What to do when you don’t know what to do?

Hi everyone. I’m back again, after an age and wanted to share what’s been going on with me and my thoughts on the wider world.

These are the best of times and these are the worst of times. The worst of times because I know many people are struggling with fear and seems to be a mood nearing paralysis all over the world. This is reflected in the “stuckness” at the highest levels in government and public agencies that we’ve seen recently. Many regular folks including myself have been dealing with a feeling of being stuck and not knowing what steps to take. Personally speaking, I’ve been afraid of making a mistake or taking the “wrong” step – what would happen then?!? I hear this all the time, people tell me they’re scared and feel inadequate because they are not sure that they know enough or can control the fallout of their actions (or inaction) and they choose to stay put rather than make a mistake.

These are also the best of times in many ways – the world is changing radically, old political structures are collapsing globally, economic monoliths are crumbling and there is a mood of “enough is enough” that’s spreading all over the world. Change is afoot on a massive scale and we are all seeing and experiencing these transitions personally and collectively. So how are these the best of times??? Well change means we can embrace a different way and choose to let go of old habits, behaviours and paths that we are dissatisfied with and choose again. These changes are an opportunity to reflect on what’s really important for us as individuals and if we choose to, to decide on a new path for ourselves. If we choose to. I remember seeing something on TV a while ago, where a couples house burnt down. Obviously they were devastated as they’d lost pretty much everything. However they eventually re-grouped and rebuilt their house again, brick by brick. Their “new” house was many, many times better than their “old” one and they both agreed it had all been worth it, painful as it was.

How can we do what’s right when we don’t know what to do? How can we choose a better way for ourselves? Well what I’ve learnt is that it’s important to so something, anything, no matter how small or insiginificant in order to avoid getting stuck and succumb to inertia. For example, I might not be able to sort out the huge crisis I’m dealing with, but I can take small steps and sort out my cupboard, make sure I go to the gym regularly, keep myself in a positive state by reading uplifting material and spending time with friends and family.

If you’re feeling stuck and alone and simply haven’t a clue what to do – take heart – you are definitely not alone!!! People all over the world are experiencing the same feeling and dealing with similar situations. So what can you do to make a little progress?

First of all, remember that you don’t have to sort out everything this red hot minute. You will eventually figure it out, one step at a time, just stay with it. This too will pass and things will work out eventually.

Secondly, check out your body – how are you sitting/standing? Make sure you stand tall or sit straight, your shoulders are not hunched and your’re not leaning back or forwards – centre yourself. Adopt a confident body posture, even if you don’t feel very confident. The change in stance will help you shift your mindset and emotional state. Hold your new, confident posture, chin up, looking forward and take a few deep breaths till you feel better.

Thirdly, ask your self “what can I do now that takes me towards the result I want?” List all the answers that come up to this question, even if they seem silly! For instance maybe you can ask around and find out if anyone you know has dealt with such a situation. You can do a Google search and see what comes up – perhaps you can gain insights from another person that’s had a similar experience that may help. Maybe you can just take a small action that isn’t in your eyes important, but it’s a step closer. For example, if you’re looking for a job, you could a) research CV writing tips and b) start working on a CV, c) join an online forum on your industry, d) 2 articles in a trade magazine e) arrange to meet an ex-colleague for coffee to get some tips and information on whats making the news f) ask people to recommend a good recruitment consultant, g) find out about a networking event that you could attend. None of these will get you a job immediately, but each action is a small step forward in the right direction.

Fourth DO SOMETHING! Take any one of the actions on your list, and take it NOW. Don’t put it off, begin immediately and get it done, tick it off the list and congratulate yourself for doing it! Then complete another task on your list. Congratulate yourself on getting it done. You will feel a million times better about yourself and will regain a sense of control again.

Fifth – remember to nourish yourself and be good to yourself daily. Do something that makes you feel good about yourself every day and applaud yourself for doing it! It could be getting the haircut you’ve been putting off, or going for a walk, or meeting your friends, or listening to your favourite song. Again, it does not matter how small it is, what’s important is that you do something and acknowledge yourself for doing it.

The key is to build momentum and overcome inertia, which is defined as sluggishness or inactivity and essentially is a basic law of matter – an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion unless acted on by an external force. If you’re at rest or inert, taking these small steps daily will help you move again and gain some momentum.

Bottomline – Do something, anything! Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Take that step. NOW.

Hope you found my thoughts helpful – do let me know what you think by commenting on this post.

Best wishes,


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6 Responses to What to do when you don’t know what to do?
  1. Ritu Khanna
    August 9, 2011 | 11:53 am

    thanks for this post – i am so stuck right now in some areas at work and its been really getting me down but here far away in hong kong this post helped me sit up straight regain my confidence and do one small thing in the right direction…

  2. Jackie Notman
    August 10, 2011 | 11:51 am

    A good post but one option is to do nothing and not beat yourself up about it. Often the stress comes from the fact that we have to be doing something to get a result. So we run around doing stuff and are so busy doing stuff that we miss the small voice, the little opportunity, a chance remark made by someone.
    Sometimes you just have to give yourself a break, don’t feel you need to do anything and hand it over to a higher power. This has worked for me in the past and I’m sure it will again in the future.

  3. Delia
    August 10, 2011 | 12:48 pm

    Hi Piya
    This is a good question and your suggestions are very pertinant. However, I would suggest that sometimes we also need outside help – in that an external pair of eyes can often see things we can’t. We’re confused because we can see too much(or everything)all at once, where as an outsider can see well beyond our personal or own business context which give them a much simpler and clearer idea of what we need to do in order to get to where we want to be. Of course it helpe is we know what our goal is, but we can get help to determine that too if we’re not sure. As a strategic business planning consultant this is what I spend most of my time doing – helping clients clear away the fog of immediacy and establish a plan or route-map of how to get to where they want to be. I don’t think this is quite what Jackie had in mind (I certainly don’t claim to be a higher power!) but the idea is similar. But Jackie is right in that it’s often helpful to relax (which clears our mind) and allow a higher being to work on our behalf. I see nothing wrong in utilising various channels to achieve our goals.

  4. Josh
    November 10, 2011 | 4:53 pm

    You are so right on. What came to mind when I was reading was how we trick ourselves into giving up.

    When we are stuck or at rest, we tell ourselves that our situation is permanent or impossible to change. Some people might say that so that they can rest, others might be scared to try new things.

    I’m scared of looking bad and not knowing what I’m doing.

    What keeps you stuck Piya?

    • Piya Khanna
      November 11, 2011 | 11:09 am

      It’s our little mind playing tricks on us, scaring us and convincing us to stay stuck. I get stuck when I give in to my mind and what helps me get un-stuck is directing my thoughts and asking the questions “Is this really true?”, “What’s the worst that could happen” & “What’s the BEST that could happen” and usually I realise that a) it’s only one possibility and there are myriads of (better) possibilities b) the “worst” is not usually that bad, c) the BEST is amazing and then focusing on the best and looking at how I could make that come true!

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    December 27, 2019 | 5:52 am

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