Have you ever felt totally lost? Could be literally or figuratively. Well, a couple weeks ago I was in IKEA in the Home Office department looking for a new desk. Most of the items on display seemed to be out of stock because of supply chain issues. Surprisingly, I found a very nice and extremely helpful man to look online and find out if what I wanted was in stock… and it wasn’t. He said he’d call me when it came in. Thanks to his help, I had a pleasant shopping experience even though I didn’t get what I came for.

And then I tried to leave.

Have you ever tried to GET OUT of that store?! This is What I Learned About Life by Getting Lost in IKEA.

I think people have made comedy videos about this, and I’m here to say it’s true! You can’t get out! I followed the markings on the floor and wound around and around the store, through Lighting and Pillows and Living Rooms, et cetera, et cetera. And then I saw a sign overhead that read: “Shortcut to Exit.”

I whizzed in that direction and suddenly found myself back in the Home Office department. I tried the same thing again—the perfect definition of insanity—and, again, I ended up in the Home Office department.

Finally, I found a salesperson and asked, rather frantically at this point, how I could get out of the store. I had visions of the whole place closing for the night and there I’d be, still in Pillows! He said I should head toward the Restaurant, and I’d find an escalator there. I got to the Restaurant. No escalator.

Good news: I finally got out of IKEA.

So, what did I learn about what to do when one feels lost?

This question is important to me because many of the women I work with are feeling lost. At 55 or older, some are facing an empty nest and have no idea what to do next. Some have been laid off and are wary of the job market for older women. Some are still in jobs—in some cases, pretty big jobs—but they’re starting to sense that it’s no longer enough.

All these women have two things in common: they know they want to do something meaningful, and they’re feeling lost at the moment with no idea what to do next. (Take the shortcut? Look for the Restaurant? Jump into a pile of pillows?).

Here is What I Learned About Life by Getting Lost in IKEA:

1) Ask for help.

It might not work, but it will give you ideas you didn’t have before. Having found the Restaurant, I knew I could at least sit down and eat.

2) Relax.

This often is easier said than done, but we simply don’t do our best thinking when we’re tense. Do some deep breathing. Go for a walk. Have something soothing to drink. (Not alcohol… that won’t help even though it seems as if it will.)

3) After you’re feeling calmer, do a careful inventory of your talents, skills, experience, and particularly the things you really like to do and are good at.

Take your time with this, and ask someone close to you for help. We don’t always see our most outstanding talents. Having calmed down a bit, I realized that I had my phone with me and could call a friend to come and find me if it really became necessary.

4) Stay open to all possibilities, not just the things you’ve done up to this point in time.

What got you where you are now won’t necessarily get you where you want to go. Don’t be like me and keep following the same arrows around and around the store.

5) Try not to get fixated on designing one perfect outcome.

There may not be one perfect outcome. And if you find yourself doing something you don’t like and decide it’s not for you, you can always try something else. I was fixated on finding the door I’d entered through because I wasn’t sure I’d find my car if I used a different exit, and this caused me to miss other routes I could have taken.

6) And remember: if we’re growing and learning, there will be times we feel lost.

The very best thing to do when this happens is to get curious about what might be next. If I had just looked around a bit more, I might have seen pre-holiday sales that would have made excellent gifts.  I could have saved time later by doing my holiday shopping then.

Good luck! Hopefully What I Learned About Life by Getting Lost in IKEA will help you in the future. (BTW, IKEA makes great mac and cheese)!

The Prime Spark Membership Community is designed for women 55 (or close) and older to support one another, learn and grow together, and further the mission of Prime Spark. Membership is closed for 2021. If you’re interested in joining in 2022, please send an email to [email protected] and ask to be placed on the waitlist.

Sara Hart, PhD, is an author, speaker, and coach. She is leading the charge to change how older women are seen and treated in our society. She is the creator of Prime Spark, a movement to transform how women over 55 take responsibility for their futures. Sara is the author of three books. She also has over forty years’ experience in leadership development, coaching, and building thinking environments. She was director of training and development for a Fortune 100 company and executive director of the Institute for Women and Technology. To learn more about claiming your power as a senior woman, visit Prime Spark today!