How to Change Your Life When You Don’t Know What You Want — in 7 Easy Steps

How to Change Your Life When You Don’t Know What You Want — in 7 Easy Steps

With 2017 approaching, some people have already started thinking about their upcoming goals for the next year. These individuals are the ones that always seem to know exactly where they are going and always seem to be in control. They know what they want, and they are going for it! And, they even seem to like and enjoy what they are doing in their lives.

In other cases, however, there are individuals who don’t like what they are doing in their lives or careers. They don’t know what to do next, and they don’t know what they want for their future.

If you are in the latter group, you may be wondering, “What’s my next step? How do I change my life for the better, if I don’t even know what I want?”

If you’re in that situation, and would like some answers — and to change your life — there are seven steps you can begin to take (today)! Feel free to check out the highlights in the following presentation, or keep scrolling to read the entire article!

 

Step 1: Let go of the idea that you need an epiphany before you take the next step.

I have worked with some clients who feel trapped and stuck by their decisions. They may have built up their education and expertise in an area that turned out to be unappealing, or they may feel like they have plateaued in their career.

In the vast majority of these cases, I have found that these individuals know they are unhappy, would like things to be different, but don’t know what they want. As a result of not being sure of what they want, they just keep waiting for the “lightning bolt” to strike them. They keep hoping for an epiphany, that moment of clarity which gives them all the answers. In fact, in many cases, they may be seeking answers in the wrong places, or asking lots of people for advice, but getting nowhere because they keep waiting around for that unattainable moment of hearing, “Do this exactly.”

Therefore, the first step to changing your life, is to actually let go of the idea that you need an epiphany or major moment of clarity to make change in your life. Waiting around for inspiration will lead to simply more waiting around, and typically no answers!

 

Step 2: Shift your mindset: you just need to know the very next step…not the exact destination!

Building on Step 1, once you let go of the idea of needing an epiphany, it’s best to start shifting your mindset to the idea that you don’t need to know all the answers, or even what your eventual path or destination will be.

The key to changing your life is taking action. While it’s important to think before you jump into something (more on the process of deciding the next steps shortly), the most important thing to consider is to take a next step in the first place! The idea is that taking action will actually give you more answers.

For instance, once you take the very next step, and you begin the process of getting data and feedback about what you are trying or attempting, you’ll start getting the answers you have been seeking — such as “I like this” (or don’t like it). Beginning this process will enable you to collect feedback as you go along and eventually you will be able to “course correct” and make adjustments because your goals will become clearer as you collect the data you need to make your decisions.

 

Step 3: Take inventory: Write down all the things you know how to do and all the things you are interested in!

Now that you have let go of the idea of an epiphany, and understand the importance of taking action, it’s time to start the process of figuring out what those next steps will be! To do this, it’s often helpful to “take inventory” of your life. Often we are running on autopilot — we don’t even realize what we know (or don’t know). Therefore, I recommend taking a few minutes to list out your skills and interest areas. This will give you something concrete to work with in the next steps, and it will help you get organized!

 

Step 4: Identify the next step for each skill and interest area from your inventory.

Once you have your concrete list of skills and action areas, you can create an adjacent column, and list out the very next action step for each of those skills or areas. For instance, if you have writing skills, the next action step would be to further those skills or make a product from those skills, such as a book or a blog. You could list out the next action step to read a book on the subject of writing or publishing a book.

Though you may have a “hunch” about an area you should explore, it’s best to attempt to be as objective as possible during this process so that you consider all options and possibilities. Therefore, be sure to list out your next action steps for every area you listed!

 

Step 5: Choose one of the next steps you identified and start it.

Now that you have everything laid out on paper, everything from your interests and skills to the identified next steps for each of those areas, you can visually see all the possibilities available to you. After reviewing all this visually, you can more easily choose an interest or skill that you would like to pursue further.

Naturally it may be difficult to make this choice. Taking some time to examine your feelings about each of the areas, and also what may make sense logically for the ones you feel strongly about, will be helpful for your decision on which area to pursue.

It’s also important to consider that it’s not “the end of the world” if you start to pursue one of these paths and later determine it’s not right for you (more on this in the forthcoming steps). To a certain extent, you need to rule things out so that you can narrow your focus. Sometimes you don’t know what you like until you try it. Again, this is better than sitting around and waiting for inspiration to hit you. You’ll have made the most of your time by beginning the process to get feedback and answers for your life.

