What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do: 9 Essential Guidelines

When we welcome change, instead of resisting it, we will feel more accepting of where we find ourselves.”


Editor’s Note: Make the Days Count is republishing its top 10 articles for the benefit of new readers.  This article was first run on December 5, 2008.  Article by Make The Days Count Contributor Judy Mosley


Every year, I plant sunflowers by the side of our house.  As I leaf through the seed packets, I always fall for the 12 ft. variety, the kind that stands like sentinels as I enter my driveway.  Each year, I plant about 20-25 and check daily to see the progress.


But every year, there is a period when I don’t know what to do.  It’s like an in-between time for me as well as the plants.  I can’t see their growth.  Every day, I walk over and check for sprouts and for a time, see no evidence that I planted anything at all.  Then the worry starts.  Did I plant them wrong? Did the birds eat them?  Were they dead seeds that wouldn’t grow anyway?  I know I can’t dig them up but I am tempted.


Many times, I find myself in the same kind of growth period.  All of us do.  We find ourselves in an in-between place.  It might be that you’ve just graduated and aren’t sure where to go from here. Maybe, you’ve lost a loved one, and being anywhere else seems better than where you are now. Perhaps you find yourself in a place where you need to make new friends, or you are in between jobs. Whatever the case, you feel uncomfortable. You want to make the best choices but aren’t even sure of what they are. 


We need to remember these growth periods are a natural part of life.  The universe is set up for change.  Think of the seasons, years, days, hours, and minutes.  Nothing is meant to stay the same. When we welcome change, instead of resisting it, we will feel more accepting of where we find ourselves.  And we need to remember that growth takes time.  If you watch anything in the natural world, it doesn’t come to full growth right away.  So, don’t expect your life to change overnight.  It will happen, but maybe not in the time that you want it to.


But what do we do when we don’t know what to do?  Here are some guidelines that have helped me, whether it’s sunflowers or just daily life…


1. Be realistic with where you are right now.

When I was six months pregnant with my youngest, I would watch TV, see the pretty, skinny women crossing the screen and literally become green with envy.  I would lose all sight of where I was and any thankfulness that I felt.


When we set realistic expectations for ourselves, we can see the truth of where we are and stop feeling guilty for what is simply not possible.  We can be thankful for the experience because we can see it for what it really is.


2. Take care of yourself.

This is the time to make sure that you are living in ways that fulfill you, not just fill up your time. Often, we try new things, just because they take our mind off our current situation, not because they will add to our lives in positive ways.  Remember basic care for your body: brush your teeth, eat well, exercise at your level, and make your bed.  I sound like my mother … but it works!  Take care of yourself where you are, so that when you come to your next step, you will be healthy and able for it.


3. Get connected with a community that will support you.

Find people that will help you be your best during this time.  These people should have the ability to listen to you and understand where you are.  They shouldn’t push you into activities or decisions that you aren’t ready for.  Church and a community of believers is a great place to connect with people that will support you.


4. Seek spiritual guidance.

Pray.  Ask your community to pray for you.  Answers can come in surprising ways as long as we make ourselves available to hear them.


5. Keep learning.

Read everything that you can.  Listen to NPR.  Go to the Library.  If you can, take some extra college classes or get your GED.  This is the time to expand your knowledge of the world around you.  You might discover some new passions that could direct you to your next step.


6. Keep your home an inviting place.

Surround yourself with things that make you happy. It doesn’t have to be a lot of stuff and it doesn’t have to be expensive.  Often, it’s the little things: a tiny vase on the windowsill, your cat, a picture of a great friend. And try to keep it in decent order. Make your surroundings peaceful so that you won’t be overwhelmed or downcast as soon as you walk in the door.


 7. Remind yourself daily of where you want to be.

Hang up a board filled with pictures or phrases of what you want for your future.  Make a list of visions or dreams that you want for yourself.  Put these where you can see them and ignore the nagging thoughts of how they might appear to other people.  Don’t edit your dreams and don’t be embarrassed by your dreams. This is one place where you can really let yourself go.


8. Don’t settle.

Often, we take the next thing that comes along, just because it came along and we were afraid nothing better would show up.  It took our minds off of where we were.  This is often where we might make decisions that we will later regret.


Before I received the opportunity to write for Make the Days Count, I had been looking for something extra to do and had set up an interview to sell insurance.  When I told my mom, she told me I needed to wait for something that I would really enjoy.  I canceled the interview and found this gig two weeks later.  I don’t think I would have done well selling insurance, anyway.


9. Keep the mindset that this is not the end.

This is a phrase that I say to myself often.  When I’ve had a bad day or can’t see where I am going, I say this to myself to remember that things will not be this way forever.  More than likely, I will wake up to another tomorrow, with another opportunity for growth.  Something really grand might happen or it might not.  But, whatever happens, it won’t be the same as today.  Change is inevitable and I am so glad that it is.


So relax.  This is something that everyone goes through. It means you aren’t alone.  And it means that there are lots of people that make it to the other side.


Just like the growing seed.  You may be in darkness now, but when your head pops out above the earth, all the growing will have been more than worth seeing the sun shine.  Please relish this and learn from it.  It’s worth it and so are you.


“I’m in a period of growth and expansion. I’m taking long, hard looks at the world and what’s happening in it, analyzing and thinking. I’m trying to become acquainted with the universe — with the part of it I occupy — and trying to settle, for myself, what my relationship with it is.”
-Gene Roddenberry


“The spiritual journey does not consist of arriving at a new destination where a person gains what he did not have, or becomes what he is not. It consists in the dissipation of one’s own ignorance concerning oneself and life, and the gradual growth of that understanding which begins the spiritual awakening. The finding of God is a coming to one’s self.”
-Aldous Huxley


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Posted on 8 April, 2009 in Balance, Goals, Happiness, Productivity
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