The 1 Question that Kills Inaction

Icy Slope

Imagine you’re on a solo backpacking expedition in the arctic! You’re hiking uphill in the subzero whipping wind, with a 50-pound pack of survival supplies on your back. The route is inclining steeper and STEEPER, and through the blur of snowy wind you can see the outlines of giant snowdrifts forming in your path. The elements seem to be against you. You FEEL frozen in place, as if you cannot take another step!

Have you ever felt like this… completely overwhelmed by life’s circumstances?

Sometimes life can feel like a treacherous backpacking expedition. Even a mounting to-do list can snowball into an avalanche in your mind and leave you feeling powerless-IF you let it.

I know I have been in that moment before. The deadlines, to-do lists, and various pieces of life have piled up. I have found myself sitting down and thinking, What do I do next? What is next, what is next?

And I have felt that brief moment of panic thinking, I don’t know.

Sometimes we truly think we don’t know what to do next. We FEEL like we cannot take another step! We don’t know how or where to place our feet. And all we can see are looming snowdrifts waiting to swallow us whole.

Here’s something important for you to remember-just because you FEEL like you don’t know what to do… doesn’t mean you actually don’t know what to do.

When you’re tempted in that moment to give in and give up, to allow yourself to be paralyzed and do nothing, just stop. Stop for a nanosecond and ask yourself this:

I know I don’t know what to do… but if I did know, what would I do?

You may think that sounds silly. You may think it won’t work… but it will. When you can believe you know the answer, this question will bring it out every time.

It may not seem like it at first. It may cause you to take one simple, small action, like making a phone call. But that one little action will lead to other little actions, which will eventually lead you to your answer.

The key is taking action-stepping up and doing something. When you don’t know what to do… do what you know to do.

Just like the mountain climber all alone in those snowdrifts, simply keep moving forward. Strap on your snowshoes a little tighter, one at a time, and forge ahead. You’ll still be cold, it may still seem like you won’t make it, but now your weight is more evenly distributed across the top of the snow. You’re moving. Action is taking place. The next step becomes a little easier. You may be moving slow, but you’re no longer sinking in place.

The next time you feel stuck in any situation:

  • Decide to do something, instead of nothing
  • Think about one single thing you know you need to do to begin moving forward
  • DO that one thing!
  • Repeat

There will never be a shortage of things that you know how to do. Keep repeating the cycle of doing one thing that you know how to do, and do all that you can. Accomplish all that you can in a day. You’ll end up filling days, weeks, and years with productivity and progress!

Do this every day and you’ll change the course of your life.

The elements of a situation are never beyond the power of the human spirit. Step by step, a journey forms. So when you start to feel stuck in the snowdrifts and don’t know what to do, just do what you know to do. Tighten those snowshoes, and take one step at a time.

About the Author
Robert D. Smith is the author of 20,000 Days and Counting, a crash course in living each day with maximum purpose and intensity. He also writes about personal growth, entrepreneurship, and more at

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