“What should I do?”
This is the # 1 question I get as a coach.
It’s the question that leaves hordes of smart people stuck in a limbo of analysis paralysis or simply halted to a standstill, unable to make any decision.
On three separate occasions during my two weeks off the grid for the holidays, I was at a table full of bright minds, capable thinkers, ambitious individuals. And all three times the conversation went from how they were going to ring in the New Year and with what resolutions and then more than half of those at the table stated that they did not know what they wanted to do next — that the year ahead made them feel torn.
You can guess what was said next: “What should I do?”
Well, if you want to know what to do, you can’t start there.
“What should I do?” is not so much a bad question as it is the wrong question.
Just like in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland when dear Alice asks the Cheshire-Cat which way she ought to go, she receives a simply reply: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
That cat was on to something.
What you should do depends very much on what you want.
So you just need to know what you want in order to know what you should do.
Seems simple enough, no?
No, it is far from simple.
Have you ever declared that you wanted something, worked for it, got it and then felt almost nothing after having achieved the thing you said you wanted? You got what you wanted but did you want what you got?
When you’re stuck in a rut, feel restless, are seeking modifications in your life, want something else but remain stuck, it’s probably not because you’re not fully capable of taking action or getting what you want. It’s because you have started with the wrong question. You’ve started by asking a question that aims to identify what you want but not why.
The same goes for asking the question “What should I do?”
Start by becoming clear on what you want and then dig deeper into why you want it.
The truth is everyone wants something lasting, more than mere instant gratification or the sure-shot hit of reward that comes from completing an easy task or just blindly reaching for the logical next step. You want the payoff from an accomplishment or engagement to linger and fulfill you and nourish you on a deeper level.
What do you want? Each person wants something different. That’s why no one else can tell you what you should do. Each person need to define success for himself or herself. You need to become clear on what you want and why all on your own.
It might be that you’re following too many other people’s directions when seeking answers to questions that only you have the answer to. So it’s no wonder that you find yourself constantly chasing the next thing — and searching. And even when you do get what you want, how often is it that you truly want what you get?
What you should do very much depends on what you really want and on being clear that you truly want it.
I rang in 2015 in with my husband and two great friends, our combined five kids, fireworks, a snowy hot-tub soak, good conversation and an overwhelming sense of optimism, possibility, opportunity. I am clear on what I want and why as a result of my efforts this year.
If looking ahead at 2015 begs the question “What should I do?” Well, I beg you, ask the right questions first. Stop chasing, seeking, feeling disconnected. Start with the end in mind: What is it you want and what will that get you?
Once you have answered that question the path will become clearer.
After all, knowing what to do next is made easier by knowing why you want something you’re trying to achieve.