In May, I wrote a whole series about Taking Action. This series inspired some readers to email me about goals, dreams, and action steps. The most common question?
“What do I do if I don’t know what to do?”
Here’s the thing about questions like this: They’re more than a blog. They’re a conversation. One that begins over dinner and creeps into the night. With wine and candles and quotations from favorite movies and books.
That’s because everyone’s different. One person might need to face his fears and begin challenging himself in baby steps. Another might just need to get lots of sleep for about a month before she can think clearly again. And another might need to get rid of all the clutter in her life. No one can decide this part but you. Still, it requires some kind of action.
So, I’ve created a list of ten starting points – to-do’s if you don’t know what to do. Each starting point has a task that goes along with it. Pick one or two that apply to you.
Five of the starting points are below. The next five will follow in the next post…
1 – BE
Be comes before Do. If you’re just busy doing without some sense of who you are or why you’re even doing it, then stop. The activity might not even be in alignment with who you really are. Have you ever asked yourself who you want to be? Do you even have the courage to ask yourself such a bold question?
Marianne Williamson spoke once about how everyone wants to be in the spotlight, but most people don’t know what they’d say once they got there. That idea hit me hard. It inspired me to get clear about who I am as a writer, performer, human, etc. This clarity continues to grow and shift and re-awaken, too. Who you want to be, who you are – these are not static states. They’re not events. The core of it might stay the same for me. But how I show up as this person has changed dramatically.
TASK: Get out your journal. We’re gonna have an Ink-Vomit session. (An Ink-Vomit session has only one rule: Once you start writing, you can’t pause or put the pen down. You don’t have to write fast. But you aren’t allowed to stop and think.) Answer the following quesions. Allow a page per answer.
1) Who do I want to be? (Hint: Start by writing, “I want to be someone who…”)
2) What and who inspires me?
3) How do I want to feel being me?
4) What makes my heart sing?
Have fun with this, and don’t judge your responses.
2 – Start with What You Don’t Want
When I first began questioning my life (and all of its assumptions) right after college, I wrote in my journal about what I didn’t want. I didn’t want to live in the suburbs. I didn’t want a job I hated. I didn’t want to settle. I didn’t want to spend my life worrying about the vague notion of security. I didn’t want to marry the person I was dating at the time.
Law of Attraction junkies will tell you not to focus on this stuff. But it was crucial for me as I began to carve out a whole new life for myself. I didn’t know how to do it at the time – but knowing what I didn’t want became the guide. I cleared it all out and slowly let it go. Knowing what you don’t want is a great place to start.
TASK: Get out your journal, and have another Ink-Vomit session. (see above) This time, write at the top of the page: “I don’t want…” and let ‘er rip. Don’t stop writing til you feel clear-headed. If things are especially mucky for you, divide this task into life-segments: relationships, work, finances, environment, etc. Then, flip the page over, and try the same thing by writing “I want…”
3 – Get Rid of Crap
I originally called this step “Eliminate Space Takers,” but when I wrote it, my cat yawned at me. I took that as a sign. So, step three is: get rid of crap. Click on the link to read more details.
TASK: Pick one small area of your home. Closet, bathroom cabinet, desk, chest of drawers, book case. Pick up each item and ask yourself, “Do I love this? Do I wear this? Do I use this? Do I read this?” If the answer is anything but a yes, throw it in a box and let it go.
4 – Uncover your “Whiney Desires”
A friend of mine used to say, “I just want to sit at home eating bon-bons and watching tv all day.” I told her I didn’t believe her. She insisted it was true. This is a Whiney Desire. It’s the “I just want to sit on the beach and drink margaritas and listen to Buffett the rest of my life” syndrome. If you got your wish, you’d be bored to tears within five days. Okay, maybe ten.
I call these desires Whiney Desires because they’re probably hiding a deeper and more authentic desire. Maybe you want to create a life that makes you excited to wake up in the morning. Maybe you just simply need to give yourself more time off and more fun. The deeper desire is the more empowering (and sometimes more frightening) desire.
Whiney Desires block our true power. We reach for something superficial (and passive) to mask the truth. The truth is that we doubt that we can have the real thing.
“I just want to be taken care of. I just want to marry rich.” Translate that into: “I want to learn to take care of myself. I want to learn how to attract wealth into my life.”
TASK: Get out your journal. Write out one of your more whiney desires. Really go for it and write one whole page with all of these kinds of desires. THEN, take a deep breath. Sit up straight, and call on your wiser self. Flip the page over. On the reverse page, write down a different translation. Start by writing, “What I probably really want/need is…” And try to see through to a more empowering place.
5 – Step AWAY from the “big brick wall.”
In my post Lying Works Wonders, I quoted an email. In that email, the writer wrote about the BIG BRICK WALL in her life. Her entire email was in upper and lower case. But BIG BRICK WALL was all caps.
It’s great to have occasional drama-queen moments. But most people focus way too much on the problems in their lives. And mostly, they aren’t even right in their assessment! They call it a BIG BRICK WALL or CONFUSION or LACK OF SELF-ESTEEM, but they’re rarely correct. These are just the default places we all visit when we don’t want the solution. The label BIG BRICK WALL is a disguise to make the solution seem much more difficult than it probably is. But we spend all that time and energy capitalizing the word in our own heads because we’re not used to seeing around it to the solution.
TASK: Get out your journal. Start with the question: “Do I have a default place that keeps me from taking action? What is it? When do I tend to focus on this place?” (For instance, when I get stuck or scared about doing something big or scary, I have a default place of “overwhelm.” My big brick wall is ALL OF THESE EMOTIONS THAT TAKE OVER AND KEEP ME FROM FUNCTIONING! I’ve had to train myself to see through this default place.)
After you’ve written about your big brick wall, then write the truth. Start with this sentence: “The truth is…” (i.e., “The truth is that I’m not overwhelmed. I know exactly what I want to do.” Or “The truth is I’m being mean to myself and I just need to relax.” You’ll notice that more honest ideas come out. These ideas don’t shame you or guilt you or make you feel bad. They’ll strengthen you.
Note: You can do any of the tasks as a conversation with a friend you trust. Go out to tea or make dinner at your house. Just be sure that you make a commitment to focus on the positive and support each other in shifting the focus into the more proactive place.
p.s. Spaces in the June Great Big Dreams retreat sold out a month ago. The October retreat is already half full. Thought you’d like to know just in case you want to plan ahead!