Feeling Uncertain About What’s Next? Time to Explore the Fertile Void

We’re not fortune tellers; we don’t know what will happen. We can only do our very best to navigate our way through this truly unnerving and uncertain time.

But one thing IS certain, this too shall pass.

What’s less certain, is how we transition from here into a new beginning. And it’s very likely you’ve found yourself plunged into an uncomfortable, in-between place of not knowing what’s next, at the very time when the question you’re desperate to answer is, “Now what?”

And when there is no ready response to this question, the subsequent silence can be disconcerting to put it mildly!

So it might reassure you to know that there’s a name for this in-between place. In fact, there are a few…. I’ve heard it called the Fertile Void, the Creative Void, the Powerful Pause and the Neutral Zone – all names to describe the very real stage we go through as we transition from one state of being to a new beginning.

For me, ‘the fertile void’ is the one that seems most apt

Isn’t that a contradiction in terms, you may ask?

On the contrary, it’s spot on!

Because while the Fertile Void is, without doubt, an uncomfortable, in-between place, there’s a HUGE amount to be gained by simply sitting with the confusion of not knowing… IF (and yes, it’s a big IF!) we can resist the urge to rush ‘through and out’ because when we do that, we miss out on the gifts this space has to offer us.

The fertile void has its own creative energy

I know this may be hard to believe – especially when you unexpectedly and unwillingly find yourself thrown into this space. Although it is a confusing, painful thing to go through, something inevitably shifts in the process.

“Confusion is the state of promise, the fertile void where surprise is possible again.” – Paul Goodman

It’s a process of transition

Think of this time as your very own ‘cocoon of change’…. a time and place where you gradually shed the skin of your old life in order to develop the new. And, like the butterfly, you won’t suddenly appear in all your glory without hanging around as a bit of gloopy stuff first! 

This is where you get to spend time in your own chrysalis whilst engaging in some introspective soul searching. AND if it feels as if nothing is actually happening, just keep remembering the incredible metamorphosis going on inside the seemingly unchanging cocoon.

What if this is a gift?

With every crisis – even one like the coronavirus – comes opportunity.

What if you’ve been gifted this time to think and reflect?

What if you could regard this as a place of opportunity, of potential and possibility? A creative space where you are ‘held’ in order to allow a transition to take place:

  • to realign with the REAL essence of who you are and how you want to be in the world
  • to become aware of all those things now calling for your attention
  • to shed the old layers that no longer serve you
  • to re-examine aspects of your life and let go those that no longer feel right

Make the most of this opportunity

Acknowledge your feelings
Whatever you’re feeling right now – fear, anger, grief, confusion – it’s ALL totally valid and accepting the validity of these feelings and working with them will be more productive than trying to push them aside or plough on through, in the long run.

Embrace this time
Believe me, I’m well aware this is easier to say than do…. especially when you’re consumed with all sorts of mainly negative scenarios playing out in your head!
You may well be impatient to dig into something new but the fertile void is essentially a time of waiting, not acting… of being, not doing. It’s funny, isn’t it, how much more difficult we find it to NOT do things? But it’s by pressing the pause button that we gradually become aware of the unheard voices calling for our attention.

Let go of the need to know ‘what’s next’ for now
You’ve probably used a huge amount of energy already trying to deal with this uncertainty. And maybe you’re exhausted from trying to push your way through this situation in an attempt to find something new and solid to stand on. In letting go of expectations for ‘what’s next’, you gently open a space – a space to breathe…. a space for inspiration and ideas to incubate and germinate. You open up to what might be and to the possibility for something new and fresh to emerge.

Control your mind chatter
I’ll bet your inner gremlin has been having a field day recently, whipping your thoughts into frenzy as it desperately tries to reach some semblance of ‘normality’ and restore the status quo.

It’s really important to find ways to get outside your head and give yourself a break from its incessant chatter enabling you move into a space of optimism, curiosity and open mindedness. For me this usually means taking more exercise and doing more yoga – honestly, there’s nothing quite like a bit of mind, body and spirit alignment for finding some all-important white space in amongst all that dark fuzzy, tangled stuff!

