There comes a time in all of our lives when we just don’t know what direction we’re heading in. Irrespective of how perfect your life might look from the outside, you’re just not moving closer to where you want to be. It can happen for different reasons, including changes in your work or home life, decreasing job satisfaction, perpetual procrastination, the feeling of overwhelm or burnout, or stress relating to taking on more and more leadership responsibility (imposter syndrome, anyone?).
At that moment, people often start to look externally for the answer: a new job, a whole new career maybe. This often involves spending hours looking up potential new careers, searching job sites, looking for the answer. Looking outside.
But more often than not the problem lies with not understanding how you and your life has changed and what you want from life now. Looking inside.
This might be very different to what you expect.
I’ve found that while many people start looking externally for a job or new opportunity that will change their lives, it is those that start by asking themselves curious questions that find the path they are looking for quicker.
What are these curious questions?
In simple terms, they are any non-judgemental question you can ask yourself that helps you to understand yourself better.
These could include:
What is making me dread getting up for work each day?
What would make getting out of bed each morning easier?
How could I make today the best day ever?
How can I be the best employee today?
Where is my procrastination coming from that’s stopping me from completing that task I keep putting off?
The point of these questions is to:
- Start getting to know yourself again
- Increase your curiosity about yourself and your own needs
- Understand why you are feeling the way you feel without judgement
- Once you begin to understand you can find a much clearer path to either change or accept where you are in your life
What are the Do’s and Don’ts?
When you are feeling stuck it is easy to want to make an instant change and hope that this change will bring lasting happiness. What I have found, however, is by understanding yourself first, in all the gritty detail, all the highs and lows, you create a much better foundation for making lasting change.
1. Carve out time each day to ask yourself some good questions
By creating space for yourself and putting your needs first you have already made a great step in getting to know yourself and finding the path you are looking for. Just five to ten minutes a day of reflection, in whatever way that works for you – morning, afternoon, journalling, drawing, walking, sitting, it doesn’t matter – can go a huge difference.
2. Gently question your thoughts and feelings
How am I feeling today? Is that feeling helpful to me?
Why am I feeling like this?
What do I want to feel today?
What could I be thinking instead that would create some more helpful feelings?
3. Get curious about the answers to your questions and have a little chat with your brain
“Oh, that’s interesting, I am anxious about the meeting later today”
“Ok brain, you’re telling me you’re worried because you don’t have all the information you need to make a big decision, that’s good to know, thank you”
“So, I don’t want to go to work today because it feels totally pointless – wow, that’s interesting, makes a lot of sense I wouldn’t want to go to work if I’m thinking it is pointless”
Create some space between your thoughts/feelings and any actions you take. Look at those thoughts/feelings instead of immediately responding to them.
Extracting these fears and bringing them into the open and thanking our brain for warning us of the danger is enough to start creating the space we need to move beyond our fears and to invite a new path into our lives.
1. Don’t Make the answers to your questions mean anything negative about you
So what if you feel anxious today? So what if you’re so angry you want to quit your job? You’re allowed to feel these feelings and have these thoughts. All we’re trying to do here is understand what you are thinking and feeling and where this is coming from. No more, no less. If you can start to understand yourself without judging yourself, your pathway forward becomes so much more accessible.
2. You don’t need to get too deep to understand yourself better
What is staring us directly in the face is often the last thing we explore! We think there must be a deeper answer, but often it is the most simple thing that can have the biggest impact. If you keep putting off going to the gym, it’s likely there’s a simple reason for this – perhaps you don’t think it is working, perhaps you don’t enjoy it – you don’t always need to delve into childhood trauma to find the answer.
3. Don’t expect to find all the answers immediately
It can take time to start getting to know yourself better. It can take time to piece these elements together to work out a new direction. Be patient, trust the process and see what happens!
What to expect from asking yourself curious questions
By understanding yourself more clearly and listening to yourself can open up so many clues to take you closer to where you want to be. if you can learn to observe your feelings instead of reacting instantly to them you are much more likely to hear the lessons they are trying to teach you.
You don’t need to change anything straight away.
You don’t need to ‘fix’ yourself.
Create space for you to be you – listen, stay away from self-judgement, and learn compassion for who you are and who you want to be.