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

“He who deliberates fully before taking a step will spend his entire life on one leg.” ~Chinese Proverb

Here’s the thing: I don’t know what to do.

About this thing, about that thing. About big things and small things.

About anything.

Actually, to be honest, even the smallest thing seems big when I don’t know what to do about it. The state of “not knowing what to do” is like some kind of Miracle Grow for small things in my mind.

This is not a new thing. Not knowing what to do is a particular and well-honed talent of mine. I can even juggle several not knowing what-to-dos at once.

For example, at the moment I don’t know whether to go away with my friends this weekend or not. And if I do will I take the train? Or get a lift?

I don’t know whether to take that new job. And if I do, when should I start it? What about all those other job offers that will flood through the door the minute I say yes to this one?

I don’t know whether to start the diet tomorrow. Or today. Or next week. Or not at all. I don’t know whether to call my counselor or ride this one out alone.

I don’t know what is best, what is right. I don’t know what I want to do.

Do you know what else I don’t know? I don’t know what to do about not knowing what to do.

And whenever I feel like this (which is not always, but often), I start not knowing what to do about things I did know what to do about before. Things I had already made decisions on, things I felt excited and sure about before, now feel wobbly and wrong. Even though I know the decisions felt right when I made them.

My brain starts questioning it all: What if I didn’t really know what to do then either, and just decided on something that wasn’t really the right thing to do after all? What if it turns out to be “wrong”? What if I acted on impulse and didn’t think it all through properly?

It’s like I’m mourning all the other possible options that will never, ever happen now because I didn’t choose them.

The little voice in my head chides me: If you choose option a, then such and such might happen, which could lead to x and then that may mean y. Had I known in the beginning about y, maybe I wouldn’t have chosen that original thing. Or would I? How do I know? 

And this uncertainty, the worry, the anxiety, the not knowing, it isn’t picky. It doesn’t just stick to the thing I’m not sure about. It leaks. It seeps into everything else, so instead of feeling uncertain or anxious about one thing in particular, about one decision specifically, I feel anxious, uncertain, and worried full stop. I forget what started it. I just feel it.

I feel it in my chest, near my heart. In my throat. It feels like guilt, muddled with regret, with overtones of panic and an undercurrent of fear. It feels hard and cold, like a vice-like grip.

And I don’t like it. But I just don’t know what to do about it. So I do nothing. Except worry and be anxious that doing nothing is not the right thing to do. It’s exhausting, it’s frustrating, and it’s totally and utterly unproductive.

And the only thing that makes it stop? Is to just decide and do something. To just do anything.

And the only way to know what to do? Well actually, there is no answer to that one.

Other than to not worry about worrying. To not feel anxious about feeling anxious. To accept that there is no right answer.

To breathe. To try to feel beyond the worry, to try to feel the answer rather than (over) think it.

To stop trying to second-guess every possible outcome of every possible decision. To stop trying to control and account for every accountability. It just isn’t possible.

To trust.

I can’t know what will happen. I can’t know how I will feel about any of it. I can’t know whether the decision I make is any better or worse than any other decision I could have made because I am only ever going to experience the one path I do choose.

So I can only react with what I have, what I know, and how I feel, right here and right now. And I don’t need to know how to do that; I just need to do it. I just need to allow it to happen.

Back to my decisions. Well, I still don’t know what to do. I still don’t know what the “right” thing is.

But maybe that’s not so much of a problem after all.

Because I do know what the wrong thing is. And that’s to make no decision at all. Even if the decision I make is not to decide just yet—that is still a decision. Own it.

A friend once said to me, “Whenever the time is right, it will be the right time.” It helps me relax about my decisions.

I often wonder: Am I the only one like this? I don’t know that either, but if you’re with me:

Stop thinking it through. Stop making up what might happen. Because that’s what’s happening here, you’re just making it up. Just make the decision instead and enjoy the ride. Whatever it turns out to be, it doesn’t really matter—you can change it later if you really have to.

Whatever the decision is, just make it. What’s the worst that can happen, really?

Just make the decision and then be glad you did. Enjoy the freedom and the relief that follows.

Enjoy the present, indecision free. Because while you’re busy worrying about what might happen tomorrow, guess what? You’re missing out on all the great stuff happening today.

So just decide. Just relax.

Want to know the good news? The decision thing is just as leaky as the indecision thing.

Once I get going again, I know there’ll be no stopping me. I’ll breeze through decisions that floored me before. I’ll put those small things back in their place. And if it feels wrong, I’ll change it. I won’t worry about it. Things that felt a bit wrong and weird before just won’t matter anymore.

I won’t know where this whole confident, decision making thing came from. I’ll just feel it.

I’ll feel it in my chest, near my heart. It will feel like contentment, embracing joy, tickled with peace and flavored with lightness. It will feel soft and warm, like molten honey trickling through my veins. It will make me smile.

