What to Do When You Don’t Know What To Do

Jun 4, 2012   //   by Gail Barker   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Imagine this scenario: you wake up in the morning knowing full well that you’ve got a million things to do, more or less. You’re aware that there are tasks to complete, goals to accomplish, things to get started. There’s only one problem; although you know that there are things to do, you actually have no idea what to do NOW. It’s as though your mind is drawing a blank and the only thought filling your brain space is the question, “what should I do?”

One of the things I know for sure is that this scenario is not an uncommon one. I know I’ve been there; I know my friends have been there; I know that YOU’VE been there. Hopefully this scenario isn’t your standard experience. But really, you only need to experience it even once to understand the frustration that accompanies it. This isn’t the “I don’t know what to do” that accompanies a sense of boredom. Instead, this is a genuine uncertainty as to what task requires your attention in this moment, often rooted in a fear of tending to the wrong thing and ignoring something more pressing. There can be a sense of overwhelm. That being said, the “I don’t know” that I’m talking about here can also be rooted in a fog of sorts – a lack of clarity. In either case, the bottom-line is that if you don’t find a way forward sooner rather than later, uncertainty can quickly turn to anxiety. Experience tells me that at it’s core, the challenge of not knowing what to do often lies in one of three things:

a) feeling like you need to know the exact outcome before you start,
b) having too many things on your to-do-list or
c) being focused outward for too long, without taking time to recharge.

So, how do you deal with this? Fortunately, there is a simple – like, really simple – 5-step process for moving forward with ease:

  1. STOP and get still. I know that this seems counter-productive. But rather than continue to spin your wheels, rather than shuffle papers around your desk in an effort to appear industrious, allowing yourself to get really still can actually allow the world around you to catch up to you, to slow down itself, so that your way forward becomes a little clearer.
  2. In the stillness, turn your attention inward briefly; as you go inward, breathe deeply and ground yourself. Let the spinning of the world around you slow down. Now ask yourself, what is your big picture goal? What is it that you’re headed toward?
  3. Once you’re grounded, centered, and silent, and once you’re connected to your big picture goal, begin to turn your attention outward and ask yourself what one thing is calling to you. What’s needed in the world around you? What’s the one task – whether or not you understand it, like it or feel it makes sense – that you could invest some energy in right now that will move you toward your objective?
  4. Begin that one task. It doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t have to be logical, and it doesn’t even have to feel like work. Maybe it’s a nap; maybe it’s time to re-arrange furniture; maybe it’s time to do some shredding; maybe it’s time to make a cup of tea. Whatever you’re called to do, trust your guidance and do that.
  5. Once that task is complete, go back to the first step, get still and silent, and begin again.

Bottom-line: the process of getting unstuck and moving forward can sometimes feel overwhelming. Whether because of uncertainty, lack of a plan or simple overwhelm, working your way through a process of getting still, going inward, slowly turning outward and engaging in one task at a time will get you moving even when you don’t know what to do. Remember, you don’t always have to have the whole journey mapped out; you need only known in your heart what you’re striving for, take one step at a time toward that end, and trust that the path will reveal itself.

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