6 min read
27 Jun

Many of us are now asking ourselves “What’s Next…?”. Let’s discuss that loaded question and propose ways to address the worries that loom when facing an undefined path. 

Most of us have reached a phase in our lives where our “constant” is changing. What we have been doing for a long time is now ending, whether we want it to or not. On top of this, we may not know where to focus next or how to start figuring that out. We know we are not alone in this quandary, yet that doesn’t help solve our individual concerns. We each need a compass to help guide us. Today The Next Half will serve as that compass as we discuss “what’s next?” and propose solutions to address this worry. 

Why now? 

Time has forced many of us to deal with a change to our norm, often before we are ready to so. For example, many of us are parents whose children have “flown and grown” or are preparing to do so. Others have kids still at home yet increasingly independent. Either way, this natural and needed stage towards adulthood leaves us parents nurturing a void. “What do we do now?” is a common quandary. 

Many of us may now be thinking about the next chapter because we face retirement or the conclusion of our current job. Others feel the need to find a new path because our partner’s job shift imposes on our space and our status quo. The catalyst for some may be approaching an end to responsibilities shouldered for years, such a caring for an elderly relative.  Others may be facing a change in marital status. Lots of us fall into more than one of these categories.  

Whatever the reason, the point is that change is looming and is not waiting for our invitation. The path we have known for a large chunk of our lives is ending and we don’t have a say in it. Whilst we know this is the natural progression of time, that doesn’t make it any easier. 

Facing a murky plan going forward can be daunting. Staring down an unknown path generally causes unease, whether rooted in excitement or fear. Some may find new ventures exhilarating, but for many changes are unsettling and scary, especially when it feels we are out of our control. The combined worries associated with facing the unknown can create concern for even the hardiest. 

Finding this new path will take thought, focus and courage. Let’s discuss “What’s Next?” and provide some helpful strategies to find solutions.

How to solve the ‘What’s Next?’ quandary 

Let’s discuss a two-step process which has guided clients, friends and myself in successfully solving our “What’s Next?” question.

Phase One: Self-reflection. The most important step for addressing the “What’s Next” quandary is to first focus on self-reflection. The loss of our previous “normal” requires readjustment. Let’s learn to turn our focus inwards. Without guilt.  Without time limit. 

Many of us have been taking care of others for decades. Sometimes this is in addition to our full-time career. Sometimes this was our full-time job.  We now need an undefined period of self-focus. This is a time of grieving for the end of that previous chapter.  Let’s be kind to ourselves to focus inwards for as long as it takes, after which we can then focus on addressing what options are out there. 

Identify our past accomplishments and skills:  There are many stages to this plan’s self- reflection phase. The first step recommended is to recognise our past accomplishments. Let’s spend time reflecting on each of them. Let’s congratulate ourselves for all the things we’ve achieved so far. I love the expression “remember to count all the small wins”. Let’s spend time on this.  We’ve earned it. 

Next, let’s think about what skills we developed that enables us to achieve these wins. Whilst recalling all these positives, Business Coaches recommend taking the time to write down lists of our successes.  This exercise is a handy tool to get us focused both on our wins and the expertise and skill-sets gained to accomplish these feats.

Let’s then go back to these lists and star the skills we most enjoy. This creates a roadmap of pre-requisites for our next adventure. The path is being paved. 

Identify goals:  Let’s also use this time to identify goals for our Next Half. Let’s reflect on past objectives which may still be of interest. What were our plans, interests, hobbies when we were younger that have not yet been attained? Are they still valid? Are there any other ventures we have seen that we wish we could further explore? We’ve all had set responsibilities for much of our adult life. Now is the time to think about what would we LIKE to further explore, learn or do with our more-available time? 

Let’s reflect, read, watch films, walk, travel, speak with friends and family - do what is needed to remember what makes us sparkle, to recall and refocus on a goal. This objective may be one we had in our younger years that is still of interest … or one that has become clear now.  Let’s be curious.  Let’s be open minded to listen and inquire about activities and opportunities which exist. Do any pique an interest or maybe even excite? Let’s identify this “wish list”. 

Take time: With time and honest self-reflection, a path will become clear. Truly. Let’s not rush this. Let’s take time to remember, explore, and ultimately rediscover ourselves.  There is no time limit to how long this will take. 

Limit worrying: Additionally, let’s try to limit our worrying about “what’s next?”. This process of self-reflection will provide an answer to which path is upcoming for us. Truly. I have seen this many times and have experienced it myself. That light bulb moment of discovery will occur. Our future path will become evident if we focus on what we enjoy doing in life, not on worrying what will we do. 

With positivity and an open mind, fate - serendipity - will intervene. This reminds me of the adage by Erin McKean “Serendipity is when you find things you weren’t looking for because finding what you are looking for is so damned difficult”. Gosh, isn’t that the truth? 

Curiosity, even excitement, towards exploring new ventures will eventually outweigh any hesitation, reluctance or even fear with which we may now struggle. The light will start to shine through the tunnel of unexplored ventures when we’re ready. Clarity will come. Let’s not rush this period of self-exploration.

 Phase Two: Ready for action planning:  Now it’s time we move from reflecting to creating tangible action steps to help identify our next path. We have taken the time needed to rest, contemplate our accomplishments, and identify the expertise we honed to achieve them. We have clarified what skill sets and goals on which we wish to focus. This self-reflection exercise has provided a funnel to help target our area for future focus. Now let’s transition to action-planning. 

Get discovering:  This reflection process may have crystallised an idea of what skills we enjoy using and what interests we wish to further explore. If that’s the case, fantastic! Seize that focus and enjoy the next path. 

If we still need help clarifying options, please read on. The suggested steps outlined here have all been used by friends and clients with successful results. If we invest time in exploring these steps, our next path will become clear. This process may take time, but it does work. 

Take a course: Let’s take the initiative to further pursue an interest we have. Who knows, this may develop into a passion and be our next path! Sign up for a course either online or in person that piques our interest. Be tutored or go to a class. Examples included here have successfully been used by both friends and clients. Perhaps learn a language? Maybe plan the dream trip in the future to utilise that linguistic skill (when current restrictions allow).  Maybe try a writing course. A client has just published a mystery novel she wrote! Perhaps explore a hobby, such as a game (bridge?) or artistic interest (painting?). A friend just started singing lessons, something she’s always wanted to do. Who knows, maybe this will be her new career? Tina Turner is still singing at aged 81. 

Get social: Let’s talk with our friends to help explore opportunities for furthering the interests we’ve identified.  Let’s rekindle friendships and explore new friends. (https://www.the-next-half.org/blogs/friend-groups-2-re-evaluation-and-helpful-tips). If appropriate, perhaps it’s even time to start thinking about dating again. Let’s talk with our friends about our thoughts and ideas for our future plans. 

Explore new avenues for work: Yes, that’s right. Work. Even though we may have just retired from our previous job responsibilities, we still have a lot to offer.  Let’s think about applying our skill set and interests to a new sector or position, one different from our career. This can be part time or full time, volunteer or for pay. The point is we are actively pursuing an interest. Perhaps the charity sector? Perhaps volunteer for a museum or academic institution? Perhaps mentor youth or advise small businesses? Perhaps teach a skill you have? Some of us wish to augment our retirement pot. Ever consider working as a tutor? Pet sitter? Move Manager? A future The Next Half blog will address this topic in more length. 

The path is now clearer

We can each now better understand how to find our individual answer to that looming “what’s next?” question. Let’s take the time needed to reflect on our last 30 years, identify what we enjoy and strive for, and then regroup. Let’s consciously limit our worries about this because when we follow this process, our path for The Next Half will become clear.

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