What to do when you don't know what to do
I remember a time last year when I felt particularly stuck. It wasn’t as if I didn’t have ideas about what I could be doing. But I didn’t really know how to take action on any of them. There were too many of them. I didn’t know which ones were right for me. I wasn’t clear which were shoulds and which were musts.
And so every day I would wake up. I would think about all the possibilities and ideas. And then I would do nothing.
It was as if the sheer extent of the potential ahead of me put me into a state of overwhelm. And instead of being able to see the path through to the other side, motivated to drive on through, I allowed the overwhelm to stall me. Actually no. It was more like paralysis. I had no movement at all.
It seems I’m not alone in this.
A number of clients have come to me seeking help in moving through a state of stuckness. In some instances it’s that they’re feeling numb, bored, listless or lacking in inspiration in some way. And in this case, reminding ourselves what we’re driven by, what awakens our spirit and lights us up, is crucial.
But sometimes we know what we need to do.
We know exactly what makes us feel good about ourselves. We know what would give us more energy, help us calm down and we know precisely what we need to do to feel the way we want to feel.
It’s just that the list is so long that we feel daunted at the task of tackling it all.
Especially when it seems as if our entire lives need an overhaul.
We need to start eating differently and we need to change our exercise programme and we want to start taking photographs again and we believe it’s finally time to cut down on our sugar consumption. Oh, and did I mention that this is the year we’re finally going to decide whether to stay in the job or start the dream business. And meditate daily. And swim in the sea. And go for long, dreamy walks in nature. And journal. Don’t forget to journal daily. Thrown in is also a weekend away every month and a date night every week. And somewhere between this I’m also going to hold down a full time job and look after my 3 kids.
Yup. It’s the dream life.
Or is it?
Yes, I feel a certain degree of inspiration from some of these ideas. But I also feel exhausted. And I feel myself in comparison to the stupid fake version of a non-existent person on Instagram who is definitely not doing these things every day. Unless her personal brand is to be perfect. In which case she has to post about all these ideal things because it’s her job to present that persona. Poor her.
But what about the rest of us? Well, we’re living real lives, aren’t we? We’re busy and tired and doing our very best with what we have and how we happen to be feeling right now. And sometimes that means being proud we made it through the day without falling apart at the seams. Hell, sometimes we’re proud we bothered getting up at all.
So how do we see through the clutter of dreams?
How do we sort through the ideas we think are going to make us feel the way we want to feel? So that we actually DO feel that way instead of just being overwhelmed by more ridiculous standards of perfection that leave us doing nothing at all. And feeling like shit. Yup, because living in comparison to your own standards of perfection does leave you feeling like shit. There’s no other way to put it.
We choose one thing.
Just one single thing.
And we focus on that.
For me, it’s getting up in the morning and engaging in some sort of movement. When I do that, my entire energy changes. I feel energized. I feel awake. I feel inspired to create new material. I’m fired up to write. I’m better able to connect. When I don’t, I’m likely more lethargic, a little down, perhaps anxious, and definitely not nearly as productive as I like to be.
Not every day is the same. Some days call for more active, yang-type movement to get the energy flowing and to really drive the action, striving-type energy I need. Other days (like today), I was feeling a bit off, so I opted for an online yin yoga class.
The point is that this one single thing is all I need to change the energy of my day.
It settles the overwhelm. It clears my thoughts. And it revs me up to start moving through the list of things I want to do. Suddenly the ideas that initially felt insurmountable, feel light and easy. I have the life force and inspiration to make it happen.
It’s different for everyone.
You need to find the one thing that does it for you.
Maybe it’s starting your day with a gratitude list. Perhaps it’s taking the dogs for a walk or a phone call with someone who makes you laugh. Or maybe it’s as simple as pausing midday for a 5-minute round of breathwork to recentre you and get you back on your way.
When you find it, don’t add to it.
Don’t fool yourself into believing that you can tackle 4 or 5 new habits every single day and that’s what’s going to get you moving forward. If you’re anything like me, it will be like having too many things to choose on the menu. You just end up really hungry.
Pick one. And stick to it. Choose a time period. Maybe it’s 3 weeks. Maybe it’s 6 months.