I invite you to imagine that you’re walking through the night, holding a lantern out in front of you. If you lift your gaze and try to look far ahead, you see only darkness and feel lost. But if you keep your eyes focused on the few feet in front of you, you can discern your next steps forward. 

That can be how it feels to get clear about what’s next in your life. As E.L. Doctorow wrote about writing: 

“It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Modern-day self-help literature perpetuates a myth that we get clear in one “big leap,” as if you could see the precise destination you’ll end up at a year from today.

Sometimes, clarity works that way. Often, it does not.

Instead, it’s more like walking through darkness with a lantern: You discern your next step, take that step, gather information about what happens as a result, and then you repeat the process based on the information you gather: Discern. Choose. Reflect. Discern. Choose. Reflect.

Getting clear often requires you to hit false starts, pick one path, take it a few steps until you realize that it’s not quite right, pivot, and shift in a new direction. Rather than happening in one single leap, big change usually comes in baby steps. Each step informs the next. 

I had an epiphany once. 

I was sitting on my couch in Oaxaca, Mexico, holding my newborn baby, asking myself what work I was supposed to do with my life now. I’d left my job at the hotel workers’ union to move to Mexico, seven months pregnant. My family was in the midst of what would become a six-year battle for a green card, and I didn’t know what was next. 

When I asked the question, a vision of opening a wellness center for new parents suddenly popped up in my mind. At that moment, I decided that I would become a yoga teacher, childbirth educator, and doula. And, I decided I would someday open that wellness center.

Over the next few years, I studied, attended births, and taught classes. But a few years into this grand experiment, I realized that this path wasn’t for me. My community already had a center for new families like the one I’d envisioned. It was nearly impossible to be on call for births or teach classes on weekends as a single mom. 

If you had asked me at the beginning of my journey to becoming a birthworker if I was clear, I would have said, “Very!” The certainty was comforting, but the vision wasn’t to be.

It’s okay to change your mind.

When I realized that the birthwork path wasn’t to be, I got curious. I asked myself how I might support people through major life transformations while working during school hours. Eventually, I discovered the path of coaching in 2012.

Since then, there have been moments when I felt sure that I was going to pivot onto a different career path, and I announced my new plans to friends and family. But as I gathered further information, I realized that what was best for me was to shift how I was doing my work as a coach, working with a different clientele or taking my work to a different level of skillfulness.

Sometimes, a voice in my head (internalized from many generations of family members who stayed in the same job and at home their entire lives) says: “Katherine, you change your mind so often!” 

But the career coach in me takes solace in the fact that by exploring new ideas with gusto and allowing myself to change my mind when I gather new information, I’ve created a business and life I truly love.

So, what about you?

When you’re uncertain about what’s next, it can feel scary to realize that you need to take imperfect baby steps forward, despite your lack of clarity. It can feel like you’re stepping on shaky ground when you’re not quite sure where each step will lead. 

If this is you, I encourage you to stop asking yourself the big questions about what your next steps forward are in life. Instead, hold firm to your lantern, look closely at the possibilities that are right in front of you, and ask yourself: What is my first step forward?

I invite you to do this right now. Grab a piece of paper and a pen, set a timer for three minutes, and write down your response to the following question:

  • What do I know (what pieces of the puzzle can I see) about what I want to be different in my life?

Then, set the timer for another three minutes and write down your response to this question:

  • What are the teeny-tiniest of steps that might bring me in the direction of what I want to be different?

Finally, choose one step to take by the end of this week, take that step, and then reflect on what happens. Stay committed to the practice of discerning, choosing, and reflecting. When you do, you may not be able to see far ahead, but you can make the journey all the way to a place in which you finally feel clear and confident about what’s ahead.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Wishing you happy travels!

Much love,

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