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When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

go with the flow

Creative Commons License photo credit: notsogoodphotography

I often find myself dreading situations where I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I know it will be uncomfortable, and I may have to feel dumb for a while. And yet, in the end, I find that it has not only been rewarding, but enjoyable too.


When you don’t know what you’re doing there is nothing to lean back on. This creates discomfort, but it also allows you to be much more open to possibilities. Things you probably would have missed otherwise.

When you’ve been doing something for a long time, you have a routine. You know where everything is going to be each step of the way, and that feels good because you don’t have to expend a lot of energy.

But with too much comfort, seeing possibilities gets harder. When you don’t know what you’re doing, you have to take everything as it comes, and see what you can do with it. By remaining open, you spot possibilities easily.


I find that when I lose the sense of play in my work (paid or otherwise) my stress levels begin to rise. When I play, I’m more open to learning, I’m more creative, and willing to take appropriate risks. When I don’t play, I become rigid, focused on completing the task as fast as I can, and the task becomes joyless.

Not knowing what you are doing is a wonderful place to play. You are discovering boundaries, you are developing a system, and there is plenty of room to explore.

Fear cannot exist in Play. Becoming to attached to certain results makes us fearful. When we play, the results simply happen, whether we expected them or not. By being playful with your task, you push that fear out of the way, and allow yourself the opportunity to find the unexpected.


When you don’t know what you are doing, enjoyment is easy to come by. By being open to possibility and keeping a sense of play as you explore your activity, you engage with your activity at a deep level. This kind of depth creates a richness to all your moments. The kind of depth that tends to pass us by if we are not careful.

When you don’t know what you are doing, each moment catches your attention because it has to. You’ve got to take each moment as it comes, feel it, explore it and live it, and not just get through it.

Each time I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, I find a freedom in “not knowing” that I wouldn’t find in a familiar task. And, ultimately, I like that freedom, even if I have to feel dumb for a while to have it. 🙂

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  1. I have just started working at a new client and play is the only way I have been treating it. There is so much to learn and do that play is the easiest and most enjoyable way to do it.

    Plus, why bother stressing, waste of time 🙂

  2. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Jarrod – Yes, play is especially good for new things. It keeps you in the right frame of mind.

  3. Amanda,

    This is a good post for me. I’ve been issuing my own writing challenges and recently, took on poetry, which is rather difficult style of writing for me. I go to lots of poetry blogs and am always amazed at the talent in the blogosphere…it humbles me.

    Yet, what you said in this post is one way I handle tackling this new style of writing. I have to play with it. Sometimes, I even have to step outside of the box (or rules) to find the fun:~)

    I think you’ve made an excellent suggestion for anyone tackling a new challenge or doing something outside their comfort zone. Like you said, playing opens up the possibilities…it takes away the “I must” or the “I shoulds.”

    Thanks for this post:~)

  4. I’m a great believer in the fake-it-till-you-make-it option as a fall back.

    Often times, I don’t know what the result of an action will be. I just open myself to the possibilities that those results will be better than I could have planned for. When I do that, I see opportunities to do and be better.

  5. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Sara – Yes, when I can make my perspective one of “play” it really changes how I’m engaging with that activity. I go from struggling with it to exploring it.

    Hi Corin – Exactly. And why settle for lesser results just because you can plan them. You can’t always see what is ahead of you.

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