What do you do when the answer is “I don’t know”?
What do you do when you feel as though you don’t even know who you are right now?
I’ve just come back from a meeting with an incredibly talented and savvy local business owner who is in an interesting phase in her life. She has successfully built her business to a point where she can step away as she is no longer required so much, and as a result, she has a lot of freedom and time. Some plans for the future in which she was heavily emotionally invested have also just fallen through and her relationship with her partner has ended.
She knows that it is time for something new, she is being called to do something different, but is in a state of “I DON"T KNOW"
She has a few ideas but nothing is really calling out “YES! This is it!”
This is a really common experience when something ends and we don’t have our next thing on the horizon. Something that may have given us purpose, meaning, a particular sense of identity, maybe even a certain status or something that has kept us busy. When these things are taken away it is common to feel lost, disconnected and in a bit of a funk.
I feel two things simultaneously as she shares this with me. I feel for her and the sadness in her heart right now. But I am also excited. I am excited because I know beyond the sadness and this transitionary period she is about to create something new. I am excited by “I don’t know” and “I don’t know who I am”. When we don’t know who we are, that means we are not fixed or attached to a particular identity. We haven’t boxed ourselves in. There is a lot more possibility and choice available to us than when we have decided this is who I am, and this is who I am not. This is the perfect space for transformation to occur. To allow for something new to emerge.
At this time, turning INWARD and turning OUTWARD, both have their value.
There are useful ways in which to turn inward and there are less useful ways. Turning inward and spending too much time in your head or wallowing does not foster creativity. But there are useful ways to turn inward and give yourself a gentle nudge in the right direction.
In a gentle and curious kind of way, begin to explore some of the things you like doing. These might be previous careers or aspects of previous jobs that you’ve loved or enjoyable favourite past times. Explore literally anything that you enjoy doing or have enjoyed doing in the past. Then dig a little deeper - what is it about doing THIS, that you enjoy or that lights you up? And what else? And what else?
Inside the things we love doing are:
- Internal resources
By exploring the things we like, the things we love doing our heart comes back online, we reconnect with our values and with the things we are good at, existing skills and capabilities. By exploring multiple examples of these things, patterns begin to emerge, clues – FOLLOW THE COMMON THREADS.
This is who you are when you’re thriving. This is what lights you up.
Make a list of the common patterns and not only will you have most likely experienced at least a few surges of joy in the process of remembering, but you now have a checklist, a list of criteria to filter new possibilities and opportunities through. This is a recipe for generating options that can give you passion, purpose and meaning.
Turning outward, becoming immersed in something outside of ourselves can prevent us from wallowing and sitting in our own stuff for too long. Have you ever forgotten your worries, even momentarily, because someone else needed your help? Lending a helping hand, doing something useful for someone else is one of the best antidotes to your own gloom and can inject a bit of purpose in your day. But that’s still playing kind of small…
What if you turned inward to generate your criteria for joy, meaning and purpose and THEN turned outwards? Take your criteria and also track for something beyond yourself, something that’s bigger than you. What’s something that would meet your criteria AND would also mean something even greater for your network, your community, the broader world?
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