And I will love it. And I will do all I can to hold on to it.

That I do know.

So let’s just get started. Let’s just relax. Let’s just decide. And let’s never look back.

Photo by J. Tegnerud

Avatar of Emma While

About Emma While

Emma is passionate about positive psychology, avidly learning and applying its lessons to her life and work. Her own personal journey through stress, growth and discovery inform both her ChattingHappy blog  and The Happy Catalyst facebook page with the hope of spreading happiness to others, one spark at a time.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • http://twitter.com/CHANDRAKANTHA Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    This blog resonates with me in so many different levels… “Do you know what else I don’t know? I don’t know what to do about not knowing what to do,” Funny; I was just telling someone about this earlier today! Thank U for sharing; exactly what I needed at the moment! :-)

  • http://twitter.com/OneWayThoughts Ericson Ay Mires

    I do the exact same thing.

    Every time it’s time to make a decision, I create this flowchart in my mind of all the possible outcomes. But then I quickly become overwhelmed with the amount of information this creates.

    I contribute to my own data overload.

    I’ve been able to overcome this by embracing the idea of a bad decision. If it happens, it happens. I realize now that most decisions can be recovered from, learned from, and adapted from.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that a bad decision is better than no decision. That way you’re at least controlling your own outcome.

  • http://www.selfication.com/ Patrik Edblad

    I think this is a very common problem that a lot of people struggle with. We over-think and ponder our problems instead of taking action and moving forward. Its important to remember that “perfection itself is imperfection” so that we can make our move and keep going instead of constantly getting stuck in our heads. Great post Emma, thanks for sharing :)

  • Divya Natarajan

    I guess it happens with all of us sometime or the other. I’ve been facing such a situation full of dilemmas in past few months. After reading what you’ve shared, I got to understand the hidden meaning, i.e. you just have to do what you want to do without thinking how to do it.

    Thanks for sharing this post Emma. :) God bless

  • http://twitter.com/dburney David Burney

    I so could’ve written this. It’s something I’ve struggled with since I was a kid. Always wondering if this decision is right. If that decision is right. Picking out clothes for the day. Packing for a trip. Deciding to take the trip. It’s amazing I get anything accomplished. Everything done with an unhealthy dose of trepidation. Fortunately, I’m working in much the same way you are – just letting go. Some decisions are easier than others. But, as in managing my depression and anxiety, just doing something, anything, can be a catalyst to get us unstuck from the whirling trail of what ifs, if this then thats, and of course, how can I be certain… well, we can’t.

    Thanks for sharing. Has given me something to ponder today.

  • Phil Bennett

    Thanks Emma, feel like I could have written this myself. I drive myself in circles with the amount of options in my life. I’m not scared of limitations, I’m scared and anxious of being limitless.

  • Razwana

    I am the complete opposite of this! Sometimes I will make a decision and then realise perhaps I should have given it more thinking time! I have learned to slow down though – but not always!

    Usually, I get so tired/bored of the indecision that I make a decision and move on. I’m impatient!

    I guess we have to consider what is it that is keeping us in the state of indecision. Is it the fear of consequences, or something else?

    - Razwana

  • Nicole

    Im exactly like this! Not knowing what is right or second guessing decisions because of fear of the unknown..or that ill miss out on something picking option a to b. I recently broke up with my boyfriend of two years cause i wasnt sure how i felt about the future, and felt like something was missing. Now that we arent technically dating we still talk and have seen eachother a couple times which made me second guess my original decision of breaking up because things seem to be different”. I cant distinguish my feelings of wanting him because i dont have him, or just not used to having a change. I would like to work abroad in australia in the future as well which had a factor on my decision. Why can’t i just be happy with my decision of the break up but I feel myself still holding on and scared of the unknown without him? I want to be happy and just know that i made right choice. Any advice?

  • Amanda

    Amazing!! :) this is exactly what i needed!

  • http://twitter.com/graceb123 Grace B

    I can count on my hands the number of times I have made a decision without thinking it through. I PRIDE myself on really considering all of my options and deliberating before I made what I feel is the best choice for myself. But recently my boyfriend and I have been considering moving out of our apartment into a house–either rented or bought. And it terrifies me. For once I am really living in the moment and enjoy what comes and the idea of purposely shifting all of those things for a move is really scary to me. My boyfriend is the opposite of me: he frequently jumps into things with both feet, rarely considering the consequences, and really following his gut. It is so hard to blend our two styles of decision-making–without making the other feel like they have no say in the matter.

    Just wanted to share my feelings on decision-making. I feel like as I’ve gotten older I am more and more able to listen to my intuition and make choices that I feel comfortable with right from the start.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000732163099 Tara Crowley Rinaldi

    nice to know I’m not alone in this — and by the comments here I REALLY know I’m not alone in this. Planning and making decisions to move me towards my goal is awesome — if I only knew what my goal is! I don’t know; is a goal of being happy a goal enough? Is that too open-ended? Too nebulous? I. Don’t. Know.

