
It was true again after becoming a mama – the first time, the second time, and several times since.
With each episode, a deep-seated feeling of lost-ness would wash over me. And, each time I’d be grief-stricken, a little baffled and on the verge of tears. A reaction I’d seen in my daughters the many times they’d lose grasp of the helium balloons they scored at the street fair.
Each “where do I go next” funk, took time to get through. It took courage. Some were more frustrating than others. And, if I’m being honest, there were a few times where I didn’t end up in the right place and had to start over again.
So, if you’re going through this yourself, I feel you.
The process can be daunting and overwhelming. But, like everything else, you’ll figure this one out, too. To help make the process a little easier, here are 5 questions that could help you figure out your next career or life step.
1. What’s not working today?
To be relatively successful at life as a working mom, a number of things have to come into alignment. Many times we’re juggling so many balls that if one is faulty – even slightly so – it can skew the balance of our lives.
For example, my daughters were at a care provider that required they be picked up by 6pm. It was hard to leave the office at 5 every day and I had a 45 minute commute, so I ended my work day completely stressed. I initially blamed my work schedule, but the problem was solved when I found a care provider that had a later pick-up time and was closer to my commute route.
To find what’s not working, take a close look at all the pieces that make your life work.
- Are any not working as efficiently as they could?
- What improvements can you make?
- Where can you create a more equal balance across the spheres of your life?
2. What am I escaping?
Many times we yearn for a change to escape something or someone. The key will be figuring out what exactly you’re trying to escape. Because running away has never solved anything.
Instead, it could land you in a very similar situation. That’s why it’s important to invest the time to understand your motives.
Why do you feel the need to make a change? As you try to answer that question try to strip away any emotions you’re feeling. Hating your boss isn’t as productive as understanding what specifically it is that’s making it difficult to work with her. Equally beneficial is seeing past the personal. For example, a boss unwilling to support your need for a more flexible schedule may not be about you; rather a result of the company’s policies.
Once you can understand why you need a change, you can discern the next best step for you.
3. What is, ultimately, most important for me?
Life doesn’t stand still. Neither do we. Things happen, people come in and out of our lives, perspectives shift, priorities change. Sometimes we have to go with the flow, letting life lead us to where it will. Other times, we have to decide between two diverging paths.
The hope is that wherever our path leads us we are never too far from the very things we hold dear. That doesn’t always happen. We don’t always realize it, but one day we wake up disillusioned, unsatisfied and wondering how we got here.
It’s in these times we have to dig deep to ask the tough questions that will steer us to what is important to you and creating a fulfilling life:
- Who and what are most important to have in my life?
- What do I really want?
- Is what I’m doing today helping me attain these important things?
4. What am I ready to take on?
We all have dreams. Yet, if we want to make them reality, they need to be based in reality. This means we’ll need to take a look at the other areas of your life that will need to be in place to support our decision.
For example, if you want to switch industries, you’ll want to be sure you have the hours to dedicate to coming up to speed on industry trends and networking with individuals in the field. Or, if you’re thinking of quitting your job to build on a business idea, do you have a financial plan in place to support your transition?
This question isn’t intended to spur imposter syndrome. None of us need help in that area, but we do need to ensure that we set ourselves up for success by looking at what else needs to happen to make our decisions work.
5. What actions can I take today?
Career or life decisions don’t usually happen overnight. They require time to come to fruition – either because an opportunity needs to present itself or because you need to work on getting your life ready for your next step.
But, that’s not an excuse to take action. Identify the things you can do today that will prepare make it easier for you to open the door to opportunity when it presents itself. If you’re looking for a new job, for example, update your LinkedIn profile. If you want to throw your name in the hat for a promotion, begin networking with key decision-makers.
Now I’d like to hear from you. How did you realize you needed a change? Did it hit you like a ton of bricks? Was it a slow realization that it was time to try something new? Or did an opportunity present itself to you? However it happened, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
P.S. If you’re struggling with where to go next, you may also want to check out the video, Redefining success: How to set achievable goals as a working mama.