What’s Next?

I live my life like its Plants vs. Zombies. I try to plant enough seeds to keep myself in the game, hustle to get all those coins and secret maps that will move me forward and help Crazy Dave find his missing burrito…wait, maybe not that last one. For those among us who have not yet discovered the addiction that is Plants vs. Zombies, I basically try to collect as many gold stars, badges and Pass Go cards as I can. If that sounds a little strange, think of it this way — whatever you’re doing, somewhere in your mind you should be hearing “what’s next?”

This doesn’t mean that you should be unhappy with what you already have, on the contrary, appreciate your successes and bask in them. The key, though, is not basking endlessly. You have to keep growing, keeping learning and keep moving forward.

Think about it. If you were to ask yourself “What’s next?” when you feel like you’ve mastered your daily work, you could…

· Learn new skills

· Qualify for new/greater responsibilities

· Open up better opportunities for yourself

· Get to know more colleagues and expand your reach

· Discover new interests or potential

But this doesn’t only apply to your work life. If you were to ask “what’s next?” in your personal life, you might…

· Find a new hobby

· Master something you’ve been putting off

· Read more

· Get into a healthy routine

· Learn to actually like adulating

It works with pretty much anything! Ask yourself “what’s next?” in your relationships and you could be…

· Communicating better with your significant other

· Listening more when your friends are talking

· Learning to let things slide when your parents are being “annoying”

· Finding more time to spend with the people that matter most

· Understanding that maybe you’re not always right

We are all works in progress and that’s a good thing. If you are ready to put down your learning goggles and settle in for a long nap, you’re only cheating yourself out of something better coming around the bend.

Twelve years ago, when I was starting college, I was resolute that I wanted to be a book editor. I had my life all picked out, I was going to do internships, schmooze with the book publishing bigwigs (not a thing) and come out of it with a shiny new job that would then develop into a lifelong career. Well, it didn’t quite pan out that way. When, a few years into my book publishing dream, I realized that I wasn’t happy with what I was doing, I asked myself what’s next? There were more questions involved after that one, like “What the hell do I actually want to do?” “Who’s going to support me now?” and “Am I ready to give up all these free books??” and then the more useful ones like “What am I missing?” and “What am I really good at?” Fast forward to now and I’m happy to say that first “what’s next” brought me to a much happier place.

It doesn’t always work like a magic charm — sometimes your what’s next leads you to dead ends, like that time I tried giving up gluten or decided that running was going to be my “thing.” It’s okay, as long as I keep asking the right questions, I know life’s going to keep giving me all sorts of answers and that’s pretty great. Much better than a Magic Eight Ball, anyway.