In our Western society, many of us get to dream and set goals and wish for things to be better. We are warm in fall, fully clothed in winter, enjoy the sun in summer and get to do spring cleaning in a place we can call home.

This means that we get to think big or small and have desire to create. We get to have visions and projects because we feel safe to voice our opinions and nourished enough to be able to think of possibilities that do not yet exist. We get to believe in ourselves because someone once, or many people twice, believed that we could get here.

And now that you’re here, now what?

If you have indeed allowed yourself to set some objectives for yourself, you inevitably find yourself with yet another goal achieved, hurdle passed, vision conquered, at some point.

At that point, as you are in the presence of your most recent achievement, you may, like many of us, ask, “Great, now what?”

This question seems to come up for many of us in moments of triumph.

It may simply be because many of us have been culturally socialized in our culture to look into the next horizon or to follow through till “you have everything.” These are, of course, simplified potential origins of our “now what?” culture. And worth digging into in a different post!

For the purposes of this post, we will explore potential other sources for the reasons we do this, focusing more on the process of experiencing those mixed feelings of “Great, now what?”

Potential reasons for our “Great, now what?” go-to statement

This mixed statement — “Great (i.e., ‘I’m proud, happy and grateful), now what (i.e., I’m feeling anxiety and even sadness about this step and the next ones)?” — is worth exploring. For example, it may be that not feeling as accomplished, excited, proud, happy or relieved as you should be feeling around your most recent feat — doesn’t mean that you don’t feel all of those things. It may just mean that you are feeling them AND that other feelings take over or overshadow them. You may, in those moments, become acutely aware of the attainments that are not yet yours, and this awareness, like most things in life, is for better and for worse. Strictly speaking, you may, by default, go very soon into planning your next step, which on the one hand, could be a guiding force towards an important vision, while on the other, could easily be in your way of being present to what you HAVE already accomplished. It is likely that it’s a both/and situation, where your most recent achievement propels you to move joyfully and confidently forward, while simultaneously not allowing you to be present to what has been obtained so far, regardless of what is to come, or what you would like to come.

What are your mixed feelings trying to tell you?

Another possible explanation may be due to an experience related to free association, where one memory or sensation begins a chain reaction in our minds to any related topics. This initial memory or emotion activate related memories, feelings, and events that have been in some way linked to the original one. Specifically, it may be that the mixed feelings are about a part of you that wakes up when you reach certain landmarks. It may be a part of you of which you’re not conscious most of the time. It may be a part of you that you don’t allow to come out and play most of the time, so it’s grabbing for the opportunity to make an appearance when you’re feeling elated after an emotional triumph. It may simply want to tell you, “Good for you, you’re okay, you’re doing fine.”

Alternatively, it may want to say, “Good for you! Now, what about that dream you told me about when you were 13? Are you ever going to make it happen?? Since you clearly can make things happen, what’s up with that?”

You may not need to do anything more than just listen to that voice and move forward with whatever it is that you’re doing. Or, you may need to give yourself some time to reminisce about what it was at 13 that made sense to you, and whether or not, or how you may still need to meet that vision.

Allowing it to talk to you may bring up anything that makes sense to you right now, so it can’t hurt. If nothing else, it could just remind you that you are bigger than your goals, than your hurdles, than your heartbreaks, than all of those times when your hard work had not paid off and those times when it had.

I hope you dance

It seems that when we give ourselves permission to pursue our goals, we should also then allow ourselves to sit with both our accomplishments as well as our grief for what we have not pursued (yet or forever) and with the ways in which we may still want to honor those aspirations.

The point is that next time we experience ourselves come at our latest goal, it may be worth our time (and mind) to allow all of these emotions in, and discover some old truths, ambitions and losses that have not yet been processed.

It doesn’t mean that we should try and stop ourselves from promptly beginning to envision how we use our latest accomplishment to pursue the next one, but it also doesn’t mean we don’t let the other stuff come in. And perhaps most importantly — it doesn’t mean that we don’t still celebrate and acknowledge our arrival at the currently set destination. We should still definitely do our naked kitchen dance of success. We should definitely still sing our song of triumph in the shower.

The other thing it means is that we should allow ourselves the more silent dance of stillness and presence to the confusion and “mixed-feelings-ness” of it all. It may even bring up a whole new exhilarating goal we had never even considered, as well as a peace of mind around the gaps between the things achieved and those that have not, as well as those that may never be. I’m told it’s all part of growing up.



Eva received her Psy.D. degree from the California Institute of Integral Studies. She embraces considerations from mostly a relational orientation, along with implementation of psychodynamic, Time-Limited Dynamic Therapy, and behavioral concepts. Eva is specifically interested in utilizing her clients’ stories of transitional periods and their perception of self (their personal myths) – as a vehicle to discover new possibilities for thought and action.