  • Bonita Devauld

    Emma While you rock! I like your style, straight to the point of “indecision” but it made me snicker at the thought of how true it is “what we do to ourselves”, so consistently but Hey its just what I needed to realize. Thanks for the smiles.

  • Laurent

    Thank you Emma for this ! For me, some decisions come naturally, others take time to mature, until the time is right… and then comes the right time. Deciding not to decide is an option, an acceptable one as long as it’s a conscious one, and is not forever.

    Some decisions can’t easily be reversed though, and these definitely need more time. Maybe not so much to weight the pros and cons, because this may become an endless debate, but to make sure the guts feeling is right and genuine about the first intuition (which so often ends up being the right one !).

  • Amy

    I am just like this, too. Even ridiculously unimportant decisions, like “which brand of mascara should I buy?” Thank you for sharing.

  • Emma While

    Hi Nicole, thanks so much for sharing your dilemmas. What a tough one. I’m not sure anybody could give you advice on that one other than yourself, but here are some thoughts: first; did it feel like something was missing with the relationship, or with life? within yourself? Secondly; Do you need to label this? (ie as having broken up, or as having got back together) – Does it work to see each other as you are now and relax into seeing what happens, or doesn’t happen? I know I’m always keen to have things neatly in boxes and labelled but if I just relax about that, suddenly there isn’t as much of a decision to make. Third: Can you separate the Australia thing from the boyfriend thing, unravel them? If you want that to happen, work on making it happen and what will be will be with the boyfriend when it comes to it. And finally: You can never really know that you made the right choice…I don’t think there is such a thing. But choice, there is definitely that and you have the freedom to choose to believe you made the right choice (if you see what I mean). We’re so good at post rationalising, and so good at berating ourselves about ‘stupid’ decisions, but if we put our minds to it we can use this to our advantage and convince ourselves we did the right thing too. Do you meditate? Maybe just sit quietly with your thoughts and see if you get any clarity that way. I have to say, the biggest moment of clarity I ever had on a great big tangle of indecision was sitting on a train staring out of a window thinking about nothing in particular…and suddenly it was all just SO obvious. I have no idea where it came from but I could have cried with relief! So probably the best advice is to just give yourself a break. I don’t know if any of that is helpful but I wish you all the best with your decisions, your relationship and your Australian dream, and thank you for reading my post :).

  • Emma While

    You’re so right Ericson. There’s a great Theodore Roosevelt quote I love: “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”

  • Emma While

    Amy, those decisions take the longest for me! I can bore myself to tears mulling over totally inconsequential every day decisions like this. In fact I am surviving off the remnants of several manky old mascara bottles at the moment just to put off that very decision. SO glad I am not the only one.

  • Emma While

    Laurent, thanks for this. Good point about some decisions not being so easy to reverse…but there is usually another decision we can make further down the line to move things forward again if not return completely to where we where before. Trusting my intuition is something I have had to learn to do more and more. I used to think the bad feeling I got about certain things was fear or nerves, that I didn’t want to do something because I was scared of it. Turns out that feeling was a gut feeling that something was just plain wrong. Learned that the hard way and found myself without a job 3 months later. But, have since made other decisions that have got me to a much happier place than I was in even before that ‘bad’ decision. Thankfully. Definitely learning to recognise and trust that initial gut reaction is crucial. Thank you.

  • Emma While

    You’re welcome Bonita! thanks.

  • Emma While

    What better goal can there be Tara? Seriously, I do think that’s a great goal…but you will need to work out what it is that makes you happy and then work from there. There are different ways to do that…maybe that can be my next post…you’ve got me thinking!

  • Emma While

    Hurray!

  • Emma While

    Thanks for sharing Grace. And thank you for putting a positive spin on deliberation. Your take on considering all of the options is proof positive (if you forgive the pun) that positive psychology works. You and I describe the same thing, but I saw it as a failing and you are proud of it. I vow to be more like you from now on. I think the blend of decision making style between you and your boyfriend is a perfect match…tricky I know from experience, but a great balance. Good luck with the potential move…feel the fear and do it anyway!

  • Emma While

    Thanks Phil, glad it resonated.

  • Emma While

    Razwana, I love this: “sometimes I get so tired/bored of the indecision that I make a decision and move on.” I SO know all about that one. Sometimes I dwell on a decision so long the thing I was trying to make a decision about sort of expires and goes away before I get round to it! And great question you pose at the end…fear, in its various forms, is always at the root of these things isn’t it.

  • Emma While

    Thanks for reading David…I bet you get a lot more done than you give yourself credit for really. Happy pondering.

  • Emma While

    It’s a pleasure Divya, glad it has helped an all the best with your dilemmas.

  • Emma While

    That’s a great line Patrik “perfection itself is imperfection”. So true.

  • Emma While

    Excellent! I’m so glad :)

  • http://twitter.com/JantjeBartels Jantje Bartels

    Thank you for sharing, Emma!
    While relaxing and taking step by step, in my opinion, we also have to set our expectations right from the start. We often expect too much, too soon. One of my big areas to work on, at least.

  • http://halinagoldstein.com/blog Halina Goldstein

    Emma, you really speak for many here, huh? Me too, of course. Although, things started getting much better once I discovered that I have a body too, not just a mind running in all directions… :-)

    My body knows what to do. My body in in tune with me in a way my thoughts are not (it’s just because my thoughts have a different kind of job than my body, that’s all). I might not know whether to turn right or left, but my body just turns in the direction I really want to go.

    That instinctual wisdom can be applied in all kinds of situations, not just when we’re walking. Which job to apply for? The one that makes me smile, or the one that my hands start typing about, or the one that my eyes start envisioning.

    This is a valuable discovery for all -and even more so perhaps the many people who have spent years making decisions big and small with a partner – and suddenly have to do it on their own, with no one to support them through the process.

    It is a discovery process, and it gets easier along the way. Don’t you find?

  • Emma While

    With you there Jantje!

  • Emma While

    Halina you’re so right! One of my struggles is that I’ve spent so long and so much of my life ‘thinking’ and rationalising everything – including the feelings and emotions that no doubt carried much more wisdom in the first place. Shutting my head up so I can listen to the rest of me has been and will continue to be key. Once I get that quiet, the answer has a much better chance of popping up of its own accord as well. Definitely a discovery process.

  • Bhago

    Thank you Emma.

    Just unbelievable that this exactly expresses my present state of mind.

    The guilt of indecision followed by procrastination followed by guilt in a vicious cycle is truly a messy thought process. Was trying to (unsuccessfully) express this just a day ago to my wife. She wonders why I think way I think, and I second that thought, but I do.

    Been 6+ months since I resigned from a good n comfortable job to do something on my own. Still don’t know exactly what to do or which opportunity to pursue of the many or trying to find that magical idea that will be worthy of letting go of a long term stable (high paying) job to embark on an unknown path.

    Your words more than resonated with me, and I thank u for giving a sense of relatability and some direction.

    Thank you.

  • worldchild

    This is me. I can hardly believe I just read this. I really thought I was crazy or that my mind was more messy than the majority of the population. It feels great to know that I am not the only one with so many channels in my mind that keep arguing with each other. I have the hardest time making decisions. I am too doubtful, too hesitant and too worried.
    I will read this article again.

    Thank you for writing this.
    Peace.

  • Nicole

    Perhaps it was a bit of both missing in life and relationship, hard to distinguish between the two. And its hard to not label things at times..but for now i think we will keep it as is. Do you have any advice on meditating? I would like to start practicing it. thank you :)

  • Here you go

    I would like to add this quote:

    “Marry, and you will regret it; don’t marry, you will also regret it; marry or don’t marry, you will regret it either way. Laugh at the world’s foolishness, you will regret it; weep over it, you will regret that too; laugh at the world’s foolishness or weep over it, you will regret it either way; laugh at the world’s foolishness or weep over it, you will regret both. Believe a woman, you will regret it; believe her not, you will also regret it; believe a woman or believe her not, you will regret it either way; believing a woman or not believing her, you will regret it both ways. Hang yourself, you will regret it; do not hang yourself, and you will regret that too; hang yourself or don’t hang yourself, you’ll regret it either way; whether you hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret both. This, gentlemen, is the essence of all philosophy.”

    You can interpret it they way you wish. I know what it means to me.

  • http://halinagoldstein.com/blog Halina Goldstein

    Written by Soeren Kirkegaard (my countryman as it happens) who, had he lived long enough, would have turned 200 a week ago and whose last name means cementary, literally! :-)

    And you know, more often than not, when the time comes when you don’t have much time left and you look back at your life it turns out to be the other way round: You look at anything you ended up doing (marrying or not, laughing or not, believing or not… and most importantly, not hanging yourself after all! :-)) and realize there is nothing to regret and everything to appreciate.

    So perhaps it’s time to turn old Mr. Kirkegaard around and say: Marry and you will appreciate it, don’t marry and you will also appreciate it… etc.

    With much appreciation :-)

    Halina

  • en dansker

    Også min landsmand.

    Det er en fin vinkel at give citatet. Det vil jeg tage til efteretning.

    Hilsener,
    en dansker.

  • Raquel

    Well written. I am always at the I don’t know what to do stage it seems. I am afraid I will do the wrong thing. I definitely need work in the decision making dept. Thanks for sharing your article.

