This article originally appeared in Inc. If you like this article,
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A few weeks ago, I went back to my alma mater, Brandeis University, to speak to students about my entrepreneurial journey. During lunch, I got the opportunity to meet a graduating student who unfortunately seemed a bit lost about his career direction. Despite having several passions, a great education and what seemed like wonderful people skills, he simply didn't know what his next best step could be.
Have you ever been in a similar situation? I sure have -- in fact, there are times even now, almost a decade into my largest business, when I look around and wonder what my next best step forward should be to help me achieve "success."
It's no wonder that student felt lost; it's in our nature to get confused when confronted with too many choices. That's why, in my days working retail, my boss constantly reminded me to limit the customer's choices to two or three. Otherwise, we'd risk losing the sale to the customer being too overwhelmed to make a decision.
While there are many schools of thought out there about brainstorming ideas, asking clarifying questions, consulting with people who know you well and using other ways to help clarify a decision, none of those have ever worked for me. Particularly with life's biggest decisions -- like figuring out major life goals -- I find that they can't be solved with a simple whiteboard session.
Instead, I'll share with you what I shared with that student, which is my way of overcoming doubt when I'm unsure about a decision.
Whenever I've been lost, discouraged or unsure, I have doubled down on my efforts. Whatever my daily work is, I would strive to do more. On top of that, I would start new things to fill my time even further. One example of this last year was starting my personal brand from scratch. It wasn't like I had nothing to do; in fact, I was almost overwhelmed with work and life "stuff." But although I was busy, I still sought to fill my time with even more goals and new experiences, because I wasn't quite sure that the road I was taking was in fact fulfilling my purpose.
Whenever I have used this technique in the past, the same result has always occurred: While I'm busy doing stuff, my answer about what to do next always appears to me, and always where I least expect it.
As a bonus in the meantime, I end up accomplishing a lot more goals, having a lot more experiences, knowing more people, earning more credentials and more, all of which are positive factors in whatever next step I ultimately end up taking.
I've grown significantly -- both personally and professionally -- by simply moving around more, bumping into things and seeing what sticks. Unfortunately, I've found that sometimes there isn't a better alternative to simply getting out there and doing.
Recently, though, I've learned another technique that complements my trick of doing. It's a technique by Evan Carmichael, called finding Your One Word, as he discusses in his book by the same name. Evan believes that if we can find our 'One Word' -- the word that best captures who we are and what we are all about -- we can use that word as a guiding principle to direct our lives toward happiness and fulfillment.
When I connected with Evan about his One Word concept, his stance on achieving one's potential really hit home for me, as I've always personally defined fulfillment as "the feeling of knowing you've reached your potential." As Evan told me:
"I think most people are walking around feeling like they could do more. That they have more potential. Life may not be terrible -- but you know it could be so much better because you're not even close to your potential. Reaching that potential starts with understanding your One Word, your single most important core value, and then aligning your life, career, and business around it. Instead of having great people, resources, and events happen randomly to you in life, you have the power to achieve your potential with intention and purpose daily."
Evan's One Word concept seems like the perfect North Star for anyone feeling a bit lost, and I'll certainly be using it the next time I have any doubt about what to do next (and in case you're wondering, my own One Word for now is Excellence).
So the next time you're feeling unsure about a decision, find your guiding word, get out there and start moving around. If you can just be brave enough to put one foot in front of the other, you'll always at least benefit from the journey itself.
Fortunately, that's all that matters in the first place.