Once you have chosen which next step you’d like to take, you’re ready to take the action associated with that step!

 

Step 6: Identify and take the very next steps for the path you started

After taking that first step, it’s important to assess what the next few immediate steps would be for the path you began, and take the corresponding actions identified. This part of the process is a “data collection” period. Often you don’t know if you like something or if it’s right for you based on the very next step; you need to take at least a few action steps, and spend a few weeks or months on it. Of course this is case-by-case and dependent on the specific area you chose.

The important thing is to be observant during this step: notice if you like this path so far and focus on your progress. The first few steps of any process, especially something new or outside of your comfort zone, will be difficult, so be careful not to immediately rule out a path. After you hit a milestone and have completed a number of steps, however, you can get a better assessment of where you are (and where you’d like to be).

 

Step 7: Evaluate and make adjustments based on the feedback and data you collected.

Collecting data, feedback and making observations from Step 6 will enable you to implement Step 7, essentially to “course correct” as needed. As mentioned in Step 2, having additional information will enable you to make informed decisions about your path forward. You can determine if you’re on the right path, or if you need to tweak your path slightly. You may be able to refine your focus and create a goal around that path. There are so many more possibilities that will open up to you once you have taken these steps, especially as opposed to waiting for an epiphany!

In summary, these seven action steps are not hard in and of themselves — in fact they are quite easy to take, once you have accepted the idea of making change through very small, daily changes (which is more realistic than waiting for a bolt of lightning or overhauling your life)!

To learn more about this, and to access special checklists and additional information and resources on this topic, check out my new book, Success Blueprint: Get Out of Survival Mode, Regain Control of Your Life, and Get Ahead at Work and in Life.

Success-Blueprint-Get out of Survival mode, regain control of your life, and get ahead at work and in life

You can access the Amazon version by visiting: http://success.lisakardos.com!

 

New Free Mini-Course and Updates to the Lisa Kardos School of Excellence

New Free Mini-Course and Updates to the Lisa Kardos School of Excellence

It is hard to believe one year has passed since the opening of the Lisa Kardos School of Excellence! To celebrate, the school has been updated and modified, and it now includes a new free mini-course! The main changes are as follows:

  • New free mini-course.
  • 6 total courses are offered now: Design Your Success Course, Optimize Your Productivity, Optimize Your Interview, Leadership Master Class, Resume and Cover Letter Master Class, and a Life Optimization Master Class!
  • Design Your Success Academy has been adjusted to be the Design Your Success Course. If you are interested in an “all-inclusive” option the way the Academy was previously offered, you can become a lifetime member of the Lisa Kardos School of Excellence to enjoy a bulk discount!

To check out the changes, be sure to check out the link at http://learn.lisakardos.com (if you are a logged in user, you must click “All Courses” to see all the options!).

Also, please be sure to enroll in the free mini-course to get a special discount for the school 🙂

Optimizing Time on The Zone Show

Optimizing Time on The Zone Show

I had the honor and pleasure of being interviewed by Tom Evans of The Zone Show podcast in April. It was a wonderful experience being on Tom’s show, where he features experts and authors, as well as his own work, on how to stay in “The Zone,” perform at our peak levels and live life to the fullest.

As explained on The Zone Show site, we explored the following topics during our conversation:

  • Crossing the bridge from ‘hard’ science to the ‘gentler’ side
  • Taking an engineering approach to personal development
  • How to go about ‘re-‘engineering yourself
  • Where to start with productivity?
  • Using your own victory as a driving force
  • The value of actively chilling out
  • The power of anticipatory thinking
  • Manage your efficiency and you manage your time
  • Engineering emotions
  • What else can be optimized?

Feel free to listen to our conversation (embedded at the bottom of this post) or visit the podcast site to hear interesting and thought-provoking episodes with other guests at http://www.thezoneshow.com/.

In addition to being a great host, Tom is a very productive author, educator, mentor, creator — someone who provides a lot of value to the world. He has a number of self-study programs and offers help to his clients in numerous ways through his programs, meditations, books, and more. To learn more about Tom and his resources, please visit: http://www.tomevans.co/.