  • Keryn

    Mindfulness is the answer to all this not knowing.

  • http://twitter.com/faithantion Faith Antion

    Emma, to answer your question, no, you are not the only one like this :-) Your post made me laugh, because I completely relate to the inner mental flowchart and the way you describe it shows that you don’t take yourself too seriously. I particularly like “I can even juggle several not knowing what to dos at once.” I’ve got several going on right now that I am worrying about, and coupled with the worry attached to each not-knowing-what-to-do is, as you so accurately noted, the anxiety attached to wondering why I feel so anxious. It’s such a vicious loop and we exhaust ourselves running it. Your advice is sound and I’ll refer to it the next time I feel that way. In the meantime, I hope you can find strength knowing that others go through the same thing you do, and that you have helped us by sharing your story. I wish you the best!

  • http://www.stopstressandanxiety.com/ Mulyadi Kurnia

    Hi
    I experienced the same thing as you did every now and then. Sometimes, I like to second guess whether the decision that I was making was the right one or could I take another path? But then I remember that the decision that I made at that point of time was the best decision at that point of time and tried to make peace out of it.
    Another thing that works out for me when not knowing what to do is to take a deep breath and do nothing. Sooner or later, an answer or gut feel if you prefer to call it would appear suddenly in my head and I follow this answer. I use this technique quite frequently.

  • lv2terp

    Wow, you are amazing with your description! That was so real to me, I was anxious reading it! Amazing skill you have to portray so clearly that I feel I am in your shoes! :) What a great inspirational message! :)

  • Happy90

    I thought so too. I feel alone in my life.. my family, friends, and everyone around me won’t and can’t understand the real me. And I felt too frustrated about my life. I already made a lot of mistakes in my life not because I did not do the right thing but simply because I cannot afford to do the things I wanted in life. Because of this endless thinking and watching the whole world, I forgot to think about the “real me”, on how I make decisions and how to start. But this article told me that ‘there’s no answer to what’s the bad or right thing, but just DO IT and never look back.’…

  • Happy90

    I think the same way. I feel alone in my life.. my family, friends, and everyone around me won’t and can’t understand the real me. And I felt too frustrated about my life. I already made a lot of mistakes in my life not because I did not do the right thing but simply because I cannot afford to do the things I wanted in life. Because of this endless thinking and watching the whole world, I forgot to think about the “real me”, on how I make decisions and how to start. But this article told me that ‘there’s no answer to what’s the bad or right thing, but just DO IT and never look back.’…

  • Sarah

    I really needed this. My dad just passed and so I moved home to California from Utah.. but I don’t want to stay here and I don’t want to go back to Utah…so I just don’t know where to go or what to do or what will become of my life… but that’s okay… It’s all okay.

  • sarah

    I have started to realize that the reason why people didn’t understand the real me was because I wasn’t showing them the real me.

  • Emma While

    You’re very welcome and judging by all the comments on here, you are certainly not alone!

  • Emma While

    Sarah, that’s a great insight!

  • Emma While

    Wow, what a lovely message thank you so much. I just sat down and let it all spill onto the page exactly as I was feeling it so I’m really glad it resonated with you too (although sorry for making you anxious!)

  • Emma While

    Hi Sarah. I’m so sorry for your loss. Whenever the time is right will be the right time to make that decision. It’s ok not to know right now. Give yourself some time and space. All the very best

  • lv2terp

    How sweet of you, that is actually an amazing skill to affect an audience like that! Keep up the work just letting it flow!!! :)

  • Emma While

    Hi Mulyadi, I think you’re so right. We can only ever use what we have right now to decide and not the power of hindsight we get later on. And that doing nothing trick is definitely my favourite one. Things just have a way of working themselves out almost without you noticing that way. Thanks for your comments.

  • Emma While

    Thank you Faith, it’s great to hear everyone’s comments and feedback so thank you very much for sharing and I hope my post helps you next time the decision worry loop sets in!

  • Emma While

    Very true Keryn

  • Emma While

    You’re welcome Raquel. Feel that fear and do it anyway… Unless its your intuition telling you to do something else and then try that instead. All the best.

  • Emma While

    Bahgo I feel your pain as I went through a very similar time just recently. In the end, I suddenly had s moment of clarity on a station platform of all places and suddenly all the things I worried about just didn’t seem really to matter and the decisions seemed much more obvious. I think the trick was I’d stopped thinking about it for a while so my brain has time to catch up. Maybe give yourself a bit if a break and your moment if clarity will follow. I hope so. Best wishes for the future wherever it may take you. Just remember to enjoy the ride.

  • Emma While

    Hi Nicole. Have you heard of Headspace? They have a great way of explaining mindfulness meditation for beginners they’re uk based but have a website and app to help you get started with a 5minutes per day meditation.

