5 Smart Things To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do

I have gotten a lot of wonderful responses to my recent post on how I'm finding my voice again. If you haven’t read it, it’s right over here. A lot of former Peace Corps Volunteers in particular said they felt like the article was written personally for them; I was telling their story by telling mine.

I hear you loud and clear. And thank you. That wasn’t an easy piece for me to write, but I want to go further and keep writing more like it. So here we are.

What do we do when we don’t know what the hell has happened and who we are anymore?

As I mentioned before, there are four things that I’ve done recently that have really helped me find my voice (exercising, really sharing, being inspired and getting myself out there), but it has been a rollercoaster. There are good weeks when I feel like I’m making progress, and bad weeks when I feel like I’m slipping backward down a snowy hill. It’s cold, lonely, depressing and scary.

So what do I do when I feel like the real me (the me I was most proud of and excited to see every day) feels years away? What do I do when it all seems so damn confusing and unnecessarily complex?

I've been chipping away at it.

Piece by piece, I've been trying to knock off the dirt and scrape off the muck that has covered up the treasure of who I know I can be.

It hasn’t happened all at once, but it's been getting better.

Here are five more things that have helped me uncover who I really want to be. These are complementary to the four voice-finding suggestions I made before and help answer the question "What do I do when I don’t know what in the world I’m doing?"

1. Hang Out with Energy-Givers. There are certain people out there who are givers: they give energy, love, support and excitement to those around them. They are generous and sweet, fun and exciting, and (not surprisingly) people love being near them. You deserve to be around those people. How? The price of being around people like that is that you need to be a giver too. Think of who you know that meets that description and think on what you could give to them. Could you send them a compliment, a nice thank you email, an actual thank you note, a book they might like, a small package in the mail, take them out to coffee, buy them lunch or take them on a hike? I have done every single one of those things at least once in the last month and it’s always worked out great. You may have noticed they are listed in increasing complexity and price. Pick one that feels comfortable for you right now.

2. Trek Out Into The Wilderness. I mean this quite literally - I’m hiking out into the woods. Tuesday morning I hiked into a forest and hung out in a cabin. This morning I went on a two hour hike before 9am. It’s not easy waking up early, but awesome has a price. Pay the price and you gain admission to clarity, fun and feeling a whole lot better. I got more done in an hour in that cabin than I had done in the past two months on an important project. Pretty crazy. It’s amazing what some fresh grass, tall trees and a lack of wifi can accomplish. Whatever wilderness looks like for you, getting out into it might be just what the doctor ordered.

3. Get a Fruit Basket. We started some new snack systems in our house and they are working great. Inspired by my wonderful friend Bonnie, we have a jar full of healthy snacks like trail mix and granola bars, and on our table we have a big bowl of fresh fruit of every kind. That combined with smoothies (simple & easy to make) give me very little excuse to eat badly. I can literally stick my hand out and grab something healthy. I feel better, I’m not hungry much at all, and my energy is going through the roof.

4. Think of "Get To", Not "Have To". This is a mental game and I want to thank Wade for reminding of me how important this is. It’s easy to fall into the trap of I Have To. But the truth is, I Get To. Everything is a choice and an opportunity. I Get To work on this project for a client I love. I Get To go on a hike if I want to and get healthier to boot. Have To makes me feel like a victim. Get To makes me feel like an adventurer. Every day, a little more than yesterday, I’m choosing Get To.

5. Take Responsibility for Every Area of Your Life. Brace yourself, this one is a doozy. The happiest people I have ever met believe they are responsible for what goes on inside their head and how they live day in and day out. I also know the happiest times in my life were when I had a peaceful mind and I was living, day in and day out, according to my values and who I really wanted to be. The way there is taking responsibility. I took responsibility for what was in my head (meditation helped a lot) and I made choices that allowed me to deal with whatever came my way. I couldn’t control the weather, but I could bring an umbrella. I couldn’t control how people treated me, but I could control how I reacted. I couldn't control how people act, but I could choose to be around them or not. The list goes on but it starts with this: take responsibility for every area of your life. Thank you Evan, Bob and Jonathan for the conversations that solidified this for me.

So there they are, five not-so-secret ingredients to a happier and healthier life. Ounce by ounce, as the weight sloughs off, I’m feeling more like the person I used to be. And with a little bit of hustle and hope, ounce by ounce, each of these strategies is helping me replace that weight with muscle and strength to create the kind of life I can be proud of.

Thank you all for your kind words and your encouragement, whether on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or email. It means the world to me and I love keeping the conversation going.

Thank you all from the bottom of my (slightly less fatty) heart.