A few years ago on my book tour, I met a woman named Lisa. After twenty years doing something that she felt was “just a job,” she’d taken a few months off from working, hoping to find her passion and figure out what kind of work she really wanted to do.

At the end of the four months, she didn’t have answers. She had even more problems, including the loss of much of her savings which she’d spent down during that time, more confusion about her next steps, and now having feelings of regret and failure about her time off.

This is pretty much what has happened to everyone I know who has taken time off to “figure out” what they want to do next, including myself. No one I have known has ever figured it out during long stretches of downtime.

Instead, during that downtime, we tend to get more confused, overwhelmed, and isolated. We end up spending way too much time in pajamas, and with reality tv and almond butter.

I’ve come to believe we don’t really ever need full days to sit around and “figure out” our next big career steps.

Instead we need a recipe of elements including:

1. Courage to be honest with ourselves about the ideas and inclinations we already have and probably have had for a long time.

2. Some daily practices for dealing with the fear and self-doubt that come up in times of transition.

3. A little time for reflection and research (but as the side dish, not the main course).

4. Support to take action from people outside our usual friends and family circle (peers on the same journey, a supportive group, a coach or a therapist).

5. Lots of opportunities to do small experiments with different possible directions, and to therefore learn by doing.

The Inner Mentor, Inner Critic, and Leaping chapters of Playing Big can help with many of the things above. And there are so many wonderful resources for finding support from others, whether a Playing Big course or another kind of circle or coaching relationship.

If you are looking to figure out your next chapter, don’t expect to go it alone or figure it out by yourself. See how you are doing with the items on this list, and fill in the gaps.



photo credit:  Dariusz Sankowski


Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Laura Toller Gardner says:

    Tara, this wisdom is right on time for me. Thank you. I too have observed that the “sabbatical” focused on figuring it all out doesn’t appear to reap benefits, rather more anxiety and financial consternation. I will apply your methodology and let you know about my insights.

  • Louisa says:

    Echo this completely. Took time out last year, figured out nothing and still paying financially for it! Sewing the seeds of getting it right now though 😊

  • Janice Bakow says:

    First, Thank you for “True Happiness: Realizing Well-Being” sent Valentine’s Day! Filled with insight, practical tools and overflowing with LOVE!
    Retired and look forward to reading “Play Big,” which is now on hold through electronic book at Library. Many Blessings and The Highest and Greatest Good for You, Hubby, and Baby!
    A little “check-in” used to stay in Oneness – While witnessing the breath – silently repeat: “In a Breath Provided by The Universe and Shared With All of Life!”
    Namaste and Unspeakable Love!

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