If you’re feeling lost, I understand.
I was there.
Sometimes, especially in these last few months, I feel like I am there.
Feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing with your life is one of the most frustrating feelings in the world. And as with other emotions we experience, we tend to fight it, instead of learning how to cope with it.
Life is not a straight line that goes from A to B.
Life is a canvas of circles and waves, ups and downs, highs and lows. It’s a journey of self-discovery and creation. We paint it with a set of colors and then re-stroke it with another. It’s transformative. Ever-changing.
Like the sea, life is always in motion. Sometimes the sun is sparkling across its bed of blue. Sometimes a blanket of clouds dims the light. Sometimes, a storm squalls it into a fury. But no matter what happens, and whether we can witness it or not, someplace, somewhere, every single day, the sun gently sinks to kiss the sea at its horizon.
If you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing with your life, that’s okay. It’s a phase that shall pass. It’s another wave that you will ride. Here are five things to realize.
1. Nobody Has it “All Figured Out.”
First and foremost, let’s agree on two things:
- Nobody has it all figured out. And if they tell you that they do, they’re lying to you. Consider this: Every business is constantly trying to figure out how to grow their customer base, improve their product, and gain market share. So every business is a work in progress. Every online writer is constantly trying to figure out how to reach more readers, improve their writing, and grow their online influence. Every couple in a relationship is constantly trying to figure out how to keep it working (or at least, make it work) and every new parent is trying to figure out how to maneuver their way through parenthood. Nobody has it all figured out-everyone is figuring it out as they go-just like you.
- Nobody can accurately explain what our existence is about. What’s the meaning of life? What’s our purpose? What’s our reason for being? There isn’t one universal answer to that question. And so, again, as demonstrated above, nobody has it ‘all figured out.’
It’s okay to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing with your life-you’re not expected to have it all figured out. And now that we agree on this, let’s explore why you’re feeling the way you are.
2. You’re Changing The Way You Think, and That’s a Good Thing
You’re feeling lost because the things you once valued are no longer the things that matter to you today. And do you know why? It’s because you are no longer your younger self.
When you were a kid, you set goals and dreams for who you thought you would want to become as an adult. But as the seasons changed, and the earth continued to rotate around the sun, you matured. You cocooned into a new ideology. You changed the way you think and now you realize that the ideas you had for your future self no longer resonate with the ideas you have for your present self.
It’s time to shed those off and let them go.
The person you are today is not responsible for being the person you once thought you would become. The person you are today is solely responsible for the adult you want to be today.
You owe nothing to your younger self.
You owe everything to your present self.
So the question is: Who do you want to become?
What’s calling you? What does your heart so ferociously seek?
Ask yourself these questions. And then lean into them. If it’s to write, then just write. If it’s to launch your own side business, then walk that path. If it’s to change industries, then start making connections. If it’s to move to a new country, map out a plan for it.
Feeling lost can be a good thing. It means you’re realizing that you no longer want what you once did. It means that you’re starting to change the way you think — and that’s a sign of growth. So give yourself permission to question what you want today.
3. You’re Focusing on The Outcome When You Should be Focused Solely on The Process
As you give yourself permission to discover what the ‘you’ of today wants, remember that you don’t need to know the outcome.
All that you need to do right now is the work itself.
You might be a writer questioning the validity of your ideas and the assertiveness of your voice. You might be an entrepreneur doubting yourself and the potential of your business. You might be an employee drowning in remorse for accepting the wrong job offer.
Here’s what you need to realize:
J.K. Rowling did not know that she was going to be one of the world’s most famous writers. She had no idea that Harry Potter will become a blockbuster movie series. She just focused on writing a good book about wizards and magic. Steve Jobs did now know that Apple will at one point become the world’s most valuable company, he just focused on building the world’s best computer. His journey to the top of the world began in his parent’s garage. Michael Jordan did not know that he would become the world’s most celebrated basketball player, he just focused on building his mindset and improving his game. Sir Richard Branson did not know what would become of Virgin, he just focused on creating a magazine for students, which then pivoted into a music record store.
Every extraordinary and successful person began where you are today: Feeling like they have no idea what they’re doing with their life. What they did, however, was not moan and complain. They focused on their task at hand and on doing the best they can with it. They focused on the process, not the outcome.
4. You Can’t Think Your Way into a New Life, You Can Act Your Way into One
Stop complaining and belittling yourself. What good does it bring you? It just drowns your motivation in the well of self-pity.
So here’s a better idea:
Start brainstorming some ideas and coming up with actions you can take to move you into the direction you want to move into.
Ah, yes, I can hear you say: But, I don’t know in which direction to walk! I’m lost!
To that exclamation I say: Any direction is better than no direction.
As you walk, the path appears. As you move in a direction, the answers unravel. And as you continue to step forward, you will begin to see the possibilities. They are there and present just as the moon is whole in-spite of its crescent.
Motion begets clarity because action breeds more clarity than thought. So remember this mantra and live by it: Be not a thinker, be a doer who thinks.
You can’t think your way into a new life, you can only act your way into one.
5. The Answer Lies in What You Do With Your Today
There’s a saying that goes: “If you don’t like the conversation, change it.”
So here’s an idea: If you don’t like the question, change it.
Stop asking yourself “what am I doing with my life?” and start asking yourself “what am I doing with my each and every day?”
What are you doing with your today?
That’s the question that you should answer. And if the response does not inspire you-if it doesn’t revive a feeling of pride by day end-then you know what you need to do; you need to change the actions of your day.
Every morning Benjamin Franklin would rise and ask himself this question:
“What good shall I do this day?”
If you can’t forge a clear picture of what you want your future to look like, that’s okay. Take your time with it. The biggest injustice you can do for yourself, however, is to let the privilege of your today falter into waste.
So here’s my suggestion: If you’re feeling lost, take it day by day.
Focus on what you can do with your ‘today.’ Focus on what you want to do with your existence. Show appreciation for the gift of time. Do something worthwhile-something that matters to you. Choose one thing, and do it every single day. Let it be the anchor to your day. And stick with it-it will lead you somewhere positive.
In this way, you will end each day with this question:
“What good have I done today?”
What’s something valuable that I’ve done for myself today? What value have I added to my life today? How have I moved my life forward today?
If you can go to sleep with an answer, if you can lean on your anchor, you will stay grounded, and sooner rather than later, you’ll be able to say, I know what I’m doing with my life.