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

Part 4 of 10

A white board covered in colorful sticky notes.  They appear to be trying to solve food waste.

Welcome back.  To recap: you have recognized that you are stuck, taken time to reflect, did some deep breathing, and let go of the need to act on all of your ideas and what no longer serves you.  When you don’t know what to do, sometimes it feels like staring at a blank page.  Why not do some brainstorming?  It can’t hurt.  It’s only words or pictures on paper after all.  Dream big sounds like a cliché; however, if you dream but….you can miss out on what will bring you true fulfillment.  My son wanted to go to Topeka, Kansas because of a school project.  He dreamed big.  I, being a boring adult suffering from practicality kept shooting down his ideas.  He did his research and created a vision of beautiful Lake Shawnee and museums found nowhere else.  It was contagious and before you know it, I was in the realm of why not?  We did go to Topeka and the gardens were indeed extraordinary and walking through the halls of history was a powerful experience.  If he did not dream big, we would never have embarked on the adventure.  Are you willing to change how you think about your current situation?  Can you find the hope and dare to dream?

What are the stories you tell yourself?  I told myself for a very long time that I was practical and that I didn’t like change.  I ate the same lunch for sixteen years.  When I realized that being in control was an illusion, I have learned to get more comfortable with change and sometimes seek it out.  Brainstorming is a wonderful way to tell yourself new stories.  I love whiteboards and sticky notes, but a simple sheet of paper will do.  Write down ideas about the life you want to live.  Possible prompts:  If tomorrow was my last day, what would I want to accomplish?  What would I do if I was not afraid?  Who did I want to be when I grew up?  The only rule is to not judge the ideas.  Let them flow without criticism.  Ann English in her Ted Talk “The Clarity Quest” reminds us to think about the why, not the how are you going to do it.  I am a recovering dream killer.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge cheerleader for wild, impossible, dream.s and I believe we should plan for encountering dragons.

What helps is to embrace your inner Queen of Hearts and try to believe as many impossible things as you can before breakfast.  We have mourned the idea of doing everything all at once.  With brainstorming, you can find the ideas that spark the will to act and make a decision.  If coming up with new ideas is difficult, you can try anti-brainstorming.  What will make your situation worse?  Do you want to double down on the soulless cubicle?  Or perhaps you can take on even more projects?  After you have your list of anti-ideas, you can flip the script and see if the opposite is true.  Make it a party and have some trusted friends brainstorm with you.  You can each write something down, pass it around and have the next person build on it.  Brainstorming is a way to rewrite the story.  It can change from  not knowing what to do, to having too many ideas of what to do.  

Dig deep.  The first few ideas will seem comforting and familiar.  Keep going.  You may hit some that are patently ridiculous in hindsight.  That is okay!   Remember, no judgement, no shame, no limits.  You may hit a lull in the brainstorming.  Push through.  Keep putting down ideas.  If you are stuck, you can pretend you are brainstorming to fix something else and apply those ideas to your situation.  What if instead of my child wanting to go to Topeka, we thought about how to get an elephant to Topeka?  Your old ways of thinking got you to where you are now.  Do you want to stay there?  If you did you would not be reading a blog about what to do when you don’t know what to do.  All the steps that came before will help you on your journey.  It’s like gardening.  When you want to plant new seeds, you have to turn over the soil and clear out the rocks.  Think about all the flowers you want to plant.  It does not matter if they grow there or not in the brainstorming phase.  Perhaps it will spark an idea for something similar that can grow.  There is a parable of the seeds.  A farmer scatters seeds into the air.  Some will blow away.  Some will fall on rocky land.  If you plant enough ideas, some will land on good soil and take root.   With that strategy, you need a lot of seeds. Let me know how the brainstorming goes.  Feel free to reach out with any questions.  What is the problem you are trying to solve?  Namaste.