Keep an open mind
This is a precious chance to allow your ideas to roam, explore new possibilities and make new choices. Some of the best views are to be found at the end of what look like dead-end tracks, so don’t be afraid to follow your curiosity and wander down some unfamiliar paths.

Start a journal
And I know all the above might sound frustratingly passive, so if you’re desperately looking for something to DO at this time here’s my go-to option! Get writing!

Writing has well-documented therapeutic qualities, so get it all out of your head and on to paper…. anything that comes into your head… feelings, ideas, thoughts, dreams, hopes and fears. Write it ALL down. It’s a brilliantly effective way to process your thoughts and gradually sift and refine them into a personally inspiring and meaningful way forward.

This too shall pass

This IS an opportunity – an uninvited and unscripted one, but an opportunity none the less! You may be desperate to find a way out of the fertile void but trust me (and the process) when I say you will not stay here any longer than you need.

Because one thing’s certain, this too shall pass. When you are ready… when it’s time to take action, you will move through the uncertainty of the fertile void and emerge with an understanding that will put you on a path to a fuller, more abundant life.

Are you in the fertile void? Could you benefit from some personal support from someone who knows this terrain well? Contact me for some one to one private help by applying for a Complimentary Clarity Call.

Keep On Keeping On

To say we’re living through ‘strange times’ right now is stating the bloomin’ obvious I know, but that still doesn’t stop me saying it on a regular basis as if I need to keep reminding myself that this utterly weird, challenging situation is actually real and not just a bad dream!

Life as we knew it has changed like never before in peacetime and our current reality is vastly different. This time last year, I was on holiday in Rhodes and I could never, ever, in my wildest imagination have predicted that we would now be under lockdown in the grip of a terrifying global pandemic.

Unprecedented times

Our lives have been turned upside down and, like most of us, I’ve struggled to process everything that’s happened and continues to unfold. Actually, ‘struggled to process’ is a complete understatement – my emotions have been all over the place… stumbling aimlessly between numb incomprehension, overwhelming anxiety and a deep sense of grief and sadness.

‘Change’ of any sort, always presents us with challenges but things have changed beyond all recognition in this weird new Coronavirus reality.

A friend of mine really summed it up for me when she said, ‘nothing’s changed and EVERYTHING’s changed!’

As someone who’s worked from home for many years now, my life hasn’t actually changed that much – I’m still doing what I do from home. I’m still working on what’s left of my business….. still running my business club, still attending networking events (online rather than in person meetings now of course)… still writing blogs like this and still supporting my tribe in a variety of ways that I hope will help. And I’m still doing a daily yoga practice and going for a daily walk in the great outdoors. So from the outside, it appears as though things haven’t really changed that much.

And yet EVERYTHING’S changed….. everything’s so very, very different, isn’t it?

Sitting with uncertainty

So while I am still ‘going through the motions’, the reality is, I’m spinning my wheels in an unfocused and totally unproductive way, while simultaneously giving myself a hard time for not actually DOING anything with all the extra time I’ve got on my hands now!

Above all, I’ve felt totally lost and useless. How on earth can I make decisions when the situation is so uncertain?

Uncertainty is uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable.

Reacting rather than responding

It’s not unusual to react when faced with such a stressful situation – we go straight into survival mode. It’s a natural response to uncertainty and threat but it can have a profound effect on our psychology, leaving us at the mercy of our fluctuating emotions.

But having been in lockdown for over five weeks now, I AM noticing things slowly changing and I’m starting to see this as – dare I say it – an opportunity.

I’m starting to think about where we go from here and daring to think about THE FUTURE….. daring to imagine a new kind of life after Covid-19. It’s given me a chance to pause, take a deep breath and reflect on my place in the world, the purpose of my business, the true contribution I really want to make.

For the first time in a long while I also feel the first stirrings of optimism and excitement about what’s possible. I feel as though I’m no longer just reacting but I’m gradually responding in a more conscious way.

After all, none of us knows what’s going to happen next but we have proved that we are amazingly adaptable, we can do things differently and we can live differently.

