Are you around mid 40s to mid 50s and pretty happy with what you’ve achieved in your life so far?
While this sounds like a great place to be (and in many ways of course it is), it can often also be a surprisingly unsettling stage. Chances are the question of ‘What next?’ is playing on your mind, often with no clear answer.
I work with people at this exact phase in life – a very significant stage – but one that people often find hard to understand, let alone find answers to.
But the issue of what to do next when you’ve achieved all (or often more than) you hoped to achieve, is a very real one and impacts people considerably. It causes them to question things – ‘Do I want to do something different?’ or ‘Why don’t I know what I want next?’ and can affect their sense of ease or contentment, their sense of equilibrium.
Most of my clients – high achieving, focused and driven people – are used to solving the most challenging business problems and can therefore find it quite unsettling that they don’t really know the answer to these seemingly simple questions.
For some it’s about what’s next in your career or work. Maybe you’re considering whether to do something that allow you to make more of a difference or want to find a role that’s interesting and challenging but also allows you to create a better #balance in your life.
Or perhaps you don’t really know what you want, you just know you want to feel happier or have more time for other things. In many cases, you have the questions – they may even be nagging at you or rattling around in your head – but you may not have the answers.
Why it’s hard to answer ‘What next?’
So why is this simple question of what’s next so hard? And why is it particularly hard at this stage of life?
One factor is that on the way ‘up’, there’s nearly always the next thing to aim for in front of you. The next goal or achievement or level to get to. Or a house to buy. A family to have and raise. Or for the many entrepreneurs I work with – creating a business, scaling or exiting it or looking to the next business to create, buy or invest in.
But once you’ve got to a certain point, the next thing is often not that obvious. There’s probably no clear next step on the ladder to ‘success’. Many of my clients say to me “This is the first time I’ve had to really THINK about what I want”. And for these high achieving, driven individuals – so used to challenging themselves with the next thing – the absence of an obvious next thing can in fact be quite unsettling.
The other factor is that once you’ve achieved what you wanted, more of the same often doesn’t cut it anymore. You may start to wonder if being #CEO of a bigger company will actually make you happier? Will creating an even more successful business give you the same buzz your first success did?
Looking in the wrong place
After working with me for a while, many of my clients discover they’ve been looking in the wrong place for the answers. They’ve often been looking ‘out there’ for the solution (the next role, the next company, the next business to invest in – the next ‘thing’) before they’ve figured out what the real question for them is. What is it they truly want in their lives?
And the true answers usually come from within. So starting to ask questions like what brings me joy? When do I feel most fulfilled? What gives a sense of #purpose or #meaning to my life are a good place to start. And are much more likely to hold the key to what’s right for you than looking outwards for the next ‘thing’.
And for the action-oriented, go-getting doers reading this and feeling slightly queasy at the thought of an ‘inner journey’, rest assured – the next stage is doing something about it! But only when you really know what ‘it’ is! 🙂
What do you really want?
So if you find yourself wondering what you want to do next in your life, ask yourself if you’re jumping to the solution before figuring out what you really want.
Do you want to have more time for what’s important? Or to feel like you’re using your talents to make more of a difference? Or do you want be more fulfilled in what you do? Or happier? Or …?
Once you really know that, you’ve already started your journey towards it. You are already starting the next phase of your life. One that really is right for you – in terms of how it looks on the outside AND how it feels on the inside.