After 10 years in business, Jason Van Orden hit a plateau  Despite having a hit podcast, a massive audience, and a successful online business, something wasn’t right. He’d built a life and business he no longer wanted.

Today, Van Orden is a digital brand strategist for thought leaders. He helps his clients amplify their reach and diversify their income streams. But getting to this point wasn't a clear or linear path.

Today he shares with us what he did to get unstuck and how he built a business that was more aligned with his values. Here are his 4 tools for gaining clarity and confidence when things feel foggy.

1. Follow your jealousy

“Jealousy is a clue for something we wish we were doing," says Van Orden. 

He recommends thinking of 5 people who inspire you or whose businesses or bodies of work you admire. Under each name, write four bullet points addressing what about them makes you jealous and what about them inspires you.

This is your first clue to discovering what you actually want.

2. Discover why people worked with you

The next tool Van Orden recommends is to have real-life conversations with three different kinds of people: the market that you used to serve, your peers, and people you’ve worked with closely.

The outcome of these conversations is threefold. First, you’ll uncover unmet needs and pain points that can lead to new business ideas. Second, you’ll get more insights and direct feedback about why people did business with you (which helps you better understand your value proposition). 

And, third, it reminds you that you’re not alone. Your peers will validate that you’re not the only one who gets stuck. It happens to all of us.

3. Reignite your curiosity

If you’re feeling foggy, cloudy, and unclear on what your next steps are, looking away is often the best solution. Giving yourself time and space to explore your curiosity can help you reignite the passion you had when you first started.

It also provides more clues about what you want, what you care about, and where you might go next.

Take a class, explore, do things that aren’t related (directly) to business, but pique your curiosity.

4. Think like a scientist and test your hypothesis

Instead of thinking of your vision and strategy as something concrete that will “hit you” like a bolt of lightning, Van Orden recommends thinking of them like an experiment. “What’s your hypothesis right now? Then go conduct your experiment. There is no definitive answer, you need to think like a detective."

Van Orden wanted to sell a $5,000 product without a launch. His challenge was to figure out how; so he turned it into an experiment. He tested different approaches to see what worked (or didn’t) and validated his hypothesis.  It took time, but he eventually figured out how he could find someone to pay him for a day of his time for $5,000.

Clarity doesn’t strike, it unfolds 

"At a certain point, the mist has cleared and you start to see the breadcrumbs behind you,” says Van Orden. You have to put together the breadcrumbs piece by piece; there is no silver bullet.

“People want a quick fix,” but Van Orden says “the only way is by moving through the fog. The good news is you don’t have to reach clarity in order to feel better, find fulfillment, and start shaking free of the grind and energy drain.”

You just have to get started and clarity unfolds itself slowly over time.  

"We want momentum and confidence. By virtue of trying something, moving forward, and learning, [your] confidence go[es] up in increments.” Moving slowly through the fog using these tools starts paying off right away. Plus, Van Orden says, "it can be fun."

Published on: May 20, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.