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

Image by SplitShire from Pixabay

We all have times when we don’t know what to do. Maybe you’re in limbo and all you can do is wait. It could be that you’re in new territory and you don’t have a map. Perhaps you’re overwhelmed and can’t think straight. Maybe none of the things you want to do are realistic options.

When those times happen, it’s good to have a strategy so that you don’t stay stuck. Here are some ideas.

Self Care

When things get tough, many people cope by going to sleep later, waking up earlier, skipping healthy meals, giving up meditation and exercise to make time for other people and other things. We put ourselves last. This is a great way to collapse!

I know you know that we all serve best from a full vessel, but it can be hard to do this when things are falling apart around you. You’ve got to put self care first. This is especially true if you are the type of person who holds up the world for other people. Don’t go down with the ship. Take care of you.

Maybe this means taking a warm bath, giving yourself time to read a book, spending time with friends, sleeping 8 hours, or saying no.

Slow Down

When things get rough, we often forced to slow down. If we choose this, it’s easier to take.

Choosing to slow down is also a way of conserving energy, being thoughtful, and avoiding shutting down. It can be tempting to stay in bed with the covers over your head and shut the world out. An object in motion tends to stay in motion. If we shut down, it’s a lot harder to get going again. So be purposeful in your slowing down so that you’re still in the game, just at a much reduced rate.

This can look like backing away from social engagements, leaving early, breathing more, savoring each moment, and literally moving slower.

Make Something

Creating things is a way of transforming stuck energy into creative energy. As long as energy is moving somewhere in life, we tend to be more hopeful and alive. Now, you might say, “I’m not good at that sort of thing.” If so, think outside of the box. We all make things all the time.

What about making a meal? A painting? You could make someone laugh. How about playing or singing  a song? Or a dance? Or what about making up a story? You could make something useful that you’ve been meaning to do for a long time, like sewing something. Or creating a new barn.

Busy hands take your mind off things. What we create gives us a sense of purpose as well. This is a great thing to do when we don’t know what to do.

Play

Sometime we get really focused on being productive or doing things that are meaningful. We forget to play. “Play” is doing something with no purpose and no desired outcome. It’s a great way to stimulate creativity. It can open up new ideas for how to be unstuck, but don’t do it for that reason. That makes it work. Just do it for the fun of it.

Love Something/Someone

Having something or someone to love makes the in-between times bearable. Are you passionate about hiking, origami, or perfume making? Do that. Do you have a kitty or dog to squeeze? Cuddle with them. Or maybe you lean into your partner, family, or friends.

Lighting the darkness with love creates balance. Sometimes the darkness is a necessary part of transition. We can make it easier with love.

Clean Something

Order and chaos are partners. When things seem stagnant or out of control, we can do our bit by cleaning something. If it’s a big job, focus on a small piece. Maybe you clean your desk or your car. Or maybe you remodel your whole house! Cleaning creates space for energy to move, so you may see options that you didn’t see before. Maybe you’re not as stuck as you thought.

Remember that everything passes. This will too. All you have to do is keep moving.

Don’t Stay Stuck in the If…. Then… Hamster Wheel

hamster wheel

The theme of the week is if/then thinking. I even got caught up in it myself. “If/then” is when you say something like If this happens, then I will do that. A variation is when this happens, then I will do that. Sometimes it makes sense. “If the weather is clear, I will play volleyball” is a good example. While you could play volleyball in the rain, most of us don’t want to do that.

When you’re using it ineffectively, it becomes a hamster wheel to keep you stuck. Here are some examples of when it doesn’t really work well.

  • If you respect me, I will respect you.
  • I won’t be open and honest until you do.
  • When I feel confident, then I will do it.
  • If I win a million dollars, then I will follow my dreams.

This is a hamster wheel because what you are wanting is some guarantee of safety before you act. You’re waiting for something outside of your control to give you a green light before you go. It’s a passive approach to life that most likely leads to frustration, disappointment, and powerlessness.

If You Respect Me, I Will Respect You

Let’s look at the first one. This one is an example of values. Would you give someone else control over what you value? You are doing that if you adopt the belief that people don’t get respect unless they give it. Respect is about you, not the other person. Respectful people value manners and want to reflect that others are worthy individuals. Even when people aren’t acting as their highest and best selves, they can still be worthy people.

When we treat people as not worthy, they are more likely to live up to your expectations. Being kind encourages peace, interdependence, and positive regard. Showing respect gives people the benefit of the doubt that they are having a bad moment. It doesn’t judge them as bad, unworthy people. If you are a respectful person, show respect. It doesn’t matter what other people do. Your behavior is a reflection of you, not them.

I Won’t Be Open and Honest Until You Do

Someone has to go first. If both people are waiting for the other to lead, nothing will happen. You could have a lot in common that deepens the relationship, but since neither is willing to speak, that doesn’t get discovered. If you want openness and honesty, give it. It will show others how to share space with you. If they don’t open up to you, that’s their choice. That gives you more information about who and where they are. This is honest too.

