Host of Fox Television’s "Shelly Palmer Digital Living" Show

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What will you do with the rest of your life?

In response to my post last week entitled “9 Things Every Consultant Should Know,” I’ve received hundreds of emails asking, “How do you choose what to do next?” So here, for better or worse, are my suggestions.

How do you want to spend your day? This seems like a super-simple question. I assure you it is not. The first exercise I suggest you should do is write down your perfect day. You get up, go to the gym, meet your stylist, take a meeting with Steven Spielberg about your next film project, lunch at the Four Seasons, meet with your department heads, stop by your favorite charity and meet with the executive director about the next fund-raiser, head over to the stable to exercise your new horse, meet the Queen for tea, head over to an “A list” cocktail party for some important celebrity, have dinner with your preferred presidential candidate, go home and work on your novel, and on and on. Don’t leave any details out. What car do you drive? Where do you live? Whom do you hang out with? What do you really want? How do you want to spend your day?

The Most Important Question

Two things are important about this list: (1) It’s yours; no one can judge you. This list is about your hopes, your dreams, your life. No one has any right to say anything about it but you. (2) Hold nothing back. It’s a “blue sky” document. This is not a list about your reality. It’s a list about the things you want, the ideas and goals that matter to you, your personal desires and the things that will help you make meaning or add meaning to your life. Do not edit this as you write it – just write it with wild abandon. How do you want to spend your day?

Once you have the list, you will have a very good idea of the things, ideas, needs, and most importantly, wants that your job or career “has” to provide for you. Most people who have made such a list quickly remove things that, when written down, seem meaningless. I can’t tell you which those will be; it’s your list – but there will be some stuff on it that really doesn’t matter. On the other hand, there will be things on it that define your passions and most personal desires. That’s the goal of the exercise.

Your Needs Filter

Now let’s ask the first three questions: What do you want to do? What are you willing to do? What do you have to do? Although these questions are related, they are far from the same. What you want to do is covered by your list. Now, what are you willing to do to get it? Are you willing to work 16-hour days? Are you willing to leave your current job and take a job that pays less than half of what you currently make to accomplish your goals? What sacrifices are you willing to make?

http://www.shellypalmer.com/wp-content/images/2015/06/needs-533x550.png 533w, http://www.shellypalmer.com/wp-content/images/2015/06/needs-100x103.png 100w, http://www.shellypalmer.com/wp-content/images/2015/06/needs-300x310.png 300w, http://www.shellypalmer.com/wp-content/images/2015/06/needs-600x619.png 600w, http://www.shellypalmer.com/wp-content/images/2015/06/needs.png 600w" alt="Your Needs Filter Venn Diagram" class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-74553" style="width:250px" />

And lastly, what do you have to do? We all have hopes and dreams, but life gets in the way. Maybe you have people who depend on your income, or you have a big mortgage and a lifestyle that requires a certain income level. What you have to do may impose limitations, but it is important to identify obstacles that need to be overcome.

Look at the “Want, Willing & Have” Venn diagram. The closer you can get to the center of it, the better your chances of achieving your goals.

Your Focus Filter

The next three questions are equally important: What are you great at? What do you love to do? What will make you the most money?

http://www.shellypalmer.com/wp-content/images/2015/06/focus-533x550.png 533w, http://www.shellypalmer.com/wp-content/images/2015/06/focus-100x103.png 100w, http://www.shellypalmer.com/wp-content/images/2015/06/focus-300x310.png 300w, http://www.shellypalmer.com/wp-content/images/2015/06/focus-600x619.png 600w, http://www.shellypalmer.com/wp-content/images/2015/06/focus.png 600w" alt="Your Focus Filter Venn Diagram" class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-74554" style="width:250px" />

If you are going to work for a living in the Information Age, you are going to find the most profitable way to translate the value of your intellectual property (IP) into wealth. You can do this by renting your brain to someone who needs what you know, or you can use the IP to work for yourself, but regardless of the structure, the job is the same. What are you great at? What do you have a reasonable expectation of being the “best in the world” at? You’ve been in business for a while, you have skills – what are they?

Next, honestly describe what you love to do. This should be directly related to the first list you made. You may love to bake cookies (which your friends tell you are the best in the world). You may love to fish or go boating. You may love to sing or dance. It doesn’t matter what it is. This is your life, your list, your passion. What do you love to do?

Finally, what will make you the most money? You may be the world’s foremost expert on processing insurance forms, but is it what will pay you the most? What skills do you have or what knowledge do you possess that others are most willing to pay for?

Getting close to the center of this Venn diagram is the key to maximizing your potential.

The Final Exercise

After you have made your list and asked yourself the six questions, you may still be confused about next steps. My suggestion is to take the list of things, ideas, wants and desires and next to them, list the required resources. If you want to drive a $100,000 car, you’ll need the money to buy or lease it. If you want to work for a charity organization, you’ll need the time to volunteer. If you want to write a book, you’ll need to spend time writing. If you’re like most people I know, you will quickly realize that many of the items on your list are actually already in practical reach. This exercise will also help you focus your energy on what really matters to you and will point you in a general direction.

Some Personal Advice

There is nothing more personal, more private or more important than your answers to these questions. Do yourself a favor and do not ask other people what they think of your wants and needs. This is one of the few things you will ever do where your opinions are the only ones that matter. I don’t know if this exercise will change your future, but I do know that going through it will put you in touch with who you really are and what you really want. And, it may help you think through “What’s next?” Good luck.

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Shelly Palmer is the host of Fox Television’s "Shelly Palmer Digital Living" television show about living and working in a digital world. He is Fox 5′s (WNYW-TV New York) Tech Expert and the host of United Stations Radio Network’s, MediaBytes, a daily syndicated radio report that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment.