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

Do you ever get that “I don’t know what to do” or “I don’t know where to start” feeling?

It can feel overwhelming can’t it?

It often shows up when you are looking to create change or do something new.

This feeling in itself isn’t a problem. It is how you respond to that feeling that is important.

If you are heading in a new direction you haven’t been in before, it is perfectly normal to get that “I don’t know what to do” or “I don’t know where to start” feeling.

It is a normal part of getting on the path to creating change and moving in new directions.

But the problem with it is this:

When people feel they don’t know what to do, they often do nothing. As a result they stay stuck where they don’t want to be.

If this sounds familiar here is:

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

First of all, don’t beat yourself up about it or allow frustration to take over. It serves no useful purpose. It is natural to not know what to do when you start something new. Be kind to yourself.

Secondly, be honest with yourself about if you are using that feeling as an excuse to do nothing. If you are, make a commitment to stop making excuses. They keep you stuck and let you off the hook from taking action.

Thirdly, for the love of God do something!!!

Seriously, just do something. It doesn’t even matter if the first thing you do isn’t right. You are just taking the first step to finding out what to do.

Once you have decided on what you want the outcome to be, come back to where you are and just focus on the first step to move you forward.

  • Maybe the first step is just doing some research on the thing you want to achieve.
  • Maybe it’s hiring someone knowledgeable in that area to help you
  • Maybe it’s doing a brainstorm or a mini plan.


“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Sorry to those of you who were expecting some sophisticated masterplan as the solution to what to do when you don’t know what to do. But it really is as simple as just do something. Take a baby step. And each step you take will lead to the next one.

Let go of needing to know “how” before you start. The “how” will be revealed along the way as you learn stuff and take action.

So, what baby step will you take today about the thing you don’t know how to do?

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  • Yes, creating momentum and keeping it going are key. Thanks for dropping by.

  • So true, the important thing is to just keep moving.  Tiny, baby, micro steps are better than standing still.  Great post Ali – needed saying.

  • Heather,
    Glad you liked the post. I am a big fan of taking baby steps to keep momentum going. Helps keep overwhelm at bay too.

  • Be

    …your step three is so true.  Half the time I dont even know what I am doing, but so long as I keep moving and am open to all possibilities I figure the rest of it will fall into place and it usually does! 🙂

  • Martha

    Hi Ali – I read your post with interest, as so many of my coaching clients are in that place of ‘I don’t know what to do, so I’m not doing anything’.  I also think there is a fear of doing the wrong thing.  We could learn to forgive ourselves for making a mistake!

  • Hi Martha
    You are so right. There are so many factors that contribute to people staying stuck. As you mention, fear is a biggy. Also things like lack of confidence, perfectionism, overwhelm and so on. I think the key is to be committed to getting to the source in order to find a lasting solution.
    Thanks for dropping by. Hope you and the family all keeping well.

  • Ali, this is spot on. Our ability to grow and develop as individuals relies on our capacity to take action in the face of uncertainty. Confusion is the first step toward understanding, so it’s perfectly alright to not know exactly what to do all the time.

    Wise words indeed. Thanks for this.

  • Thanks Steven. Glad you liked it. I think the challenge is to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable becauuse all change happens outside the comfort zone. Thanks for dropping by.

  • Hi Ali, I’m surprised not to have discovered your blog sooner! I’ve missed much…

    I love this simple advice… it can be really hard to understand this, especially if you are someone who must have a near perfect plan before you begin!

    I always think of the fact that it’s easier to turn something that’s moving, even if it’s all the way around, than it is to get it moving in the first place.

  • Hi Dan, welcome to the site. Yes, the striving for perfection can be a real killer. Makes me think of this quote: “Strive for progress, not perfection” – author unknown. Thanks for dropping by.

  • Hi Dan, welcome to the site. Yes, the striving for perfection can be a real killer. Makes me think of this quote: “Strive for progress, not perfection” – author unknown. Thanks for dropping by.

  • “for the love of God do something!!!”
    Love it Ali! 

  • Ali Davies

    Glad you liked it Sandi. Sometimes doing anything is better than nothing to break the cycle and get momentum going again.

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  • Rolo

    I appreciate the insight ma’am. thank you. I agree, not with everything though. I understand your point. We have to be efficient and not waste time, which I think is an amazing standpoint. When we’ve got nothing else to do, we’re not really required to do something. Really. We’re not really recquired to “do” something “productive” all the time. It’s not necessary that we produce an “outcome” of something we did at some time. Sometimes, we can just.. live. Acknowledge our existence. Breathe. Live as we are alive. Not all the time, though. We still have to be extra efficient in evertyhing we do since we need that for survival. Thank you for your blog, though. I’ve realized that the world is just even more amazing now that we have people actually blogging real important and helpful information like you and the rest of those I have started reading, rather than those who just post random pictures of themselves, which actually is “nothing” to this world. Just a bunch of nonsense.

  • kumar

    I like this post. Its a tonic for anyone who does not know what to do and time just flies and at the end we are stuck where we are and more frustrated and creates a guilt that we couldn’t do anything. I also like the saying that “In the face of uncertainity we should action” and ” progress not perfection”. I am so glad that its just that if we understand ourselves and keep our mind foucused on what we want and being kind to ourselves to accept our weakness will keep momentum in life.. Thanks!!!

  • Ali Davies

    Your point about being kind to ourselves is so important.

  • Wow! just how I was feeling when read this post. Sometimes you have so many things to do, you don’t know what to do first especially when they aren’t necessarily things you want to do. Every once in a while I love to turn everyone else’s needs off, like clients, and just do my own thing even if it’s just for a weekend.

  • Ali Davies

    Hi Rebecca, when other people’s agendas keep taking over our own, it can really help to create some strong personal boundaries to protect what is most important to you.

  • Hi Ali! Yes to taking baby steps for sure. And I’ve always loved the statement (and of course wrote a blog post about it!) that “done is better than perfect!” I do believe many of us stop ourselves from things because we are perfectionists. Far better to take action that stay frozen with fear. ~Kathy

  • Ali Davies

    Hi Kathy, we think alike on the subject of perfection. My motto is that the focus on progress trumps the focus on perfection.

  • Leanne@crestingthehill

    I love the “just start” advice – I think it’s the best thing to do – take a step and see where it leads.

  • Agreed. So many folks stay stuck because they wait to know how to do it all before they start – and therefore never start because you can’t always know how before you start. It is the starting and taking action that often unfolds the how. It is a true saying that one step leads to another, and before you know it you are marching forward. It builds momentum, and momentum is a powerful force!

  • Terri

    Yes! Just start! I find that works for dishes, laundry, just get one load going, wash one pot – before you know it you have it done. Thank you for the reminder and encouragement!

  • I’ve always loved that MLK quote. I think it’s so profound and such great advice.

  • Me too Carol.

  • You are welcome Terri. Glad you found it useful.