Being open and honest is more about you than someone else. This says to the world, “I am okay with me. I am okay with showing people who I am. Love me. Appreciate me. Or don’t, but let it be because you’ve really seen me and not some mask of me.” We all want that. We all have the power to give ourselves that.

When I Feel Confident, Then I Will Do It

Confidence comes from doing a thing over and over again until it’s smooth and easy. The more you risk and succeed, the more confidence you will have because you learn skills along the way. Maybe you learn that not succeeding is not the end of the world, so that gives you confidence to try again. Or maybe you learn that you miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take. So you learn to go for it. Everything is an opportunity to learn something. The more you learn, the more confident you will be when encountering new situations because knowledge can be applied to many different situations.

So when you’re scared, be scared. Then do it anyway. The process of being in the game will either help you to succeed or give you feedback to do better the second time.

If I Win a Million Dollars, Then I Will Follow My Dream

Your dream is worthy of you right now. Waiting for something outside of your control to happen probably means you won’t ever achieve it. If it’s your dream, doesn’t it deserve a shot at becoming reality? Maybe now is not the best time. Maybe you can’t do it all the way you want to. But you could start moving energy towards it in small ways. You could do research, save money, work in a related field. Dreaming is not creating. Creating requires commitment and energy. Along the way you may find that you really can do it. Or maybe you figure out that it wasn’t such a great dream for you after all. If you sit back and wait for a fairy to sprinkle magic dust on you, you’ll probably die with regret wondering “what if.”

When you have an if/then moment, ask yourself if you really want the “if” part to hold you back. Is it practical? Is it realistic? If it’s a matter of convenience or comfort, do you want to let that keep you on the hamster wheel. Or do you want to get off and make something wonderful happen?

If You’re Stuck, Try What’s Behind Door Number Three

door number three

When we are stuck, we can almost always see two options. The first is the “obvious” one that involves change. The second is doing what we’ve always done. For some reason change isn’t appealing. Usually it involves a compromise with some gains and some losses, and the losses are more than we really want to accept. Doing what we’ve always done doesn’t make us happy either, so we can just stay stuck in a swirl of non-action.

There is another option. If you’re stuck, try what’s behind door number three. Door number three is the option that requires you to fix the problem. This is usually the choice that results in a win/win. Let me show you an example.

Should I stay or should I go?

Door #1: Stay. Things aren’t great. That’s why you are asking the question. Yet, staying means that you don’t have to tell anyone you’re leaving. You don’t have to go to the trouble of leaving. Feeling those unpleasant emotions is avoided. You can also avoid the uncertainty involved with starting fresh. There is no change, but there is no further discomfort either.

Door #2: Go. You get out of your current situation, but the new one may have other problems. These can be known or unknown.

Door #3: Fix the problem, then decide.

Change Yourself

“The problem” is almost always going to involve your attitude towards the issue. We can all change our attitude by adopting an attitude of acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation, agreement, or liking something. It’s just a resolve to stop fighting against it. It’s about taking on an air of non-judgment. Sometimes just giving up the fight is enough to resolve the issue.

The problem is rarely about someone else. It’s almost always about the way you are responding to someone else. Everyone has a right to live as they want to live. So do you. If you don’t like it, or if their choices aren’t in alignment with what you want or your values, you don’t have to accept their choices. You will function better if you accept that they are who they are, and they did what they did.

Reframe Your Rules

Sometimes the problem involves a conflict in values. Using the “should I stay or should I go” question, your choice can look like choosing between like breaking a sacred vow and staying miserable. If this is the case, look for your invisible rules. Your invisible rules allow you to make meaning of things. If leaving an unhappy situation means that you’re a liar or oath breaker, and you see yourself as an honest person, of course you don’t want to go against that! We all want to be consistent with our values.

If you reframe your rules, your meaning will change too. Be careful not to compromise your values though! This always leads to misery.

Let me give you an example of how this might work. Instead of saying that leaving your relationship makes you an oath breaker, you could say (if it’s true) that leaving allows you to be honest with your partner and yourself about how you really feel now. This perspective allows you to continue feeling like your an honest person.

On the other hand, you could change the meaning of staying. This one is easy. If you start with an attitude of acceptance and nonjudgment, the feeling of misery goes away. You could look at your situation as one of service and delight in the service. This is a great solution if you highly value contribution. You could look at staying as a means to stay connected which is awesome if you value love. Or you could say that staying is a way to stay safe, and appreciate what you have instead of looking at what you don’t have.

Do Something Different

Sometimes it’s not about attitude or rules. It’s about skills or applying skills. When this is the case, it’s time to do something different. The old way isn’t working. It’s time to try something new. If you’ve tried counseling to resolve the issue, maybe try a different therapist, different approach, or drop counseling altogether. If you’ve tried capitulating to keep the peace, maybe it’s time to try being assertive. Perhaps you tried controlling or manipulating things. Maybe it’s time to give that up. Or maybe you just don’t know what to do.

It could be time to upgrade your skills. There are many people out there teaching many things. We can all get better at everything. There is no limit to what we can do. Learning new ideas and skills is always going to give you more options.

