Amanda Johnson

Love the life you have and have the life you want

When Trying to Figure It out No Longer Works, Try Asking Different Questions


I’m not sure if it’s something that I ate or something going on in the stratosphere but I have been riddled with self-doubt and anxiety lately. And, for some reason, there seems to be a lot of this going around right now.

I really wanted to try to solve this mystery and provide some answers to why this is happening and what I can do about it. In my process to do so and in preparation to share my findings with others, a couple of timely things occurred.

First, I happened to pick up a book (which I highly recommend anyone interested in this topic read immediately) that I read a couple of years ago and was reminded that I do not need to try and fix anything or even figure it out. As Michael Singer says in his book, “When a problem is disturbing you, don’t ask, ‘What should I do about it?’ Ask, ‘What part of me is being disturbed by this?’”

Secondly, I spoke with my father who shared some beautiful — and very vulnerable — wisdom with me. He said that possibly the greatest thing he has learned in his life is that he doesn’t have the answers — just lots of questions. And I think there is a lot to learn from this little gem.

These insights helped me shift away from trying to figure it out to asking different questions.

When we think we should have the answer or know what is going to happen, we simply create more stress and anxiety in our life. Which I’m pretty sure is the exact thing we are trying to escape by “knowing.”


In those moments of anxiety, self-doubt and uncertainty it’s not about having the answer, it’s about asking different questions.

What’s going on inside right now?

Check in. Like Michael Singer says, notice what part is being disturbed. What is happening in the body? What is happening in the mind? What sensations do I notice? Simply observe. It is not about judging it or changing it. Just tuning in.

Who is it that notices this going on?

Ever wondered who it was that was observing all the various thoughts and sensations going on in the body? That is the observer. The consciousness. The true self.

My guided meditation today used a brilliant metaphor for the mind being the clear blue skies. Our thoughts and feelings are the passing clouds. And sometimes they are dark thunderclouds and it can seem difficult to think about anything else. But the clear blue skies are always there — just think about an airplane going above the clouds. And it is from these clear blue skies that we observe the thoughts and feelings. It is from these clear blue skies that we find our self. We are not the clouds below — our thoughts and feelings — we are that which observes.

Is anything wrong in this moment?

This one can be tricky because we sometimes like to think that certain feelings are “wrong” or that the thought that we are having is “wrong” but if we get really honest with ourselves and remember that no feeling or thought is neither wrong nor right — it just is — then we can more often than not answer this question with a resounding “no.”

Most times we can take comfort in the fact that we have our health and our safety. We are not in immediate danger. Just because we feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean something is wrong — it’s okay to feel uncomfortable. That is part of human existence.

Now, if you’re still wondering what to do when feeling a surge of self-doubt or anxiety, all I can say is that I don’t have the answer nor do I think I need to.

See what happens if instead of tasking our minds to trying to figure it out we simply observe what is going on, sit with the discomfort and ask who is it that notices all of this from those clear blue skies?

What one or two things can you start doing when experiencing feelings of self-doubt or anxiety? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear what resonates most with you!


Author: Presence Matters

Amanda Johnson has one mission: to help people turn their critic into their ally so they can love the life they have and have the life they want. She does this through her work as a writer and presence coach. After years of struggling with depression, motivation and finding any purpose, Amanda made a choice to transform her experience of life. She realized that when she resisted, judged or attached to “what is” she suffered and that this is true for all of us. From this place, the idea to help others cultivate ease and joy through “Presence Matters" was born. Amanda is a seasoned professional with more than 10 years’ experience performing, educating, facilitating and consulting for Fortune 500 companies with the personal mission to reach and change lives for the better. Her passion for helping others—be it a 2nd-grader or a CEO—and her ability to connect with and inspire those she meets are unleashed by her wit, charm, and eloquence, making her message resonate deeply with her audience. For more information and to work with her, visit

13 thoughts on “When Trying to Figure It out No Longer Works, Try Asking Different Questions

  1. This is so true. “When we think we should have the answer or know what is going to happen, we simply create more stress and anxiety in our life. Which I’m pretty sure is the exact thing we are trying to escape by “knowing.”” I loved the entire post. It’s something I’ve been dealing with a lot myself lately. I’m slowly starting to accept that I don’t always need the answers, and sometimes, in the midst of those storms, it’s so difficult to see that blue sky, but we still need to have faith that it’s out there, that there’s more that we cannot see.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Or, Amanda, trying nothing. Sometimes, intentional seeking can be counter-productive; even futile. Choosing to be in flow… and considering trying different versus trying harder awakens people to new perspectives and possibilities.

    On a rare occasion when I sense or experience self-doubt, I simply acknowledge its presence and remind myself of my strengths and gifts… and what I am capable of doing with them. 🙂 And I move forward.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Quick fix: capitalize ‘out’ in header. Love you. Mom

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful post. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can totally relate to having lots of anxiety and doubt Amanda. I’m also learning to let of the need to have the answers as you and your Dad wisely remind us. Thanks for this thoughtful post. May we always remember to center ourselves as the awareness that watches the clouds, storms pass by. blessings, Brad

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a beautiful post 🙂

    Thoughts will come. It is just as important that we learn to let them go with the same ease.

    These thoughts are not ‘us’. They are a mental representation of the external. Both of these these exist within the material world. The ‘I’ is spiritual, so it cannot be thought.

    There is nothing that can be learned or known about the ‘I’. The witness cannot be known, but we do know that it is simply that – a detached witness.

    Hence if that is so, the ‘I’ is unchanging, pure and untainted. Like your example, the appearance of clouds in the sky does not in anyway change the witness.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    I feel similar from time to time on a personal note. But I find the key is not to hold on to thoughts. Just to let them come and go like the clouds in the sky. We never think, “This cloud will be here forever” because we have come to accept that the passing of clouds is just part of nature. And the passing of thought is also the most natural phenomenon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this – so lovely! I love your reminder at the end that we never expect think a cloud will be there forever and yet how easy it is for us to think that way about thoughts or feelings! And a beautiful description of the “I”. Again thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s