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


There’s not enough room in our brain to keep everything. But, we try.

And when we do, we just have no idea how which are the good things and which are the bad things. We spend so much energy trying to keep all the things, it can stop us from doing any of the things.

The truth is, good ideas will keep coming back if you don’t do anything about them.

Bad ideas will be those things you can’t… quite… remember.

My Kingdom For A Pen

I struggled with the idea of documenting my Vision Quest through most of the first half of it. Lessons were learned. Notes were taken. But, nothing seemed to flush out. Between Seattle and Hawaii, I dropped of the grid in a 10 day silence retreat. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. It was an idea that just kept popping up.

The retreat itself was focused on the Dhamma teachings, meditation on the physical body to understand change. Well, that’s the short of it. One of the main conditions is releasing attention to anything else but the practice of the meditation sequences.

No phones, no books, no journaling. No exercising, no yoga, no spiritual practice. Nothing, but Dhamma. Nothing but the practice.

By day two, the responsibilities of the outside world were gone. There was nothing but the practice.

By day three, creativity took over the empty space. During the few breaks in the schedule, I would walk the garden. This was the designated “exercise” space used only for walking. These breaks allowed the mind to wander. With nothing but space, a flood of ideas filled my mind. They were good!

But, I had no way of writing them down.

By day four, having no way to jot down ideas was maddening! I began using the breaks as time to remember all six… seven… eight ideas I had during the previous days. Then, the breaks were spent trying to figure out where a pen might be. This was followed by considering “borrowing” the marker we used to write our names on water cups. When would be the best time to take the marker? When would be the best time to return the marker? I could easily go to the car at night, get my cell phone, and use it to jot down the ideas!

Ideas kept flowing.

By the last break of the day, I took a thumbtack off the wall and used it to scratch three ideas into an 8 X 10 tri-folded paper they gave us at orientation with our schedule and commitment on it – including agreeing not to journal.

WHAT was I doing?!?!

During the walk back to the dorm that nigh, I glanced over at the parking lot with half a thought to walk to the car, but then something else happened. I gave up.

I made an agreement with myself to see the 10 days out to the end. Only six more.

Let Go Into The Flow

The next six days were filled with ideas. Some ideas were ones from the first few days. Some were new ones.

Each time one re-appeared, it was a little clearer; a little more flushed out.

I began looking forward to the walking breaks to see what ideas came up and which ones came back up. I stopped trying to remember the ones from the first few days… the ones from yesterday… the ones from the break before.

By day seven, the breaks were a flood of rolling ideas for posts about the vision quest. Each one a relatively complete flushed out idea. Sometimes, even two flushed ideas. By day eight, I had an idea for a new project. By the middle of day nine, the new project was mostly written in my head.

After the retreat, I finally got to sit down in front of a computer. I wrote out the title and general notes for every single one of the posts from Chicago through Seattle in about 20 minutes. During the flight time to Hawaii and Thailand, I would up just looking at the list and writing out post after post after post.

All the ideas were still there, just waiting for me to execute. All of the ideas were flushed out into complete lessons. All of the not-as-good ideas had fallen away. Some of the details of those ideas made their way into other posts, but I knew when they were complete “good” ideas.

I wrote the new project – a guide and worksheet how to write your memoirs – in two days when I got to Thailand.

Give It Space

We’re conditioned to think we must be doing something tangible. The idea that we’re happier when we’re working toward a goal has somehow morphed into the idea that we’re happier when we’re doing something.

But, when you’re not sure what you want to be doing, giving yourself the space to figure it out – instead of bullying your way through anything – is what you really need.

That time – that space – is part of the process. It’s going to feel like you’re doing nothing, but your brain is taking the break it needs to recuperate, recharge, and get back to doing what it does best… guiding you.

But Don’t Force It

One little caveat: don’t try.

Yeah, that’s really the hardest part. Understand the difference between really letting yourself be in the space and forcing yourself to come up with some brilliant idea in the allotted time you’re giving yourself for space.

Tricky, I know!

When you decide enough is enough… When you decide to give up searching for the answer and let it find you… When you’re finally ready to let go, you accept that “it’s” going take time.

Whatever “it” is.

Look back at my story. It took four days of fighting letting go – of fighting the process – before I was able to let go. It felt like I was giving up, but I was really giving in.

They say that life really happens while you’re planning for things to happen. So, my suggestion is to pick a couple routine things to do. Pick a couple days – maybe even a week. Focus only on the routine things for those days. Don’t write any ideas down. Don’t start executing half an idea.

Commit to the amount of time and just focusing on the routine items. The more time you give yourself, the better.

Your mind will thank you… and your creativity will flow… and the answers will follow.


Quitting Is For Winners

Safely and successfully transition from your current routine to your dream life

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And I'm still making a living.

Now, I'm just trying to figure out what to do next... by traveling around.

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