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The Question Isn’t What’s Next–It’s How Do I Get There?

This week, I am taking a short blogger vacation.  So I have reached back into the archives to share some of my oldies but goodies while I am gone! Enjoy!! This was originally posted in September 2009.

Frequently, I have clients who come to see me in the middle of a life transition. They have a number of decisions to make and don’t know how to chose. Recently I had a client, Tess*, who was debating what she wanted to do next in her career. She had gone to college then to law school and had worked her way up in a law firm. She was making good money, working long hours and only somewhat enjoyed job. So she came in to see me wondering what’s next.

Most people in transition, especially career transition, want a magical answer to come externally–they want a test or a therapist to tell them what they SHOULD be doing next. Usually this is because they have been so beaten down or discouraged by the decisions they have made so far they don’t trust themselves. Ironically, as with Tess, the decisions they have made to this point have been made because of external influences–maybe she took a career test in college or a professor said she would make a great lawyer. The one thing she hadn’t done was listen to herself. So in one of our first sessions she came in feeling very anxious and was spinning about what to do next and I just asked her “what do you want to do?” and she just looked at me, her face lit up and said “I want to work with children who have been abused”. And I said “Ok, let’s work on that” and she looked at me startled.

It is my theory that it isn’t that we don’ t know what to do next it is that we are scared to say it out loud.  In the quiet moments, we can hear our intuitive selves tell us what we want to do but we are scared of admitting it, of failure, of being laughed at, of a million other things. However, we waste A LOT of time spinning on the WHAT rather then facing the fear and moving to the HOW.

So Tess and I began working on the HOW–we started small with just getting her comfortable with the dream–talking about it in session and then talking about it with some safe friends and then slowly exploring how she could accomplish the dream. It was a process, but now Tess is working in a job she loves and is living happier.

We spend a lot of time in the ‘what’s next’ place because it is safe to stay there, it doesn’t require anything but a mental debate. I believe we intuitively know what’s next we are just scared to face it. We need to slowly start engaging with ourselves, facing the fear (either with friends, family or a therapist) and using baby steps move towards the how.

My question to you: Where in your life do you getting stuck spinning on the “what’s next?” rather than slowly facing the fear of “how do I get there?”

*Name and details have been changed to maintain confidentiality

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