  • Emma While

    Being the real you is so important and hindsight is a cruel cruel thing. I’m glad my post has been helpful, thank you for reading

  • shanmuga

    Emma,

    I read you article at the time when i was going through tough time to make a decision of accepting a new job. You are absolutely right , the decision we made initially seems to be right but later the 2nd thought start querying what if …. the decision was wrong. I was happy when i got this new job offer but later trouble started in my mind .. what happens the commitment gave by the company are not fulfilled , should i trust the new company to support my career aspiration or I did wrong thing by resigning my current job. At that time i came across your article and felt the article was written for me. “Whatever the decision is, just make it—what’s the worst that can happen, really? Just make the decision and then be glad you did. Enjoy the freedom and the relief that follows” After reading your article my mind is clear , I will go with my decision and do not worry whatever it is going to happen will happen and when time is right , everything will be right for me. I will keep reading your article whenever i have to make any decision.

  • Becca

    Thank you so much. This is just what I needed to hear tonight. I feel like when I finally make a decision that other peoples opinions clutter up my mind which leads to more confusion. So I will just trust in my first decision, my gut feeling and trust it will all be alright.
    Thanks :-)

  • Not OK

    What good does this really do me? I got divorced, lost my business to my ex,got driven out of town by him and am now in a new city by myself with no friends( they stayed with him as he employs most of them). Am relying on him to give me money because I don’t want to be dirt poor and never be able to go to the dentist again or whatever on the stipulation that I’m available to him for unprotected sex whenever he shows up in town every month or two or three… Already scored 2 venereal diseases from him when we were married but it was a conscious decision since he always said how much he loved me and we would grow old together but admitted on his last trip he was lying the whole time(12 years) to make me happy .Did I mention years of verbal abuse where he regularly refered to me as a ‘worthless bitch’ while I cooked and cleaned and catered to his every whim while trying to run a goddam business?!.Not great for rebuilding self esteem now and am lonely.That and the job market here is so flooded that I can’t find a decent job and have zero sex drive now and a broken,no, crushed under a bus heart.Also,I don’t have enough income to even move to the other side of town let alone somewhere else.What magic do you suggest I manifest to move along from this situation? I am fu~ked and I know it plain as the day keeps coming and coming and no sign,no friend that doesn’t end up totally wanting something or being wierd ever shows itself. I used to believe in love and the universe but I know it’s bunk now. Too bad…

  • Emma While

    you’re very welcome Becca :)

  • Emma While

    Hi Shanmuga, I’m glad it helped. Deciding to go for that new job is not an easy decision to make at all…I’ve done it twice in the last year. The second time because actually, the first time turned out not to be the right move. But without it I’d never have ended up where I am now. Life chucks us some funny twists and turns sometimes, we’ve just got to cling on tight and do the best we can! Enjoy that freedom and fingers crossed the new job too.

  • OG

    Move on or be defeated; that choice is still yours. Both your self esteem and your heart will heal when you decide it’s time for them to. Don’t go looking for magic to solve your problems either. With what you’ve been through, I’m willing to bet you now possess a pair of Grade A huevos rancheros to face any situation. Best of Luck.

  • Carol Barker

    Thank you so much Emma – this is exactly my problem too, and as you and others have said, it creates an overwhelming feeling that can leave you thinking that you are ‘trapped’, which slowly saps your confidence. It really helps knowing that others feel the same way, and just knowing this means that I can start making my way out of this situation.

  • Emma While

    We are definitely not alone Carol…in fact it turns our there’s even a word for us, sort of. I read this post by Gretchen Rubin the other day about the difference between ‘satisficers’ and ‘maximisers’ when it comes to decision making. It’s not the whole story when it comes to indecision, but it’s certainly a part of it. here’s the link in case anybody else finds it interesting/helpful:http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2006/06/are_you_a_satis/

  • Swaroop

    Its was an awsme Article.
    it jst explained my situation.But i am still confused abt my decision. I want your help.
    I am intrested in Biology and want get into a med. school .Bt i am not that rich to afford that fee
    And all my family members are insisting me to do Engineering
    What to do?
    I am good at both..!

  • Emma While

    Hi Swaroop. That is the problem with being good at everything! Only you can really decide this one, but I would say, do what makes your heart sing, not what other people tell you to do. If it’s something you really love, you will find a way. And if your family loves you, they will find a way to understand. And if you’re not ready to decide quite yet, why not take a year out and work to save the money to put towards it? Good luck, I am sure you will make the ‘right’ decision for you in the end.

  • Lukas Adrian Dohnal

    Thanks… Thanks so much for this article. … I underwent so much mental and emotional stress recently just because of this issue. I could not decide what my career would be, I could not decide between university and an apprenticeship, between this and that. In all that thinking I forgot the most important thing – it doesn’t really matter whether your choice takes you. It’s just like child’s play – we tend to take ourselves and our I-control-idea too seriously at times, whilst we should probably relax, sit back and… Enjoy the ride. :) I solemnly swear I will do a lot more not-caring from now on.

