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What to Do When you Don't Know What to Do

What to do when you don't know what to do

What to do when you don't know what to do.

If you're in a confusing situation, and you don't know what to do, then do the following.

  1. Clarify your goal, decide fundamentally what is it that you want to achieve.
  2. Decide by what standard you will judge "success".
  3. In relation to your goal, decide, what information you have is relevant, and what is not.
  4. Decide also what information is important, and what is not.
  5. Decide which information is actionable and what is not.
  6. Decide whether doing nothing is a viable option.
  7. Once you have made all these decisions, write your plan.
  8. Then follow your plan.

1. Clarify your goal, decide fundamentally what is it that you want to achieve.

If you are in a state of confusion, it may be because you have conflicting or unclear goals.

For instance, you may have two conflicting goals, one to be "safe and secure", but the other "to travel across Africa on a motor bike".

Or you may hold two contradictory goals of wishing "to lose weight" but at the same time, to eat mass quantities of lemon-drizzle-cake, (which is currently in my kitchen, taunting me!).

If you don't know what to do, then ask yourself, what is your MAIN PURPOSE? What is your major goal, in this situation?

When you have decided upon your major goal you should then consciously stop trying to achieve contradictory goals.

You cannot become wealthy and be lazy at the same time.

You cannot eat lemon drizzle cake and lose weight at the same time.

To make progress, you must be prepared to choose one option out of many.

If you are trying to leave, then you should not also be trying to remain, and vice versa.

Unfortunately, humans have the astounding ability to hold two contradictory goals in mind at the same time, and then they wonder why they feel confused.

2. Decide by what standard or criteria you will judge success.

Once you have decided what you want, you should decide how you would know when you have achieved it.

For example, if your goal was "to be more confident", then how would you know when you considered yourself as "being confident"?

What would be your test? What would you have to be able to do, that would be evidence enough for you to say to yourself that you were "a confident person"?

Or if your goal was to be "financially well-off" then how much money would that take? For some people being well-off would mean they need to see their debts paid off, and for others the same words mean they must be a millionaire.

The sad truth is that many people feel uncertain because they have never decided what would have to happen before they can feel certain.

3. In relation to your goal, decide what information is relevant, and what is not.

We live in a world of innumerable facts. We are awash with information, opinions, claims and counter-claims, and it is sometimes difficult to know who to listen to. The first thing to do is to classify all information into being relevant to your goals, or not.

Most information you see is irrelevant. If you are feeling confused, it may be because you are absorbing too much irrelevant information.

You need to reduce the quantity and increase the quality of information that you expose yourself to.


Only listen to information that is relevant and ignore irrelevancies.

4. Decide also what information is important, and what is not.

Once you are only listening to relevant information, the next step is to decide what information is important, and what is trivial.

Not everything is important. Some things are more important than others. So, take your information and split it into at least four levels.

  1. Essential
  2. Important
  3. Not important
  4. Trivial

It is a sad fact that many people never make this evaluation, and as a consequence, they waste major time on minor matters.

And many people get very upset over trivial issues.

5. Decide which information is actionable and what is not.

You can respond to certain things and you can make a difference.

Other things, you cannot affect, because you have no power or influence over them.

It is important to distinguish those things you can influence and those things you cannot. Then to NOT spend time worrying about the things you cannot influence.

6. Decide whether doing nothing is a viable option.

There is always the option of doing nothing, and just waiting.

You might just see what happens if you do nothing active; let events run their course without your "interference".

Sometimes doing nothing is a viable option. Don't automatically rule it out as being too passive.

It is said that, Everything comes to he who waits. (Leo Tolstoy)

7. Once you have made all these decisions, decide what to do.

Once you have made your way through all the above steps you will have clarified your thinking and you will now have enough information to decide what you will do.

When you have decided, write a list or a plan, then follow it.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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