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

Posted on: April 10, 2016


One of the things that comes up, pretty often, with my clients (and friends, for that matter) are challenges with trying to making a decision or figuring out how to do something. And, sometimes the challenge can feel so big that it stops them from moving forward. They get stuck, feel helpless or frustrated and, ultimately, feel that they are failing, in some particular way, because there is a sense that it should be easier. When they tell me they don’t know what to do, some of the words that come up are stuck, frustrated, helpless and failure. I hear things like “It should be easier,” “there must be something wrong with me,” “I should know how to do this, what’s wrong with me?”

At times, I have also felt this way and, over the years, in business and in my personal life, I’ve learned a few things that have helped alleviate this sense of helplessness and get me unstuck. Here are three that seem to work pretty consistently.

When you don’t know what to do:

1 – Wait

We often put unnecessary pressure on ourselves to make a decision or figure how to do something NOW. But, unless there is an actual, non-negotiable, deadline, what’s the rush? If you take that pressure off yourself, the answer will come. When we don’t allow ourselves to wait, the pressure we put on ourselves can take over and paralyze us, thus preventing us from figuring IT out.  All we can focus on is the not being able to X.

For Example: You have to write a presentation and don’t know where/how to start:

A) You feel anxious and start to fixate on how difficult it is. You spend a few days beating yourself up about not doing it. You sit down and figure it out. You finally do it. You always do.

B) You acknowledge that it’s just not going to happen right now. You see it’s too hard at the moment. You know it will come if let go for a bit. You know this because it has happened before and you know the drill.  You just need to walk away, give yourself some breathing room and then come back. It will be easier when you’re not in your own way.

Do you prefer A or B?

2 – Ask yourself what to do.

Nobody knows you better than you. So, when you are at a crossroad with a decision, why not start by asking yourself what to do? We all have intuition or gut feelings, sometimes it’s stronger than others. We just have to remember that this “gift” we all have is always there to call on.

Think about a time when you’ve done something before you felt ready to do it, or made a decision without really feeling confident or convinced about it. If the outcomes have ever been negative, have you said to yourself,  “I knew I shouldn’t have done that” or “I knew that was going to happen?”

Those reactions are confirmation that your intuition was there but, you didn’t notice or pay attention to it. If you say you knew it would happen after it happened, you are also saying it was there to know before you acted.

So, maybe the next time you are experiencing an “I don’t know what to do” moment, take a minute to ask yourself what to do. Then just wait and listen. You might be surprised at how quickly  the answer comes to you and how definite it is. And, if it doesn’t happen right away, wait and try again later.

3 – Hire someone to help you.

This is something you might want to consider for the on-going challenges. The ones that are keeping you stuck. And, this might be the least preferable option for you because it’s something you have to pay for, and money always seems to be an issue. But, here’s the deal…If whatever decision you’re trying to make or whatever thing you want to do is leaving you in a place of “I don’t know how,” you might need to hire someone who is trained to help in these areas. Otherwise, you are really making the decision to stand still and let days, months, years go by without getting where you want to go.

Acknowledging that you aren’t able to do something and deciding to hire someone to help you is an amazing accomplishment. None of us can do everything. All of us get stuck sometimes. But, by making the decision to enlist the help of a professional, you are making an investment in yourself. You are saying that you are important to you.

My final suggestion, if none of these resonate with you, is to think about a time, in your past, when you’ve come up against this challenge. What helped you find your answer? And, if you care to share, I’d love to hear about it!