It’s not going to be a quick fix that’s for sure and we all need to find our own way through this. It’s different for each of us, and we all need to find and create our own personal support system and this Keep On Keeping On plan is the one I seem to have slowly created for myself.

Practise gratitude

I am extraordinarily lucky. I’ve always known it but now I KNOW it in a way I’ve never known before. And I give thanks daily for the safety and well-being of all those I love most in the world, for the roof over my head, food on the table, a home and a garden to enjoy.

Exercise

What works for me is to start the day with Yoga – if anything is going to put me in a peaceful, Zen frame of mind, it’s a few rounds of Salute to the Sun with a couple of Downward Dogs for good measure!

I’ve now tried a number of different online exercises classes from Zumba to Boxercise and have created a weekly workout timetable. It’s amazing how much fantastic free stuff there is available. And getting out in the fresh air for my daily walk is an absolute must for me.

Make conscious choices at the start of the day

If I don’t have a plan, I find it incredibly easy to fritter the day away but a plan of some sort – no matter how loose – really helps keep me anchored.

My latest ‘conscious choice’ is to re-read this magnificent paperback: Transitions. Making sense of Life’s Changes. If EVER there was a book to read right now THIS is it!

Do SOMEthing for my business every day

I’m currently writing like it’s going out of fashion! I’m making sure I capture all the thoughts and ideas, as they come into my head without putting myself under pressure to do anything with them right now. As long as they are safely stored, I can then relax knowing they’ll be there waiting when the time comes.

I’m also learning new skills, brushing up a few existing ones and working my way through the things in my ‘one day’ file! It feels good to achieve something. I’m being led by my inspiration and some days I feel inspired to do something like write a blog and other days it’ll be a quick social media post…. but no matter what, I’ll always do something. Which brings me to the next thing…..

Be kind to myself

Quite frankly there’s enough going on right now without me beating myself up! It’s really not helping and now I come to think of it, it’s never been a strategy that’s worked for me!

Instead, I’m trying to practice acceptance which means respecting my current place in the process, doing what I can and letting go of the rest.

Serve my community

It’s certainly not business as usual for anyone and with so many in my community feeling anxious, fearful and negative, I can’t just do nothing. So I’m using this time to focus on where I can be of service right now, where I can support and add value by creating free resources and offering free coaching for the duration.

So, this is my ‘Keep On Keeping On’ plan! For now at least. And that’s enough just now. We all need to find our way through this any way we can. As uncertain and scary as things may be at the moment, we WILL get through it and we WILL be all the stronger for it when we reach the other side of it.

So, how about you?

How are you feeling? Have things changed significantly for you? What’s your version of the Keep On Keeping On plan? I’d SO love to hear from you at this time.

It’s different for each and every one of us, and whatever situation you are in, I hope you have love and support around you to keep you safe and well until this passes.

Using a Visual Approach to Thinking and Planning

Given a choice between creating a written plan or a visual plan, I know which one I’d prefer – give me flow charts, mind maps, sketches or any other visual format any day!

A picture is worth a thousand words

When I want to create a new business process or programme, the first thing I do is create a simple visual representation of all the moving parts – or those that I’m aware of – into a format I can see, understand and generally get my head around! Having done that, it’s then SO much easier to start shaping and refining it into the finished article.

Using visuals makes information easier to convey, process, and remember making it an incredibly powerful tool for both thinking and planning and anything that does that gets the thumbs up from me! There are lots of online planning apps out there but for me, I’m happier with coloured pens and paper, a whiteboard or, my all time favourite – post-it notes!  

I’m hoping that by the end of this blog I’ll have convinced you to give it a go!

But first let me reassure you at the outset that this is absolutely nothing to do with being able to draw – simple shapes and icons are all that’s required to get your brilliant (but often woolly) ideas out of your head and onto paper in a format where they can be quickly captured, structured and organised.

Okay, so let’s start by taking a look at some of the many benefits of visual planning.

Visuals help you see the ‘bigger picture’

So often we get stuck simply because we can’t see the wood for the trees and when that happens we wind up lost in the detail…. (should I go with the blue logo or the grey one?) Creating a visual plan literally helps you see the whole picture – often on a single piece of paper – giving you something incredibly important – the big picture overview.

