There is currently an epidemic sweeping the nation.
It’s not an illness nor a disease that could be catching.
It’s actually a phrase that I constantly hear my clients utter, and to my chagrin, have uttered myself over the years. The phrase goes ‘I don’t know what to do’. This epidemic was more rife in teenagers, however to my surprise, I am hearing it more often from my middle-aged clients (I’m also in that age category).
I feel as if we’ve been cheated somehow.
When in high school you were asked to choose your exam subjects, you were assured that passing these would lead to university. At university, you would complete a degree which would ensure a job, security and a life mapped out in front of you.
How wrong you were.
Essentially, there comes a time in life where you reach a point when a pretty uncomfortable feeling called dissatisfaction begins to brew underneath your perfect-looking life. Despite completing high school, graduating from university and landing the job you (thought at the time) you wanted.
When my coaching clients begin to elaborate and relate their difficulty in knowing where to head to next, I normally ask them to stop for a moment. This normally takes them by surprise, as they are in full flow of a barrage of content detailing everything they have done in the past few years.
I ask them to be silent for a few minutes as they are in the cognitive flow of technicalities, content and the intellect. I want them to access something deeper and more meaningful.
So I ask them again, to take a breath and I ask them a simple question.
What do you really want?
The answer that comes forth as an answer is generally reflective, slow and measured since we have moved out of the intellectual realm and into a place of calm and reflection.
I am normally taken aback by the wisdom that pours out because instead of a barrage of content which has no substance, my clients generally come up with something pretty simplistic – They want more freedom, family time, simplicity or even fun.
For many, fun and excitement has been buried under a sea or responsibilities. I notice a change as they speak, their eyes begin to brighten up and I see a different energy take over. The dull look in their eyes transforms into an aliveness that hasn’t seen the light of day for many a year.
The question is, what do you do when you don’t know what to do?
The answer will disappoint you and probably leave you feeling somewhat deflated because ultimately you want solutions, a rule book and an answer that is as clear as daylight.
Sometimes that answer requires space, time and patience and the answer might come to you at the most unsuitable of places.
I remember losing my bearings many years ago, and I remember speaking to my mentor at the time (a master of life change and an expert in the subject of clarity).
His words helped when he stated, “The only problem you have is seeing your lack of motivation and losing your bearings as a problem”. This seemed simplistic, yet profound. He encouraged me to do what felt right, and if my body required a hiatus right now, then I should listen to it, rather than resist it.
I was reluctant initially, as my answer for not knowing what to do, had always been to do more, be more and achieve more. This, of course, was always a momentary distraction, as it meant getting involved in ventures that meant nothing and went nowhere. Since the motivation I had was just to do for the sake of doing, you can well imagine the result of this.
During this time, I would usually buy more books (Amazon made a killing in sales during that time), I enrolled on more courses and took on more work that I was completely disinterested in. But doing anything at all, felt better than doing nothing.
So I did something different. I stopped.
During this time, I had a niggling gut feeling that kept resurfacing. My gut feeling was suggesting I travel to Marrakesh in Morocco for a few days. This seemed ludicrous at the time, as Morocco is not really the ideal place for a woman to walk around alone. I ignored the sensible piece of advice as I trusted my gut more than I trusted the Travel guide books.
Let me explain, as a child growing up in Gibraltar, we spent most summers going to Morocco on holiday. I always remember feeling the most alive and happy in this place. I loved the pungent smells and the culture as well as the hospitality we always received.
I was an intensely curious child then, and since this knew no bounds, as a 6 years old child, my parents ended up losing me for a few hours along with my brother in the midst of Morroco. They found me a few hours later in the desert with a Moroccan Berber who I had befriended and was perched on his camel having the time of my life.
Danger, anxiety and the unknown didn’t exist for me in those days, it developed over time. The beauty of curiosity and passion was crushed for predictability, stability, structure and the known.
So I listened to my gut, ignored well meaning friends and family and set off on my own. I noticed as I arrived that the curious and fearless 6 year old child I had left behind had returned. I nourished it by hiring a tour guide who took me through every nook and cranny of the area.
And the wisdom came to me.
Not in the office at home, or at a meeting, but in the middle of the Moroccan Atlas mountains.
I was walking along the mountains talking to the villagers and discovering the incredible communities that live in isolation up high. We arrived at a rustic looking house at the top of the mountain, and there was one thought that came to me so strongly that it took my breath away ‘I want you to start writing’ is what it said.
Now this seemed ridiculous as I hadn’t written for a while due to personal issues which had blocked my writing flow. I had also never had the confidence to share what I wrote online anyway as it was too exposing. But this urge came to me so strongly, that as soon as I returned to London, I rushed out and bought a new laptop that would support what I was about to embark on.
During the first week, I effortlessly wrote articles one after the other; it felt as if the words were pouring out of me. I very reluctantly published these online; the fear in doing this for the first time was palpable. To my astonishment and delight, it almost immediately led to requests to contribute on various platforms. I noticed that there was a different energy to my work, it was not born out of anxiety, but out of connection.
Within 6 months I had been nominated for a blogger award, and since then I have published my first book; collaborated as a writer on a number of other books, not to mention international speaking events, coaching clients and opportunities on TV, radio and media that emerged from this.
Not bad for someone who didn’t know what to do.
Since then, there have been times when I have not known what to do, such is the rollercoaster of life, but the only thing I have going for me is to take a step back and not rush into making decisions. Life has taken a more reflective flavour, and decisions are no longer made from anxiety or a place of urgency. Things can wait and I can linger far longer in the unknown than I ever have before.
Try it, I can’t promise it will be comfortable, but boy will you grow. You will also be able to listen to yourself (your gut feeling) much more than you ever did and attempt things you never thought you would get involved in. There is a benefit in the known, it feels safe because it’s known, certainly not because its better. To lose your bearings has it’s benefits, even though it can feel scary and exposing at times.
The reality is that there is no compass in life anyway and we have no rule book. For those of us who belong to an organised religion, it can feel that this protects us or gives us the rules we need to survive. This merely acts as a comfort blanket that makes us feel safe and comforted when we want to rely on a higher source.
Ultimately, you hold the compass and you decide which direction you follow, it’s that simple. When you understand this, you will understand that in essence, you are never really lost, you are precisely where you need to be.
If this article resonated with you, you can read more chapters like these in my latest book ‘Look Inside: Stop Seeking Start Living’ available now on Amazon.
If you want to connect with me to share insights from this article, send an e-mail to [email protected]