Down-time this summer is important. Just look at how stressed high school students and their parents  are.

I don’t know about you, but some of my greatest moments of clarity have come as I’ve laid on a beach, sat on a rock, climbed a steep trail or just took the time to be quiet despite the havoc and confusion of life around me. For me, down-time is important.

So, with some summer down time coming, why not spend a little of your downtime exploring “What’s Next” for you?

Books are a natural place to start. Amazon is filled with self-help and improvement books that help you answer the “What’s Next?” question. I have tons of these books on my bookshelf and nightstand, and I’ll bet you’ll see beaches and airports filled with people reading them this summer.

But when I think of answering “What’s Next?”, I’m also thinking about something much more fundamental…satisfaction with where I am, and where I want to go.

Clinical psychology has taught us that the path to satisfaction… answering the “What’s Next” question on a much deeper level… first involves having a deep understanding of yourself…your personality, your strengths, challenges and your unique talents and skills.

Most of us, whether adults or students, haven’t had the luxury of time to really explore this deeper aspect of our self nor connect it to ideas about what might be next for each of us. We’ve had to divide our attention between school, work, family and other outside commitments.

This summer, you’re likely to have a bit more time for focus on you and your answer to “What’s Next?”. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your journey:

  1. Unplug from online and other media that usually just make noise rather than inform. You’ll recognize them… they’re the one’s that work so hard to get your attention, share information and suck up your time. Whatever is happening on these platforms can wait awhile and will certainly be there when you come back.
  2. Take action to discover who you are. One product, Strengths for Success, can help you understand your personality type, strengths, challenges and unique talents and skills. It then helps you understand how to leverage all of this into educational and career directions where you’re more likely to fit, and be satisfied. It’s easy, fun and inexpensive.
  3. Beware of free “personality type” tools. There are a bunch of them out there that usually just scratch the surface but provide little insight or guidance. Worse yet, they are really ways for their sponsors to get you in their database.
  4. Plan for quiet time. Stop everything and just be in the moment. You’ll be surprised at what pops up.
  5. Set aside time every day to reflect on where you are in life, where you want to go and steps you can take to get there. Make a list of your ideas and revisit it every two weeks. When you’re reviewing your list, cull it down to the top three-four ideas that make sense and interest you.
  6. Have fun. This kind of self discovery can be fun and really rewarding. That’s a good thing, right?

As an aside, if you’re high school or college student, or the parent of one, you should know there’s been a ton of research done in education on what makes the difference between someone persisting to graduation and someone who struggles, all other factors (socio economic, cultural, etc.) being equal.

It turns out that one of the major factors is whether the student has an idea for a career in mind. Those that do tend to persist, those that don’t tend to struggle.

No doubt about it, we all need our down-time to recharge and refresh… and summer is a great time for this. It can also be a great time to step back, relax and let your future reveal itself to you.