Ann Ranson white water rafting in Costa Rica. what's next

Have you ever wondered what’s next in your life? Whether it’s about your career, lifestyle, or health, pondering this question can seem daunting to many.

Because I’ve faced this question before, I’d like to share the process that I’ve used to help me get relevant and inspiring answers.

When you ask such a big question like, What’s Next, it’s important to not get overwhelmed, which can happen if you just let your imagination run wild. Instead, it’s a time to open up and do some exploration using my three phase What’s Next process.

To start, the Discovery Phase is all about giving yourself time to study, to study yourself. Who are you? What are your strengths? And what have you always wanted to do? By starting with self-discovery, you lay a foundation to build on.

Let’s start with Strengths. I’m a huge fan of Clifton Strengths ( Don Clifton is considered the father of strengths psychology which is based on the premise that when we are operating with our strengths, we will always be happier and more productive.  It’s the opposite of what many of us have experienced. Does this sound familiar? You start a new job and as part of on-boarding, HR puts you through a series of assessments. The results come in and they immediately start looking for weaknesses that they believe they should fix. But the truth is that if I am weak with finishing projects, but great at starting them, I’ll never be as happy or productive as the person who has that inherent strength. By purchasing the book ( or the online assessment, you can chose to get either your Top 5 or all of your strengths ranked from 1-34.

Now having your Top Five Strengths, you can begin to reflect on their meaning and what clues they might give you for what to do next. Here’s an example.

Let’s say that you learn that you top strength is BELIEF. This strength is naturally grounded and says, “This is what’s important to me.” While not specifically religious, it does mean that core values and meaning in life are important. A person with this strength as #1 would want to consider working or volunteering for nonprofits, spiritually oriented causes or organizations.

A #1 strength of ACHIEVER is naturally driven and would want to look for opportunities to accomplish something. Achievers don’t want to be just a cog in the wheel, they want to check things of the list.

This first step of self-discovery shows you where you have natural talent, and normally interests will be very closely aligned.

The Planning Phase is where you take what you’ve learned and begin to plot a course of action. Ask yourself, what are five steps I must take to move toward this new ideal? Start a list.

Let’s say that your Discovery work led you to explore a need to be a part of a team. Your report shows that you are people-focused, highlighting the fact that your current work-from-home situation isn’t really very gratifying. Your list might include items like researching companies who have won ‘Best Place to Work’ awards. They are generally made up of team-oriented or at least very people-focused cultures.

Continue listing ideas for steps you can take until you have at least five.

Then next we come to the Action Phase. This is when you have to actually do the things that you’ve listed in the plan. And if you are a high ACHIEVER, you’ll love this part. Begin by breaking down your five steps into actionable tasks. For example, under Research Best Places to Work, you might list: google local winners; ask family & friends; put a note on your social media asking for this type of organization, etc.

To be effective and to progress at a consistent rate, block time on your calendar every day or week that you will work on the tasks you have identified. Otherwise, you will just have a nice plan, but no results to show for your efforts.

So, to explore what’s next for you, start with Discovery, followed by Planning, and then Act. Using these three steps, even multiple times, will yield you a lot of meaningful ideas for you to consider for your what’s next.

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