Throughout my life and career, time and again I’ve come across people standing at a crossroads. They might be working out how to step up in a current role, wanting to head off in a completely new career or life direction, returning to work after time away…or just looking for that illusive what’s next?

Perhaps you’ve heard some of the following statements from colleagues, family members or friends? Maybe you’ve said them to yourself? I know I have.

· How do I figure out what I want to do next?

· I don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life!

· What am I going to do when I grow up? (Usually said by someone at least 40!)

Research shows that:

· 1 in 3 people are actively searching for a new job

· 70% of employees are not engaged at work

· 77% of Americans regularly experience physical symptoms of stress

· 40% of workers experience persistent stress or excessive anxiety in their daily lives

It’s no wonder so many of us are looking for something else! But how do you work out what that something else is? Often, people trying to figure out what to do next, find themselves getting overwhelmed, stuck, confused, scared and even paralyzed by it all. Others give up because it just seems too impossible. Many don’t even know where to start!

I’ve been there. I know how hard it is. But it can be easier. I’ve discovered that there are 5 key steps to working out what you want to do next and start taking action to get you there. So, how about taking your next step forward towards the next chapter in your life, new career, or great adventure?

First things first. Remember, this isn’t about figuring out the entire REST of your life, it’s about working on uncovering what’s NEXT.

Step 1: Take a STEP BACK

Whenever you’re looking at where to go next, it’s important to take a step back, look at the big picture and identify where you want to actually go!

Too often, people start with trying to figure out how to get somewhere, but they’re still unclear on where ‘there’ is, what they really want or what they’re aiming to accomplish. Sometimes this is because we’re so focused on what we don’t want or what’s not working (for example in a current job, role or relationship) that we forget to ask ourselves what we do want. This is a critical point. If you start looking for what’s next from a place of what you don’t want, you’re reacting to the current situation. Taking a step back allows you to look at what you do want as you go forward.

So, what do you want? Get specific. What are you actually trying to achieve with this next?

Step 2: Take a look at YOU

Whichever direction you decide to go, there’s a certain amount of self-awareness and soul searching that will be critical to your success in any – and all – future endeavors.

The idea behind this step in the process is to take a closer look at you and all the parts of you. The purpose here is to reduce the clutter, go inward and get to the essence of you.

While this is only ONE step, it’s a huge part of the process! A few important questions to ask yourself might include:

What drives and motivates me? What are my core values? What’s most important to me? What contribution do I want to make? What skills, talents and passions do I bring to the table?

I know, these are some big questions right? Understanding yourself at this deeper level and making decisions based upon these insights will make sure whatever IS next is something that will make you happier, more successful and more fulfilled. It will make sure that your next step is a step in the right direction, not just another step.

Step 3: Identify WHAT COULD BE

This is your chance to identify the possibilities and options!

In this step, your first goal is to brainstorm everything that might be possible. This step is not about the right choice, it’s about allowing your creative mind to expand and see further opportunities that you may not have seen before. We often dive straight into finding the right one and eliminating anything that doesn’t feel perfect. By expanding your options, you may discover something you hadn’t seen before or something you discredited because it wasn’t right. This is your chance to really come up with all your potential options.

Once you’ve done an initial brainstorm to know what possibilities you’re working with, then – and only then – is it time to look at which of your options might be the best fit. To do this, you’ll want to look at all the options through the lens of what you want (Step #1) and who you are (Step #2).

Identify the 2-3 options you feel most connected to, energized by, the ones that feel aligned with what you’re looking for. Don’t worry too much about what is realistic or otherwise…and don’t choose based on what you worry might be involved in actually getting there – that’s the next step!

Step 4: Open up the DOOR

This step is all about taking the choices that you’ve narrowed down and exploring your options in more depth!

It’s important to find ways to explore these options in both an intellectual way and an emotional way. It’s about doing the practical research and taking the time to imagine how following through each of the options may impact your thinking, feeling and well-being.

Say your next is about looking at potential new careers. Exploring this step could include online research, talking to others who are in that line of work and looking at required training or qualifications. Once you’re loaded up with this kind of information, take what you’ve learned and sit back: Can you see yourself doing this? What do you feel inside when you imagine telling a good friend that you’ve switched careers? What do you notice when you visualize beginning your first day of work? And, most importantly: How does it feel?

Maybe your next is a decision about moving somewhere different. If that’s the case, this might mean talking to others who live there, joining online forums, creating a visual scrapbook or visiting a place or two on your list. Again, once you’ve done your initial research, sit back and imagine or visualize yourself in each of these places. How do you see the days rolling out, what are you doing, who are you meeting – how do you feel?

The goal of the second part in each of these examples, is to let go of the whys, wherefores, have to and shoulds and to connect with your sub-conscious to get to the depths of what really resonates as the best choice for you. Have fun with this step – it’s often surprising what comes up!

Step 5: Bring it all to LIFE!

Ok folks, It’s decision time! Once you’ve narrowed down and really explored your options, it’s time to commit to something. I know this part is hard. What if it isn’t right? What if there is something else out there? What if it’s the worst decision I ever make? Arrgghh!

These are all real and good questions, but not if they stop us from moving forward. The way I look at it is, if you know you need to take the next step and you know you’re unhappy where you are, what is the bigger risk? Staying where you out of fear that the next step is wrong or taking the next step and seeing where it leads you?  It’s better to rock the boat than to die sinking in it, right?

You’ll know the best option for you as it’ll be the one that will feel most ‘right’ or natural. It’s the one that gives you a sense of excitement or energy. It’s the one that you feel drawn to or even pulled by. That doesn’t mean you won’t be scared by it! It just means you have to let go of the ‘intellectual’ side of your thinking and really listen to the innate wisdom inside you.

A big challenge here, is not to do what you think you should do or what others believe will be best for you. Everyone has an opinion, right? Given your circumstances, and the work you’ve done in the steps prior, what do you believe is best for you right now? Remember, this is NOT about the REST of your life. This is about what’s next.

Once you’ve made a decision, it’s time to take action. Give yourself a deadline, a timeline or a goal to make it happen! 

Remember, every step you take is going to bring you closer to where you want to be – or take you further away. Make each step count.

If you’re interested in taking this a step further, you can download my free workbook + process at where you can work through each of these steps and answer specific questions that will finally give you clarity about your next


  • Tracy Kennedy

    Coach + Consultant,

    As a results-driven certified coach and consultant, I partner with individuals to help them live a life they love and achieve greater levels of happiness, fulfillment and success - personally and professionally.  I specialize in supporting people to figure out their next step in their lives or careers and get them on the fast-track to where they want to be. I am the proud Mom to three beautiful and energetic daughters, an even more energetic black lab, and wife to my fun-loving, more laid-back than I could ever be, husband. We live in Topanga, CA (just outside Los Angeles).