  • Raghu Ram

    Hey Emma . I must say , I understand every word of what you said. I am the sort of guy who’d be everyone else’s unbrella but my own . Thank you for making me stay this way .

  • Jenny Davies

    Thank you so much for this. This is exactly how I have been feeling for the last two weeks. You’ve been able to put into words my feelings where I’ve been struggling to. I keep reminding myself to breathe and I’ll go through periods of hours where I’m perfectly fine and happy and then the anxiety will hit me again, without warning and my chest will be tight and I’ll be worrying about failure and uncertainty and fear and not making enough of myself and then I’ll swerve back. It keeps going like that, like a tennis match with the anxiety being hit over the net, not quite leaving the court.
    I am definitely going to revisit this page, and check out your blog. Thank you, Emma.

  • Istenno

    check out asheville, nc

  • Jay

    This is exactly how I feel as a junior student at university clueless about where my career is heading. Beautifully written.Thank You.

  • 到此一游

    说的太好了。受益匪浅。感谢分享。原来在“不知道做什么”的时候可以看一看关于“不知道做什么”的文章:)

  • Robert Louis

    This is certainly a very good
    article and precise method of rehabilitating one’s undeceive anxieties. However
    as for myself I already have a method in place for this uncertainty. The way I
    view life is that things are already destined to happen, your future is already
    pre planed. I believe in fate and each of us has a destiny that we can not
    change no mater how hard we try (the only thing we are in control of, is if we
    wish to choose a path of good or evil).

    Certainly from what I can tell you,
    is that my life is filled with extreme anxiety, minor depression, moderate mood
    swings, paranoia, social ignorance, extreme pride, minor frustration and a lack
    to change no matter what advice is given to me. I am the worst of the worst,
    when it comes to someone offering me advice on how to live life. No mater what
    I always end up building my own code of ethics based on my own personal
    beliefs. So for this reason I have missed out in all the wonderful blessings
    life has to offer.

    The thing is that being uncertain
    on what to do in ones life is like living in a comedy and the joke in on all of
    us. I believe that not knowing what to do is an illusion and we are all just
    partaking in a test of events that are already pre determined to see how much
    we can endure human beings. However again like I stated before we are always in
    control of one purpose and that is distinguishing right from wrong; knowing
    what to do when we have to make a decision that well either cause us to fall to
    are inevitable doom, or to rise into the light of everlasting love.

    My point is that we all know what
    to do deep down in are own hearts. However some things we can change and others
    we can not, because they have already been sit in place since the day we were
    born. Or rather like the word Karma, our Karma is what can cause some things to
    change in our lives. But if we choose to draw away from one good deed (Positive
    Karma) , everything in life will fall like dominos in to the direction that we
    have no control over…Which then ends up leaving us with this question> “What
    do I do when I don’t know what to do anymore?”

  • David

    Emma, you are an idiot.
    I regret making the decision to read your essay.

  • Wiley

    Total GAG!

  • John

    I have to make a decision, but I have fear that i can’t do that thing, I know that that decision is right one, but i don’t know can I do it. please help me!!

  • Eric

    I Have same problem, help me

  • sanjay

    Emma..
    writing of a genius

  • http://www.chocolatewednesdays.com chocolatewednesdays

    You’re not alone! I’ve been going back and forth about taking a new job that pays higher money than my current job (which is important bc I’m broke) but I have fun at my current job even though I don’t enjoy what I do (if that makes sense). But I’ve been trying to “decide” for over a week now instead of just making the decision even though, I know what I want. But do I??? lol

  • fhantome

    This is so strange, because I have the exact same thing. I’ve been thinking about what I want to study for at least 2 years now and I STILL DON’T KNOW. Is the the right decision to just choose, no matter the cost? I’m so conflicted in everything I make a decision in.

  • Cat

    Amazing and what I needed to hear. I have been driving myself and everyone else crazy with my worries about where to move, or even if I should move. I’ve only been able to make small temporary moves, resulting in more confusion and more running around between the same few states for over a year now (all the while considering and now visiting other states and becoming yet more confused and worried.)

    I guess my age – 47 going on 48 – makes me worry as well. I tell myself I am getting too old to make a bad decision or the wrong decision, when the reality of it is that there are benefits with every decision and things can be changed. But I worry about how much time I have left to “pull it together.” At least I am still looking at places to consider living and visiting them, so I AM doing something. I am checking out my options and maybe that statement there is actually the decision I have made – to check out all my options for a time. When the time comes, I will make a bigger decision form there. Maybe it is what we tell ourselves that makes things feel so confusing and worrisome. Relocating and considering my future priorities IS a big deal and needs some good thought and planning to some degree.