I liken it to creating the picture on the box of a jigsaw rather than blindly trying to piece random bits together – which if you’ve ever tried, is a VERY long-winded approach!

Creating a visual offers a way to express your ideas with speed, flexibility and fluidity, quickly turning those hard to define, fuzzy thoughts into something tangible. And best of all, once you have the overview, you’re then in a brilliant position to tackle some of the harder questions about the direction things are headed and whether the small tasks you’re currently doing all day are steps along the right path.

A fast track to clarity

I’m guessing you’ve got no shortage of thoughts and ideas about your business – it’s knowing what to DO with them all that’s the challenging part! Ideas are fantastic but until an idea actually takes form, well, it’ll remain just an idea! Visual planning is a quick way for you to consolidate your thoughts and ideas into something understandable, accessible and ACTIONABLE.

mindmap

‘I can see it now!’ is often the response I hear from clients when they see their jumble of thoughts clearly represented in front of them!

Thinking visually enables you to get things out of your head and onto the page at lightning speed – there’s no need for padding or waffle in this process! Which if like me, you’re someone who can SO easily get side-tracked by padding and waffle, is a definite bonus!

It reveals new possibilities

Our brains thrive on clarity and a concise, visual overview of your business provides the clarity needed to bring fresh new ideas, opportunities and possibilities to light. It also gives you a sense of objectivity which makes it so much easier to see connections between ideas and processes that might not be so obvious with standard written formats.

Visual roadmaps

If you’re running a business, you need a plan. Full stop. But what if you find planning boring…. or daunting….. or both? Well, this is where visual planning really comes into its own because even the simplest diagrams can help you create a purposeful, step by step action plan – a creative, visual road map clarifying exactly what you need to do to get where you want to go.

Traditional business planning tends to be a linear process but we don’t think in a linear way – well, I certainly don’t! Which is where many of us struggle. Organising information visually is ‘spatial’, allowing our thoughts to flow unhindered, knowing we can easily rearrange things and encouraging us to find creative ways to fit things together and make new connections…. and importantly, get the job done!

More than just pretty pictures

I like to turn standard processes into infographics as a way of enhancing the clarity and effectiveness of information I communicate to my audience in a way that’s both creative and meaningful. And yes, it also makes it more interesting and enjoyable for me!

Take my Client Attraction Guide for example (below) – a 10 step ‘visual roadmap’ I created for my clients showing them the actionable steps to take to start attracting regular clients. (If you’d like to download a copy please feel free to sign up below.)

It’s not about creating pretty pictures (although, I confess I do like to make things look attractive) – it’s a communication tool and an action plan.

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All this and more!

Alongside ALL this, using visuals in your business also helps keep you focused…. helps you retain and share information…. aids brainstorming….. and more besides!

So, there you have it – I hope I’ve made a good enough case for visual thinking and planning for you to give it a try. It’s the quickest way I know of finding solutions and coming up with new ideas and new projects.

Are you up for a challenge?

As with everything, the only way to find out if this is something that will work for you is to give it a try, so I’m throwing down the gauntlet and challenging you to create a simple one-page visual overview of your own.

Create a visual overview of your current business model, showing the journey from complete stranger to paying client and including all the products and services you offer your clients as well as the methods you use to connect with them.

How you choose to do this is entirely up to you, whatever is easiest and makes the most sense to you – post-it notes, a schematic, a mind-map, or hand drawn layout – a simple, concise, visual format that is easy to understand and share.

Once created, take an objective look and I guarantee you’ll ‘see’ all sorts of information to help you move forward – missing parts of your process waiting to be filled…. creative new opportunities for programmes or services…. and more!

I hope you’re inspired to give it a try and who knows – this could completely revolutionise your future business planning. And if it does, remember, you heard it here first!

Let me know your thoughts

Are you a fan of visual thinking and planning? Interested in giving it a try? Happy with traditional planning…. or maybe you have a tried and trusted method of your own to share.

Let me know in the comments below – I’d absolutely love to hear from you!