what to do when you don't know what to do
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Most of us, at one time or another, have thrown up our hands in the air and said, “What do I do now?!?!”  Unfortunately, sometimes in life, when confronted with a problem, we don’t know what to do next.  Figuring out what to do when you don’t know what to do is difficult.

In fact, many problems in life can leave us scratching our heads for a solution.

“My children aren’t ambitious.  How do I help them succeed in life?”

“I feel stuck in my marriage.  How do I get out?”

“My college degree is in a field that no longer interests me.  How do I change careers?”

The list goes on and on of situations in which we may wonder, “How on earth do I solve this problem? What should I do next?”

Below are some ways to deal with what seem like unsolvable problems in life.  Follow these approaches so that you can figure out what to do, when (at first) you don’t know what to do!

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

Sometimes, when we are unsure of what to do next, it is good to pause.  We don’t need to try to solve the problem right away.  Instead, we need to give our brains a break, and simply do what we know.  That means just doing something that you are good at.

For example, let’s say that you are struggling to make a decision about whether or not to relocate.  That is a big decision and not one to make in haste.  Instead of obsessing about the decision, give yourself a mental break from it.  Instead, do something that you enjoy and are good at.

For instance, if you enjoy cooking, you might bake cookies or prepare an elegant dish.  Or if you like gardening, you might spend the afternoon outside pruning and planting flowers.  The key is to do something that is positive and productive – something that you are good at!

When we take a break from our problems and do something that we enjoy, we allow our subconscious to tackle the problem.  And not surprisingly, our subconscious often will come up with some good ideas about what to do.  In fact, when you give your mind a break from a problem, don’t be surprised if you have “Eureka!” moment not long after.

Take a 10-Year Approach

When you don’t know what to do in a situation, don’t look at the problem from the perspective of today.  Instead, view the problem as if it were 10 years from now.  Consider what Future You would want you to do.

For instance, I wish I had taken a 10-year approach when it came to getting a degree in library science.  I am a true bibliophile.  I not only love reading books, but I simply love being around them.  My two favorite places to hang out at are the bookstore and the library.

Unfortunately, I never pursued getting a library science degree.  It always seemed too expensive.  As a result, over the years, cash went out the door for all kinds of things – things that ultimately were a massive waste of money.  In retrospect, I should have spent that money on getting a degree in a field that I love.  Yet, I never made my desire to get a library science degree a financial priority.

My problem was that I didn’t say to myself, “Will this degree be helpful to me 10 years from now? Will it lead to a more satisfying career?”  If I had asked myself that question, the answer would have been a resounding, “Yes!”  Instead, I worried about immediate financial concerns, when I should have been focusing on my future.

So, when you don’t know what to do, ask yourself, “What would Future Me want me to do?”  Your answer will suddenly become a lot clearer if you look at your problem from your perspective 10 years from now.

Figure Out What You Value

We all want to live lives that reflect our highest values.  So, when trying to figure out what to do in any situation, find a solution that reflects what is important to you.

For instance, I value peace.  I want a peaceful and quiet life.  So, I choose to surround myself with peaceful, easy-going people.  And I limit my time with people who are argumentative or dramatic.

So, when confronted with people who are problematic, I first step back and say, “What do I value?”  Well, I value peace.  As a result, I know what to do next.  I surround myself only with people who are peaceful, since I value peace.  And I avoid people who create problems or conflict.

That approach applies to any decision that you may be making.  Ask yourself, “What do I value?”  If you value financial security, then your priority will be to make money and save money.  Or you may value having good relationships with your children.  In that case, you will make choices which allow you to spend the maximum amount of time with them.

There is no cookie cutter approach to values.  We each have very different value systems.  You simply have to identify what is important to you, and then make choices that support those values.

Accept the Imperfection of Any Choice

There is no such thing as a perfect solution.  Any time you choose to take one path, you are choosing to give up the benefits of another path.  For example, if you choose to get married, you also are choosing to give up the freedom of being single.  If you choose a particular career, you are giving up the opportunity to pursue other professions.

Every choice involves sacrifice.  So, accept that fact.  When you do so, figuring out what to do will become much clearer.

For example, I have a friend who is an economics and accounting professor.  With his credentials, he could make a great deal of money in the private sector.  But he has chosen a lower paying career in academia because he wants to have more free time, and he wants to be a fully-involved father to his children.

Certainly, earning more money would be nice for my friend.  But he has chosen a less time-consuming career so that he has the free time to do the things that matter most to him.

There are all kinds of tough problems that we face in life which don’t have perfect solutions.  For instance, ending a bad marriage is hard on everyone involved, but ultimately it may be the best choice for the couple.  Relocating to a new place, and leaving friends and family is difficult.  But sometimes people need to relocate so that they can remain employed.

Often in life, we simply are making the best choice possible.  And then we need to make the best of our imperfect situation.

We all have been in situations in which we have scratched our heads and said, “What do I do now?”  If you are feeling that way today, know that you are not alone.  Try using the approaches above, if you are faced with a problem and don’t know what to do.  You’ll find that by taking these approaches, knowing what to do will become much clearer.  (To read more about how to make tough choices, click here.)

Email: meerabelle@meerabelledey.com

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