"What Next?"

(From Edition 26 of The Upleveler, our weekly smartletter)


Triggers such as the end of a year, an approaching birthday, the departure of a colleague, the end of a project, or the mere passage of time can get you contemplating your next move. This is usually tough - there are a mix of emotions, desires, and information at play, especially if you are doing this from a position of stability.

It helps to have a wise set of tools to initiate this exploration. These maps, models, and mind-frames help orient thinking, reduce anxiety, and let you articulate what you really want to do next. So here are five such tools for whenever you need to think about "what should I do next?"

1. The Stop Doing List

If you need to do something new, you probably need to 'clear your plate' first. When you move house, you realise how much junk you've accumulated. The same is true of work and life. So make a list of things that you currently do and which you'd like to stop doing. You may not be able to immediately hit the pause button, but it can lead you to a plan. 

A Stop Doing List is a simple and powerful place to begin your quest.

2. A Destination Postcard

If you already have a vague sense of where you are headed, a 'Destination Postcard' can help bring concreteness to that vision. Pick a specific target. On a postcard-sized paper, write a couple of lines of you having achieved the target, after, say, a year or so. Write in the past or present tense. The key is to be concrete: pick a date, a place, how you feel, and describe the achievement. 

This postcard forces you to think about specifics. You can put it up to remind yourself later, and to share your vision with others. 

3. An 'Obituary' for yourself

This is an interesting one and it starts with you packing yourself off to the heavens :-) What would you like your obituary to say - like with the Destination Postcard, write it in the past tense. What words would people use for you, what are the kinds of goals you'd have liked to reach, or what would be the kinds of milestones you'd like to have crossed?

Now, what can take you there from where you are today?

4. The PERMA Model

Martin Seligman, a doyen in the field of 'positive psychology', says that to "flourish" in your life (not just be happy, mind you), we need to think about:

  • Positive Emotions (the ones that we usually think about when we think about 'happiness')

  • Engagement (ideas like 'being in flow', enjoying what you do)

  • Relationships (doing things with and for friends, family, society)

  • Meaning (the 'larger purpose' behind our actions)

  • Achievements (our career/life/excellence goals)

Think about each area: how are you placed in them? What would you change?

5. The Ikigai Diagram

This is a famous Venn diagram, which asks you to think about:

  • What do you like doing?

  • What are you good at?

  • What can you get paid for doing?

  • What does the world need?

If you can find something that ticks most of these boxes, you should consider doing that next. So think of your quest as trying to identify things that fit in the innermost intersection.

While there's plenty more we could discuss about each of these items, this list will give you a start. Good luck!

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