5 Tips For When You Feel Like "I Have No Idea What I'm Doing!"
I can totally empathize, because lately I have been feeling this on a grand scale.
Guys, here's my confession: I have no idea what I am doing.
I've felt this way for a long time, actually. But lately it's become a little overwhelming. There's a lot going on in my life: we're dealing with the normal family things, plus jobs, and all the regular crazy stuff. On top of that are some other things that are a little abnormal:
- We're in a custody dispute over two little girls, and we're diligently providing all the information we can come up with to our lawyer. Plus, that situation is stressful to deal with. How can a parent deliberately withhold a child from the other parent out of spite? It's unthinkable.
- I am dealing with the fallout of some deep rooted family issues, and the stress and sadness is at times overwhelming.
- I just turned 37 (omg!), which is maybe why I am dwelling on the "what am I doing with my life?" stuff.
- Even happy things can cause life to tilt slightly off balance. We just got a puppy, which changes the dynamics of our day-to-day a little bit: I haven't spent this much time thinking about another being's frequency of going to the bathroom since my daughter was a baby!
So, I understand some of my feelings of being unhinged and overwhelmed come from life circumstances. I also know some of it comes from who I am: I am a creative person who was taught for years that feelings are ignored, not dealt with. Now I feel ALL the feelings, and yeesh...it's rough learning at 37 what I should have learned at 7.
And some of it comes from that longing.
Do you know that longing? It's the one where you are super aware of the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Do you feel stuck or trapped in a place that isn't entirely your choice? A job you need versus one you want. A place you'd like to be but can't get there for whatever reason. A life circumstance that just isn't happening even though you desperately want it to? That's the longing I'm talking about.
Here's my gap: I work a part time job for a non-profit organization. It is a job that has meaning (yay!) and a steady paycheck (double yay!).
My dream is to be an artist and writer. It's all I think about, read about, and do. I've tried several times to let go of it, but it won't leave me alone. So, here I am at 37, knowing I need my part-time job to stay afloat, and I need to devote a certain amount of time to life, and family (and sleep!), which leaves me the leftover time to make this shit happen. Or not. Or maybe I could... Or, no, it's too hard and overwhelming, plus I don't think I'm talented enough. But, yes! I could be awesome! (Do you see the issues here? This is what's in my head on a daily basis. Sigh. Talk myself in, talk myself out.)
This blog is part of that dream of mine, too. It's also one of the main areas where I am certain I have no idea what I am doing!
I read a TON of blog advice. Everything from design and graphic tips to writing great posts to promotion, and everything in between. I Hoover up blog advice like it's going out of style. In a way, it's an obsession, and it's also completely overwhelming.
Why? Well, I'll be honest: the one thing every blog expert says you HAVE to have before running a successful blog, I don't have.
I've read a million times that a successful blog knows its niche, its worldview, its focus.
I've lived long enough to know that focus is not my forte. I feel more like I'm stumbling around in the dark looking for the light switch (Oh, there it is! No, never mind, that's a picture frame. And, ouch I just stubbed my toe! Where was I again? And so on...) Oh, I've tried! I've done the exercises where you make up your "one person," or you narrow down your niche, you pick something you can help people with, etc., etc., etc., grrrrr....
For whatever reason, I know I haven't quite got it yet.
In my kinder moments, I know the truth. That nagging, frustrating feeling of "I have no idea what I am doing" only requires the addition of one little word:
. . . yet.
I have no idea what my focus is . . . yet.
I have no idea how to be successful with my art . . . yet.
I don't have any idea how I will become a writer . . . yet.
Because one day, I will be those things, and can look back on the time when I didn't know what I was doing as a necessary stepping stone to "getting there."
That doesn't make it easier. We all sometimes have to sit in the space of not knowing, of feeling inadequate, of feeling trapped by life circumstances. So, to help you and me both get through, even though we may be facing vastly different things, here are some suggestions. I hope they help.