5 Concepts Every College Grad Should Know

5 Concepts Every College Grad Should Know

College students and new graduates often seek advice from me. Typically, they want to know how they can maximize their chances to gain employment at various companies in industry. What we often don’t get to discuss, however, is what they can do to maintain their jobs once attained – and even better, how to grow their career inside and outside of the company going forward.

 

Interestingly, it is the “soft skills” that often defines a young professional’s chance for professional growth. Typically, people have fairly comparable technical skills for the roles in which they have been given. But it is the soft skills, the ability to have a bigger vision – for themselves and the company – and how they can best serve and provide value to their colleagues and leaders, that distinguishes them.

 

Unfortunately there are some cases where politics and workplace issues may negatively impact one’s chances for career growth at a particular company. The other issue that comes up is that individuals often think that career growth means jumping from company to company. And while it is true that we can often get a better title and salary by changing companies, we also need to make the most of our current roles, to develop our experience and demonstrate why we can handle the next level roles. If there is no leadership experience, as an example, it’s hard to make a case or justify hiring someone from the outside applying for a leadership position.

 

Ultimately, regardless of the paths taken, if one’s goal is to truly grow as a person, and provide value in his or her profession, then cultivating and incorporating the following five concepts will be beneficial for that individual:

 

Growth Mindset

As discussed previously on my blog, recent psychology research from Carol Dweck, Ph.D. emphasizes the importance of having a growth mindset (click here to access that post).  Very quickly, a “fixed mindset” means that we believe we have a finite amount of intelligence or ability (and wind up defending or proving that in our endeavors), whereas “growth minded” individuals go through life thinking that they can always improve and learn more. Essentially, growth minded individuals focus on the process of learning and essentially don’t pressure themselves into thinking they only have so much ability or intelligence — that ability and intelligence are not necessarily innate.

 

This is something I absolutely wish I knew at 22 years old. Interestingly, I recall one of my first managers talking with me about how it was okay to make mistakes, that it’s part of the learning process. I’m not sure why he mentioned that during a conversation with me, but I suspect he detected that I didn’t want to take much risk with my work! I remember thinking, “How could I possibly allow myself to make a mistake? I could get fired!”

 

But in hindsight, I think his real message was to adopt the growth mindset. I now realize his true warning, that by pressuring myself to be perfect all the time, I wasn’t giving myself the permission to grow. And putting that undue pressure on myself was making my life more stressful and perhaps inhibiting my learning.

 

Therefore, when we start our careers, it’s best to acknowledge we don’t know everything and to do our best to keep growing, that we “just haven’t mastered it yet.” This mindset will be more fruitful in the long run.

 

Optimization Framework 

If you’re familiar with my first book, or a member of my coaching program, the Design Your Success Academy, then you know what the “Optimization Framework” is. But if you haven’t heard of it, it can be boiled down to this:

 

We can apply engineering concepts to our lives. We can look at ourselves as a “system to engineer” and put all extraneous things outside of our system.

 

While it may sound simple, I explain in my book that most of us do not operate that way. The world is so complex, with so many distractions, and it often requires conscious effort to separate ourselves from everything entering our attention. That’s why we have to consciously realize that the only thing we can 100% control is ourselves, and therefore we can look for ways we can “optimize” (as an engineer would) our success by optimizing ourselves.

 

If we applied this concept as new grads / working professionals, it would be so helpful. I have had hundreds of conversations with friends over the years about stressful work situations, managers, colleagues, etc. But the fact of the matter is, we really can’t change the things we complain about (and yet most conversations always ended with the glimmer of hope that the other entity – the perceived source of the issue —  would change!) The best we can do is control ourselves, and perhaps by being our “best selves,” we can influence things for the better.

 

Adopting this framework would help reduce the stress, thereby allowing management of the multitude of issues that come up to be better. In turn, we can focus on our growth more and spend less energy on being upset about everything else.

 

 

Perspective: Practice Different Vantage Points to Develop Strategic Thinking

This is a concept I touched on it a previous post (click here to access it). The bottom line is that we need to develop strategic thinking. One of the best ways to develop strategic thinking is to practice looking at situations from different perspectives. For instance, if I start to get stressed by something in my life, I take the 30,000 foot view of it. Somehow, pretending that I’m in a plane, looking down on an issue, helps me separate and get the clarity and objective view that I need to make better decisions in a situation. Learning this skill is very valuable, especially when you start working and need to be objective as you manage various issues.