    So, I am giving myself until the end of summer to get my things out of storage and either stay where I was or move somewhere new. If it doesn’t work out, I can move back to where I was. What’s a year or six months at this point? I will have learned something and I am resourceful. But thank you for this article. I hate worrying about not knowing what to do about not knowing what to do. As a friend of mine also said, “The next step will present itself.” And even if it is not clear now, the next step is always presenting itself.

    I at least have experienced various places and have not been stuck in a rut.

  • Cat

    OMG, I just went there as one of the places I was checking out. I would like to move there. However, I think it may have too much cloud cover for me and I suffer from severe depression at times that is affected primarily by now much sunlight I get. It is a neat town. Part of me still thinks I should consider it, but part of me thinks my depression would be aggravated and it would be hard to enjoy. One of my indecision issues. I still can’t totally rule anything out, even though I have this medical condition with sunlight and my mood.

  • Cat

    Sarah – I too am sorry for your loss. Did you ever figure out where to go. I like your framing of the situation in that’s all okay. Thank you for that. I am in a similar situation – not wanting to go back, but not knowing where to go either. Stuff in storage for over a year. Would be curious how this resolved for you.

  • Cat

    Thank you for this reply, Mulyadi. I am at the do nothing thing after running around NC trying to see if I could see myself living there. In the end, I was not moved and moved to at both the same time! I thought on my drive back to my mom’s in Michigan that eventually, I will get some sort of guidance from somewhere that will help me out. I am having to turn it over to either a higher power outside of myself or one within myself – maybe both. I like your technique. I will borrow it. Thanks! Getting quiet and tuning in is a real help.

  • Istenno

    i don’t think it’s very cloudy here, though last year we did get tons of (record level) rain. i was happy with it, though, as i had just spent oodles on new plants and trees. no matter where you choose, though, don’t get fooled by “the sunshine state” of Florida….you’ll get lots of sun, but i guarantee it won’t help depression :P

  • Cat

    Thanks! My gut keeps telling me to give it a try. Maybe I will! I get a weirder gut feeling about Florida.

  • http://www.libertysingularity.com matty

    i been feeling like this for a while now i just dont know what else to do .. thanks your kind words

  • B

    I love this, I am the exact same and it is incredibly comforting knowing that I am not alone, I like to think of it as a blessing. Some people live their lives without ever taking a moment to consider the right and wrong in their actions or debate their choices and the possible outcomes and so they never truly feel that satisfaction from knowing you did the right thing. Yes, it’s not always how it works out, I’m usually regretful of my actions and decisions but just now and then it eases me to think of the good I have done and to remember that not every thing is as bad as it seems, including myself.

  • Melody

    Oh my god! i thought i was the only crazy person who feels this way. My mind’s cry right now..playing devil’s advocate. I am so fucking confused about everything that im doing that im not doing anything. And the fact that i have to take decisions regarding my career right now is so scary. I dont know what to do and im just running around in the dark trying to find my way out.

  • setare

    Bravo!!!!! When I was reading this, I felt that these words are coming out of me!
    Emma While, It was so great and wonderful, thank you.

  • http://www.stopstressandanxiety.com/ Mulyadi Kurnia

    Hi Cat. Happy to know that.

  • Jessie

    great article, really needed to hear this!!

  • Barbara Dunn

    Amazing :) I specially love when you say : “So let’s just get started. Let’s just relax. Let’s just decide. And let’s never look back.” <3

  • The Unknown one

    Think about, if there is a FATE, if there is … what must happen, WILL happen

  • Anand

    Maam,

    Its fortunate for me, that I stumbled upon this article of yours and that too at a time when I really needed it. This habit which you have discussed about, is shared by me too.
    I am happy to see that I’m not the only one who’s stuck in this maze, and the fact that there are others too, tells me that I’m not alone.
    I really connected with this article and would like to congratulate you for writing such a beautiful, simple, direct, and effective piece. Although I don’t think that I’ll be able to apply the prevention method right now, coz’ my mind isn’t in a receptive mode. But there is a little bit of hope inside me that someday I will be able to apply it and actually improve and get out this labyrinth in which I am captured, tortured and killed(metaphorically) for every single day of my life. Till then I just need to do one thing, which is survive……
    Once again congratulations to you for writing this piece, it has given me the hope to run an extra mile and I wish that you continue writing wonderful articles which have an impact on the people.

  • Poet Warrior

    What you have just briefly described is the essence of all spiritual practice.

  • Sarah

    You have described exactly what I go through all the time. I worry about making a decision, then I make one and then later still worry about if it was the ‘right’ one. Especially if it goes against ‘what everyone else is doing’. I really hate it. It’s exhausting and I just want to feel confident and content with my choices and my life.

  • Gwen

    The comments are as consuming as the post. Thank you for reminding me to move my legs!