When I sat down to type this draft (literally just now, as I type this), I had no idea how to begin. I’ve already written the body of this post, and it’s sitting next to me waiting to be typed into this white box. But I’m wracked with indecision about what the headline should be or how to break into this topic in the most effective way.
The irony, which is currently making me chuckle out loud, is that THIS is exactly the problem this post is about. It happens to all of us. We have everything we need to do what we need to do, and we feel like we’re cruising right along and then, suddenly, something changes. You get trapped in a mental loop. You’re backspacing too much. You’re inviting distractions.
Maybe that just means it’s time to take a break, grab a snack or a walk outside, or shift to a different project for a while. But if your usual tactics aren’t getting you back on track, it’s probably time for a deeper dive. When I’m feeling stuck, these are the three questions I ask myself to take stock and determine what my next move should be:
1. What do you want to do?
When I think about this, I try to be as specific as possible. Illustrate your perfect day, if you need to. Think about, and write down, the actions and behaviors you want for your life, both personally and professionally. Include goals for work/life balance, such as a 4-day work week, but do not include financial goals. Focus on the doing.
2. What do you want to learn?
When I feel stagnant, it’s typically because I’m not feeling challenged. So, I have to find ways to challenge myself. One of them is through constant learning. Choose a topic to research and become an expert on. Take classes in an activity you’re interested in, like glassblowing or a foreign language. Push your mind.
3. What do you want to be known for?
I would never recommend that anyone base major life decisions on what other people think of them, so I want to make clear that’s not what this question is about. When I’m trying to clarify my perspective, I think about the impressions I hope to leave on other people, whether they’ve just met me or are remembering me long after my passing. That’s a pretty good gauge for how you’d like to see yourself as well, after all. Write it down.
Now you have three puzzle pieces to fit together, but it may not happen instantly. If the way you’d like to be remembered doesn’t align with your answers to questions 1 and 2, challenge yourself to dig deeper. You may realize you haven’t been completely honest with yourself about your answers, and that’s not a problem. Maybe there is another question you need to ask yourself. Just get to the bottom of it.
Typically, your answers to the three questions will have a strong enough common thread that the right path forward will become obvious. Sometimes, simply checking in with these thoughts will be enough to unstick a stuck writer, so you may not even need to adjust your course beyond that point. (Lucky you.) But even if the best option is to do nothing, you’ll probably feel more confident about doing (or, well, not doing) that after reflecting on these questions, so it’s still a big win.