If you’re just not applying what you know, perhaps a new approach is what you need. Find a buddy to help you. Accountability is a great tool. If checklists work to motivate you, try that. If you need to fine yourself in some way for missing deadlines, do that. At some point you have to decide whether the change you desire is really worth it or not. If it is, make it happen. If it isn’t, surrender to the idea that staying where you are is better than changing. It may not create change, but it will resolve the uncertainty.

The key to getting out of being stuck is to see other options. Start with door number three. If you need to create a door number four, five, and six, go for it. When you do your work, you almost always find an Effective solution.

How You Do Anything is How You Do Everything

how you do anything

When you are in need of a solution and don’t know what to do, remember that how you do anything is how you do everything. This can do one of two things for you. It can either help you figure out what got you stuck, or it can help you get unstuck. How?

Well, we are habitual creatures. We don’t meet each situation with new eyes or new skills. We employ the same thinking and same skills with situation A as we do situation G. Really, it’s true. If you are wake up grouchy in the morning, you probably do that regardless of where you are, what time you get up, or what time you went to bed. If you tend to take responsibility when something goes wrong at work, you probably do that in your relationship, in sports, and in your finances. If you keep a tidy car, your office, home, and garage are probably neat too. We are the sum of our habits.

So, take a look at what is not working well in your life right now. Now apply the “How you do anything is how you do everything” statement to it to see what you contributed to making it that way. How was your attitude towards this thing? Were your priorities lined up in such a way to keep things balanced? Did you allow an outside influence too much power? Did you follow through? Did you ask for help? Were you true to your values? Did you speak your mind? Did you create healthy boundaries? These are just a few of the things that can show up that can help you see how you habitually move in the world.

So, let’s say you do this and figure out that the habit that got you unbalanced is lack of self-care. So bring your awareness to how you care for yourself. Where do you cut corners? What do you skip? What do you tell yourself when you are not making this a priority. It’s not about making a check list of self care tasks that you hold yourself accountable for. It’s more about the underlying drive that makes you either do those tasks or not do those tasks.

Perhaps you discover that your belief is that you think everyone else is more important than you. So the “how you do anything” is you do everything as if you are inferior or second tier.

The next step is to ask yourself who do you want to be? If this were me, I’d want to be someone who sees himself as equal to all others. So, if that were true, I’d have to do for myself what I would do for others. If I move through life like a person who loves himself as much as others, this will do far more for me than completing items on a checklist because this permeates my entire life! I’d be kinder to myself in many ways. As you go through your life, treat yourself like you are as important and valuable as everyone else. I would bet that within a short period of time, you will see that original problem fade into the background.

Correcting ineffective habits is a really easy way to create a healthier, happier life. Once established, habits are self-sustaining. We just do them over and over again, so you get great bang for your buck. With a little mindfulness and effort, you could have a whole new life in a short time. Why not give it a try?

When in Doubt, Love It Out

heart

heart

Everyone has moments (days, years?) when they just don’t know what to do. When in doubt, love it out. Love is never wrong. The effect can sometimes be instantaneous, and what you send out comes back to you.

If someone has done you wrong, love it out. It doesn’t matter that they were wrong. It doesn’t matter if they “don’t deserve” your love. It doesn’t even matter if they don’t love you. It’s not about them. It’s about you. Being in a place of doubt creates fear. Fear leads to shutting down your energy flow and making poor decisions. Love keeps the energy open and flowing and leads to a clearer head. A clearer head usually results in more effective decisions. This can create a solution that leaves you and the person who wronged you in a better space.

If your problems are more practical, say, you don’t know what to major in or you don’t know where to find a job, the answer is still “love it out.” When your doubt comes from not knowing what path to choose, there is usually a conflict between the conscious and unconscious or perhaps a conflict of values. Using the intellect to answer those questions probably won’t work so well. Open the heart. The heart knows the truth. Send love to yourself and listen to the answer.

What if the problem is loss? The answer is still to love it out. Feelings of loss focus on the past and what is no longer true. This creates a reality that you are powerless to change. Love exists in the present. It opens up feelings of appreciation for what was rather than mourns what is no longer. It helps your mind to grasp that endings are always also beginnings. Love helps those new beginnings to flourish.

What if the problem is a lack of faith in yourself? Love yourself. Heroes are made from ordinary men and women every day. Nobody knows what they are capable of until they are tested. You are stronger than you know. You just need the opportunity to prove it. Take it. Self-love will give you the drive to do what you need to do. It will propel you out of where you are so that you can get to where you want to be.

Love is the opposite of everything that makes us stuck. It is open (not shut down), giving (not withholding), fearless (not fearful), and intuitive (not intellectual). It surrenders. It doesn’t try to control. It’s honest, not delusional. It’s present, not stuck in the past or somewhere far in the future. It can get you through anything.

Do it. Don’t stop loving until the pain is gone and it’s no longer an effort to do it. When you get there, I think you will find that not only is life a lot easier, you will have gotten so much in return that you won’t want to stop.