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


You have a problem. An unanswered question. A big decision to make. You want something but don’t know how to get it. 

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

Here are five ways to figure that out:  

(1) Research  

Let’s start with the obvious: Sometimes, you just need more information. More facts, more ideas, more examples to look at and sift through. Learn more about the problem, the risks, and the options. Let what you find dictate the best course of action.

That’s where I usually start. You too, I’m sure. But sometimes, more information doesn’t help, it leads to more indecision. 

(2) Write it out (e.g., in a journal) or talk it out (e.g., into a recording app) 

Sometimes, the answer is already inside us, we just need to give it a voice. Speak or write your thoughts, your ideas, your fears, your questions. Get them all out of your head. 

What do I want? Why do I want it? What will it do for me if I get it?

Is there another way to get that? What information do I need to know? What skills do I need to develop? What are my strengths? Who is doing/has done what I want to do?

If that doesn’t give you the answer. . .

(3) Talk to someone  

Talk to a friend, a colleague, someone who has been in your shoes or someone who can be a sounding board for you and help you talk it out.  

Or, hire an expert, a consultant or coach. Someone who can advise you and help you sort through the options and make the right decision.  

Or, talk to a lot of someones, e.g., your clients. Conduct a survey, find out what they think, what they want, what they’re willing to pay for.  

Or, talk to God. 

(4) Do what you want to do, not what you think you should do  

Damn the facts, do what you want to do.  

Imagine yourself choosing different options and see how each one feels. Not the solution or result, the “doing”. Your gut will tell you which one feels right, and your gut is usually right.

(5) Do nothing

True, making no decision is making a decision but sometimes that’s the best decision. Leave things where they are. What’s the worst that can happen?

Doing nothing might give you space and time you need to let the right answer come to you. Walk away for a day or a month and come back to the question with a fresh perspective. 

Your turn. What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

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