What To Do When You Don’t Know Where To Start – The Brain Dump

Recently a friend asked what I do to help my clients who are considering starting their own business.  This is what I told her.

So you want to start your own business, but you don’t know what you want to do.  All you really know is that you are done working for “the man” but you don’t know where to begin…

Start with a Brain Dump! It’s my go to exercise for de-cluttering thoughts, organizing my many ideas, and regaining clarity in order to re-focus.

The Brain-Dump:

Grab a few pieces of paper. Yes, you read it right… paper and pencil or a pen. Lined or blank…  just sneak a few sheets from the nearest printer ;-).  There is something quite different about the connection you make to your thoughts when you are actually writing by hand.  It stimulates the brain and helps with creativity and clarity.

Start with making 3 columns. Give each one a header. In the case of our first question, for example… let’s use the following:


Column 1 – Things I really hate doing.


Column 2 – Things I may not love, but I am very good at.


Column 3 – Things I Love to Do!!


Now, go to a quiet place or put on your headphones to block the outside world off for a bit… quiet your mind.

I always suggest starting with the things you hate, because these often the things we focus on. Time to let those go.  They say writing them down is a way of releasing them.  For example, I hate math… so for me, that and anything mathematically related, would automatically go in to the first column.

Give it a little time, and before you know it, you’ll be writing away. You don’t need to write sentences, just a word or two.  You can be specific if you like.

You might also find that you begin to move things… cross them off and put them under a different column. You might even start to break things down… micro-sort your thoughts. Whatever it takes, just go for it. There are no right or wrong ‘answers’… the important thing is get it all down on that paper.  Don’t over analyze.

* This is a terrific exercise to use whenever you are faced with unsettling questions or tough decisions.


Now, let’s get back to figuring out what you want to do when you grow up.


Next Steps:

1. Take the list of all the things you LOVE to do.

2. Now, make a list of what you guess that other people think you are good at?
If you don’t know, why don’t you run a poll. Nothing complicated. Call some of your former or current colleagues.  Let them know you are considering a career change…
Ask a group of friends out for coffee (* My favourite), or send a quick email… (and don’t forget to tell them to check their spam folder).   You get the point!

3. Ask the hard question.  Do you have the skills to support yourself in what you love? 
For example, you may love love love flying, but are you a licensed pilot?

4. Last, do you feel inspired when you do this ‘thing’? This is extremely important! If you are going to put your heart and soul into this endeavour, you need to feel passionate about it… you need to feel alive!  Nothing gives you greater energy than passion!

I’d love to hear from you. Is brain-dumping an exercise you’ve done before? If you have already developed your business, did you know what you wanted to do right away, or did you go through a similar process?

Stay tuned for the next steps…