The Key To Planning When You're Uncertain: Plan for the Next 6 Months, Not for the Rest of Your Life
For the past several months, I've been in a sort of career quandry about where I want to go next. I'm feeling the need for some big shifts in my life, but I'm not entirely sure how I want those to play out in my business and career. Part of this is because I'm turning 50 in September. Part of it is due to shifts in my client base. And part of it is because I need to change things up periodically--as we know, I love the power of the new.
In thinking about my next career moves, I realized a few days ago that I've been caught up in the idea that I have to make something BIG happen. But I couldn't decide what that something BIG was, so I've essentially been stuck.
So instead of worrying about what I'd be doing for the rest of my life (which is really ludicrous to plan for anyway), I decided to sit down and just plan for what I want to accomplish in the next 6 months. Between July 1 and December 31, what goals did I want to set for myself?
What I came up with was a plan that built on my current business and practice, but that also stretched me--putting me out there in some different ways where I wanted to do some experimenting and risk-taking.
Letting go of the idea that I had to make some huge change that would be for the foreseeable future freed me up to focus simply on what I could do in a manageable period of time. It also got me back to focusing on the experiments I could run and the different ways I could play with possibilities.
One of the things that can happen to us when we're in a period of career uncertainty or confusion is that we paralyze ourselves waiting for that BIG IDEA that will change everything. I need to go from doing THIS to THIS and if I can't decide what the next THIS might be, then I'm just stuck.
You can free yourself from this trap, though, by releasing yourself from the idea that you have to do something major. As Hermione Ibarra points out in Working Identity, most career change happens gradually anyway. We go through a process of exploration and trying out possibilities, building new networks and exposing ourselves to new ideas.
My 6-month plan allows me to drop the big question of "What am I going to do with the rest of my life?" and instead, focus on the smaller (and more manageable) issue of "What do I want to explore and experiment with in the next 6 months?"
I can evaluate my experiences, see where there's energy for me to follow and in November and December, begin planning for the next 6 months. Eventually this will lead to greater clarity about what I want and possibly I will make a huge leap into something new. But that leap will be informed by my experiments and it may feel much less huge than it does now.
When you're confused or uncertain, planning for the shorter-term can release you from the pressures you may be putting on yourself that keep you stuck. Forget the 5-year plan or the "I'm going to blow up my life" plan. Just focus on the next 6 months--or even the next 3 months. What can you experiment with that can move you forward?