The Best Next Step


When I’m not working, working out, or writing, I’m spending most of my time listening or watching self-help related podcasts or youtube videos.  I’ve always had an interest in self improvement and I think it keeps me sane (and self aware) on some level.  So when I hear speakers share something that I feel is worth putting in my notes app on my phone — I later translate to a blog post.  And here we are. . .

I honestly don’t even remember where I heard this one but somewhere along the podcast/youtube way, I heard a speaker say “figure out what has your attention right now, and then figure out the next best step.”  I obviously thought this idea was good, because I’ve glanced at that statement in my phone for almost a month.

Actually, I took action right away when I heard it.

It’s pretty simple really (this is the part of the blog where I insert my translation of what I heard and how I’m applying it to my life):  What do you think about all the time?  What has all your mental energy?  What is the thing that pops into your mind when you’re driving, before you go to sleep, when you wake up, and if you had to free-write in one of those writing classes where it’s silent and they say “write about anything”. . . this would be the topic you’d write about because you can’t stop thinking about it?

If you don’t know what has your attention right now (which I’m guessing you do), let me tee up some examples:  Looking for a new job?  Looking for a way to turn your hobby into a job?  Looking for a way to pull off a vacation?  Looking for a night to make plans with a girlfriend that you keep promising you’ll meet up with for dinner?  Want to start a blog?  Is there a fitness routine you keep watching commercials for and researching but haven’t started?  Is there something stressing you out that you’re thinking about constantly?

Now (here’s the important part), what is the next best thing to do?  And once you figure it out. . . actually go do it!  Need to update your resume?  Need to wake up earlier to spend more time on the hobby-soon-to-be-job?  Need to research vacation spots?  Need to call your girlfriend to know what nights she’s even free?  Need to finally pick a domain name and website format?  Need to drive to the gym instead of drive by the gym?  Need to come up with a plan to address the stress that’s eating up your days?

It’s not rocket science — none of the self-help talks really are.  They are just a new way for you to consider your life and phrased in ways that sometimes hit you in a ‘oh, yeah, that totally makes sense, I can do that, that’s just what I needed’ sort of way.

So what did I do with this?  What had my attention?  At the time I heard this, my attention was on wanting to do more (or any, really) speaking opportunities.  I have done a Tedx talk, and I’m doing the author thing, but I love listening to inspirational speakers so much I really just kept thinking about how I could actually start doing that in real life in hopes of inspiring others to be their best selves (which is the mission statement I wrote for myself years ago).  So, my next best step was to reach out to an agency that represents speakers.  So I took 10 minutes to fill out their online form for a free consultation (don’t get excited yet, I haven’t heard back yet).  But, at the end of the day I can say that I took the next best step towards the thing that had my attention.  It felt good to actually do something and not just sit around wishing for something to magically happen.  I also made this real by sharing with some people that this is what I want to be doing (sometimes just telling people around you is the next best step so you can get some cheerleaders behind you).

I’ve applied this to other areas over the past few weeks too.  I’ve done this at work with the to-to list that has all my attention and I figured out the next best thing to get it complete.  I have been wanting to get my book in a few more bookstores and figured out my next best steps in making that happen and went and did them (it’s now available at The Book Loft of German Village).  I’ve been wanting to lose a few more pounds, so I started another round of the 21-day fix with a friend.  And I’ve been wanting to start writing a second book, so I packed up my laptop and took the next best step, which was to go to my favorite place, Fox in the Snow, and just start writing even if what I produced would later be tossed and replaced with better stories.

So, what has your attention right now?  And what’s the best next step?