I have had a good career so far. I picked opportunities that came my way and made the most of it. I was never a planner. Now my boss asks me 'what would I like to do next?' I am stumped. I have never thought about having an intention and working towards it. I flew with the wind and now I need to create a boat & sail towards something.
That's the story of some executives who came to explore 'what they need to do next' through coaching.
In a world that values "knowing", "not knowing" what to do next may appear scary. Our conditional upbringing (of always knowing what is the next step: study-work-have a family. etc.) makes matters worse.
Fear created anxiety is quite common. Then comes 'guilt' - self-criticism about not being good enough to know. This is exasperated by age (40+) as well.
A liminal space is a space of transition into something new that's not yet there.
Inspite of being an uncomfortable space to be in, it can work wonders for learning & growth.
What is needed to make the most of being clueless? The simple answer to that question is: the ability to be in this liminal space despite the discomfort. What can increase this ability?
Remember the time you learnt a new skill - cycling, swimming, singing etc. When you started learning - it looked like doom's day? You didnt know where you were headed. All you were doing was what was needed at the moment?
A beginner's mind is a mind without expectations. Its a mind that can look at things as if you are seeing it for the first time.
When you be in this state in a liminal space - it can lead into infinite possibilities. It helps for the future to emerge.
Any inward focussed practice like Yoga, meditation, Zazen, Taichi can help you lose the baggage and be in the space with the "beginner's mind."
A child exploring a new toy places its complete attention on the toy. It is willing to just play with it the way it is. There is no right way, no wrong way. There is only the "play" way filled with curiosity.
I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.
~ Albert Einstein.
Curiosity in the liminal space helps in discovery. It helps enjoy the process than dread it.
It brings focus on the "means" than the end. It brings fun to not knowing. If we knew everything, won't life be boring?
3. Larger purpose
If you have an idea of a larger purpose, it allows for the the uncertainty of the now.
So take a look at your life and not just your career. Reflect on your strengths and what it can create for elements beyond you. Once your needs are taken care of, catapult your thinking to serve beyond you.
What this would do is to make your career next just a step in the overall journey and remove the risk of perceiving the next step as "do or die" step. This not only removes fear but also creates motivation to march with enthusiasm.
What helps you when you are clueless?