High school seniors are preparing for graduation. Until now their lives have been fairly planned. As summer approaches, they realize they have come to the end of “the plan” and wonder: what’s next?
One of my clients graduates from high school in May. Chet’s mother had contacted me about life coaching to help him find direction as he approached this ending point/beginning point. Chet wants to pursue engineering, but he is not exactly sure where he wants to go to school.
Chet has no contact with his father, who left when Chet was young. His mother has provided for Chet his entire life and works long hours to make ends meet. Moving away to attend college has been a difficult concept for Chet to contemplate for a couple of reasons.
First, he is unsure of leaving his mom; it has always been just the two of them. And then there is Ashleigh, his girlfriend of the past two years. She is a couple years older than Chet, has a full time job in her parents’ business and has recently purchased a home. She has no intention of moving and hopes that Chet will attend the local college.
“I’m really excited to graduate, but I am dreading the decisions I must make,” he confided.
When we talked, I could tell that family and relationships were at the top of his list of values. It was important for Chet to be available for his mother and he concluded that if he moved, he could stay in frequent contact via the phone, email and regular visits. “Who knows? Maybe a bit of separation will be just what each of us needs,” he said.
Before we moved on to the subject of Ashleigh, Chet told me he had another month before he needed to make the decision about what to do after graduation. When I asked what he needs to make good decisions, he answered, “information and experience.”
“How can you gain the information and experience you need to make a good choice in this situation?” I asked. “What is one baby step that you can take towards gaining the information you need to make a decision?”
Chet replied, “The school that I am really interested in is hosting an On Campus day where seniors are invited to visit and stay overnight in the dorms. I’ll go and see what it’s like.” That was a great step towards gaining more information.
Sometimes we get so caught up with the BIG picture, goal, or decision (in this case what to do after graduation), that we look for one BIG step to take us “there.” Getting “there” is not usually one large step, but a series of baby steps, which are easier to take and move you toward your goal. Each time you take a baby step, you are given an opportunity to reevaluate how it feels and ask, “Am I still on the right path?” If so, then you can determine what your next step is.
If it doesn’t feel right, you are given an opportunity to reevaluate and step forward, sideways or in a completely new direction. There will come a day when Chet will decide what to do after graduation, but by continuing to take baby steps and reevaluating, he can gain the information and experience he needs to make the decisions along the way with confidence.
Once you have defined the outcome that you are working towards, brainstorm the steps that will move you towards your goal. Write each baby step on a sticky note. Then place the notes in order of what needs to happen first. If the first step seems overwhelming, see if there is an even smaller step that needs to come first. Then each time you take a step towards your goal, reevaluate to see if you are still on the right track. If so, then take the next step. If not, come up with another step that is more in line with your goals. The key is to continually evaluate where you are and ask, “What is the next right (baby) step?” Keep asking, evaluating and moving forward.