Why You Feel You Don't Know What You're Doing (& What to Do About It):
- What you're told: Your creative work won't get you anywhere. Maybe your art, music, or crafting dreams were squashed early because your family or an influential person told you you had to have a real (cough, cough 9-5 cubicle) job. A sensible job. You can do your craft as a hobby, these people said. You need to work at a real job to support a family. And so, you grew up believing the very thing you wanted was impractical or, at worst, irresponsible. What to do: It's 2015. The rules that used to apply are changing fast. People don't believe in working their lives at one steady job until retirement. There are so many options available that could fit your vision, you just have to take the time to find them, and then pick the ones that best suit your goals, skills and lifestyle. It is do-able, and there are people who are proving it everyday. Have faith that one day you'll be one of those people and there will be newbs looking up to you. (I need to tape this one to my own forehead).
- What You Feel: Your work is amateurish, or you doubt your skills. You see the work of other people who are further along the path than you, and their work looks like the Taj Mahal while yours is a rotting shack in the woods. It sucks when your passion outweighs your skills, but this is the reason why you have the passion! To make you work to build those skills without losing your drive to do the thing. Every creative person has doubts about their ability. I would be more worried if you had no doubts! What to do: The answer you didn't want to hear. Hard work. If there's a piece of your dream that you don't feel skilled in, fix it. Build that skill. It may take time and it may be frustrating, like learning to tie your shoe at age 30. But in today's world, you really have no excuses (I am critically eyeballing myself here, ahem) because the information is all out there! You can read a book, Google it, YouTube it, ask an expert, go to school, take a course...literally the options available to you are endless.
- What Worries You: You're of a certain age (15? 34? 70?) and either feel like your dream isn't happening fast enough or you're running out of time. There are actually two ways to look at this one, because time is something we all have, and time is something we all waste. What to do: First, you could clear out some unnecessary stuff to make time for your dreams and goals. Then, if you are really serious about pursuing them, you will use that time to work on them. If a few weeks or months pass and you're still not making progress, maybe that's the time to ask why you're not doing what you say you want to. There's another part to this "time thing" that's a little less concrete, but bear with me. Maybe it's not happening fast enough because it's not time yet. There's something that needs to happen, some skill you need to learn, or some experience you need to have before your dream can become a reality. You may not know why or what is supposed to happen yet, but if you listen closely to yourself, you may hear a little voice saying, "Just relax. It's not time yet."
- What You're Dealing With: Someone doubts your dreams. Maybe it's you, or maybe a spouse, parent, or trusted friend. If it's another person, he or she has enough influence over your thoughts and actions to make you doubt yourself and believe him or her. Sometimes these people mean well and just don't want to see you fail. Sometimes these people secretly hope you will fail because they are jealous, negative, or unsupportive. (Sucks, but it happens . . . too often). What to do: It's scary, I know. But you have to listen to you. Even if the person is well meaning, or even if it will impact your life with this person (working long hours, less money initially, being on the bottom rung . . . whatever their "reason" for why you shouldn't) should be acknowledged. And then thrown out! Not in a rude or mean way. You can tell them you appreciate their concern (or not, it's up to you) and then go ahead and do what you want to do. You may have to change some things to make it work, or you may even have to consider the possibility of letting this person go if they are unwilling to support you. But this is your life, not theirs. When it comes right down to it, you're the only person who has final say. Period. End of sentence.
- What You Think: Everyone is an expert. Have you been on the Internet lately? You can't throw a stick without hitting an expert in the eye with it. Experts on love, health, sports, celebrities, politics, the environment, and more. There are celebrities who are experts. There are experts on which experts are better. It's exhausting and overwhelming. But you, over here in your little corner of the world, don't feel like an expert. At least, not as expert-y as all those other ones out there with their websites and YouTube channels, and fancy Internet University degrees. Am I right? What to do: First, define expert. Basically, all it means is a person who has knowledge or skills in a particular area. Hey, that's you! And me! The only thing we don't have, like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, is a piece of paper (or nowadays a website), proclaiming our expertness. So if all that stands between you and what you want is not feeling like you're expert enough, it's time to get rid of that thought. Don't lie and puff up your knowledge, but understand that to someone who knows little to nothing about your area of interest, you are the expert!
There you have it. Five tips to get you and me through this weird time of feeling like we don't know what we're doing. The best part is, you may find that someday you'll recognize it in someone else and can pay it forward by helping them.
Are you struggling with the gap between where you are and where you want to be? What things in your life are making you feel like you don't know what you're doing? Do you have any other tips besides the ones I gave? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Woman on bench photo credit: https://unsplash.com/mikael_k: By Mikael Kristenson