 

Entrepreneurial Mindset: Be the CEO

Thinking of myself as the CEO of my own company, as if my company is being paid to deliver services where I’m employed, is a subtle but powerful mindset shift for a working professional. This entrepreneurial mindset is an advanced version of the optimization framework I mentioned earlier, where you are learning to take responsibility for yourself. If you can get to this point, where you are taking full responsibility for every action (or lack of action) and looking at everything as an entrepreneur, you can really boost your effectiveness.

 

One of the reasons I think this is so powerful is because many working professionals I know don’t read any personal development books; however, entrepreneurs often do. I find it so interesting that “career development” and “personal development” are often different in terms of topics. One of the reasons I like to frame everything in the “engineering” or “optimization” framework is because it actually brings all of this together: figuring out how to optimize or be your best self;  it doesn’t necessarily boil down to having the best resume. It boils down to having both the best resume and a DEEP foundation in terms of mindset, skills, approach, etc. — essentially the best of both the “career development” and “personal development” worlds.

 

Adopt a Productivity System that Works for You

I have experimented with many different approaches to be productive (hence my inspiration for my productivity book). There is no one system that is perfect for everyone, which is why it is important to find the system that works for you. Some systems are very complex while others are simple. My focuses on a system you can use if other systems haven’t really worked for you, and furthermore will focus on root cause analysis and deeper issues to help you in the future.

This post is only the tip of the iceberg (many books could be written on this topic); I hope it served you. Feel free to comment below!

—————————————-­———
To learn more about Lisa and access free resources, visit:

Free Mini-Course: http://lisakardos.com

Free Kindle Book: http://success.lisakardos.com

Free Productivity Book: http://productivity.lisakardos.com

—————————————-­———

Lisa Kardos, Ph.D. blogs about how we can optimize our lives for the better! (achieve happiness, success, and what we hold in our hearts!) She enjoys helping people overcome challenges to achieve their dreams.

—————————————-­———

Lisa Kardos, Ph.D.

Dr. Lisa Kardos has experience in chemical engineering, management, higher education, public speaking, and career development. She is the Founder of the Lisa Kardos School of Excellence and the Amazon Bestselling Author of Optimize for Victory: A Simple Approach to Overcome Challenges and Achieve Your Dreams.

Why We Don’t Achieve Our Goals (or Resolutions)

Why We Don’t Achieve Our Goals (or Resolutions)

First, I’d like to thank you for your support. I really appreciate that you’re reading this right now! The past few months have consisted of rapid growth and change for me, since I get more email subscribers every day. I also have thousands of Facebook and Twitter followers (it’s mind-boggling to me – in a good way 🙂 )

Due to the rapid growth, I took some time over the holidays to do some “soul searching” about what I want to focus on this year. These are my main goals for 2016:

1) Provide more value and engagement with you (expect to see more videos!)

2) More focus on how we can optimize our lives for the better! (achieve happiness, success, and what we hold in our hearts!)

3) Release my next book (stay tuned on that!) Blog subscribers will get first access to get it for free!

I will keep you updated. Now onto today’s post…

It’s that time of year where most of us have likely abandoned the New Year Resolutions that we declared a few weeks ago. Today’s post consists of a quick video to discuss a few of the main reasons we often don’t accomplish our goals or resolutions.

This video is a brief excerpt from the Optimize Your Productivity Course inside Design Your Success Academy (the Academy resides within the Lisa Kardos School of Excellence).

—————————————-­———
To learn more about Lisa and access free resources, visit:

Blog: http://optimizebooks.com
Design Your Success Academy: http://learn.lisakardos.com
Free Webinar: http://lisakardos.com
Free 14 Day Email Course: http://optimizebooks.com/freecourse1
—————————————-­———

Lisa Kardos, Ph.D. blogs about how we can optimize our lives for the better! (achieve happiness, success, and what we hold in our hearts!) She enjoys helping people overcome challenges to achieve their dreams.

—————————————-­———

Dr. Lisa Kardos has experience in chemical engineering, management, higher education, public speaking, and career development. She is the Founder of the Lisa Kardos School of Excellence and the Amazon Bestselling Author of Optimize for Victory: A Simple Approach to Overcome Challenges and Achieve Your Dreams.