Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do - Now what??

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

In his poem "The Road Not Taken," Robert Frost compares life to a road
in the woods.... Some paths are clear and smooth; others are bumpy and
filled with obstacles. While Frost's poem encourages us to be bold, to
take risks, and to explore the unknown, the truth of the matter is that
no matter which road you choose, the time will come when you get stuck.
Some problem will come along that is outside your realm of experience,
or a situation will be so surprising, so startling, that you just won't
know what to do.

When you don't know what to do, it's very easy to end up in a "Now
what?" rut... that is, a very non-productive cycle of asking "Now
what?" over and over and over because the only answer you have is "I
don't know."

If this is familiar to you, I encourage you to escape the "Now what?"
rut by considering the following:

1. It's O.K. Not to Know
Many people get stuck right off the bat by beating themselves up for
not having an immediate answer or for not foreseeing each and every
problem they encounter. Nobody can know everything, and nobody can
foresee everything, so don't spend a lot of time on this.

2. Pause, Don't Stop
Take time to reflect on the situation at hand, to discover what the
real problem is and what possible solutions might resolve it. But don't
spend so much time thinking things over that you lose momentum. So
pause, but don't stop, and press on with what you need to do. (Remember
your science lessons: Bodies at rest tend to stay at rest...)

3. Do What You'd Do if You DID Know What to Do
Whenever someone tells me, "I don't know what to do," I ask them what
they would do if they did know what to do. It seems like a silly
question, but most of the time I find that they can answer the
question! Sometimes we are so focused on the problem that we lose sight
of the fact that we really do know a solution to it. Asking this
question pushes us to focus on solving things.

4. Do Anything
There are times when you really, truly just don't have a clue about
what to do. In these cases, doing anything is better than doing
nothing. So, guess... go to lunch... turn left... flip a coin... Taking some
action not only keeps you moving, it changes your perspective on the
problem and helps you stay motivated. If what you've chosen to do is not the exact right thing to do, you'll find out soon enough and can change courses then. Of course, you may very well be correct, so you'll still be on track. Regardless, in most cases, doing something is far better (and more productive) than doing
nothing at all.

- By Jim M. Allen

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