I don’t know what to do with my life. This is a sentence that so many people have said so many times that it has almost become a cliché. I wouldn’t even be mistaken if I were to tell you that 99.99% of the world has faced the same conundrum more than once during their lives — even the ones who seem to have everything in order.
This naturally gives rise to a follow-up question — if I don’t know what to do with my life, what can I do about it? (Yes, that sounds a bit jumbled, but you get the picture.)
Well, this might sound a bit depressing, but there are both millions of right answers AND no right answer. You’ll see what I mean when you explore this dilemma a bit further.
Why Do People Feel Like They Lack Direction?
You probably already know that there is no blueprint for a happy, successful life. For example, if you think that being a millionaire would make you happy, you’d be wrong. Financial Samurai has actually laid out some of the disadvantages of being rich, and the list it provides is far too long.
But then again, maybe a mediocre career will make you happy. There’s less stress, and you can do what you love, right? Well, think again. Everyone, from teachers to accountants, tends to get extremely depressed, and not even artists or entertainers are immune to this feeling.
Now, I’ve only been focusing on jobs and careers so far. Sometimes, the person with the ‘I don’t know what to do with my life’ conundrum has different personal problems. Maybe it’s about searching for that perfect someone? After all, finding the person of your dreams might give you the direction you need!
Sadly, even that can turn sour, as Tiffany Sun explains in her own blog posts and even her bio. A relationship can be amazing, but it can also stifle creativity or act as a burden for both partners.
With all of these setbacks, it’s no wonder that people feel trapped from time to time. Whether you’re on the streets begging for money or in a neat little office typing away at your computer, life just isn’t easy. In fact, even people who seem to have it all can just stare at their wall and, again, utter the dreaded phrase — I don’t know what to do with my life.
So, Should I Even Bother Trying?
If you go over a list of everything that you can do in life, you might find at least one risk linked to it. I’ll provide the briefest, most bare-bones list that illustrates my point:
• Want to travel? You can get mugged or lose your personal documents.
• Interested in having children? You can end up penniless, while your children may have a poor upbringing.
• Want to start a project or try your hand at a craft? You can end up sinking lots of money into it and failing miserably.
• Do you need to move somewhere else? Your new place might be a dump, or you could get scammed into paying too much.
• Feel like losing weight or gaining some muscle? Congratulations, you just dislocated your shoulder and ended up in a hospital for a week.
• Are you interested in hiking or mountain-climbing? Oh no, you just broke your leg and ended up in a hospital for a month.
It’s only natural that people don’t even want to try new things. After all, everything comes with a certain risk. But…should you give up entirely?
I’ll put it bluntly — no, you should not. The “I don’t know what to do with my life” dilemma will only get worse if you give up.
Of course, some of my astute readers will rightfully inquire, ‘Well, what CAN I do?’. So, here’s a list of steps that can help you decide on what you want (or need) to do with your life in order to feel fulfilled.
Keep in mind that these are the steps that worked for me; if you can, feel free to either add or subtract your own steps along the way. Always remember that this topic doesn’t have a set mathematical formula and that the success depends on the individual.
8 Steps to Resolving the I Don’t Know What to Do With My Life Issue
Step 1: Find Out What You Love to Do
It sounds easy, doesn’t it? It’s as easy as saying ‘Well, I don’t know what to do with my life, but I know I love X, so I’ll do X,’ right?
Well, it’s far from easy, but it’s more fun than you’d think. Basically, you will have to sit down and think, long and hard, about everything you like and everything that brings you joy. You’ll need a pen and a notebook here since you’ll want to write all of that down.
When asking yourself about your likes and dislikes, make sure to include as many things as possible, even the ones that don’t seem like they can earn you a living. Basically, you’ll be like George Costanza from the Seinfeld episode ‘Revenge,’ when he lists all of the potential jobs he could have after quitting.
Here’s a mock-up list I made that illustrates this point:
• I enjoy writing
• I love watching sports
• Animals make me feel good, especially horses and hamsters
• I love listening to country music from the 1930s
• Playing card games is awesome
• I enjoy intense physical labor sometimes
• I like sleeping until the afternoon
• Sometimes, I prefer a strong breakfast
• I like compact cars more than sedans
• My favorite genre of video games is FPS
Of course, if your list is as short as this one (or even shorter), go out and try a few new things. You might be surprised by all of the new activities you end up loving.
But it’s not just about listing every activity you can think of. The next step is asking yourself why those things appeal to you.
That way, you will find out just how much certain things matter in relation to others. More importantly, you will know how to prioritize and move on to the next step.
Step 2: Make a Plan
Now that you have your priorities in order, it’s time to make a plan.
Of course, there is no ‘proper’ plan because each person works differently. For instance, some people tend to go into minute details and plan everything out, while others simply wing it.
I propose combining these two approaches, with a few key elements to focus on:
• Set a specific goal; the more vague your goal is, the less motivated you will be to work on attaining it
• Make sure that you can measure your progress somehow
• Don’t shoot too high — it’s a good idea if your goal is attainable and realistic
• Give your goal a time frame and try to stick to it as closely as possible
• Lastly, make sure that the goal is directly relevant to your life
Step 3: Make a Plan B
Remember that list of likes? Well, it’s always a good idea to focus on a few things, just to keep it interesting. You might never know if your secondary or tertiary hobby can become your vocation in life.
Interestingly, you might also want to pay attention to things you don’t necessarily like but can do if you get the opportunity. Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs explained this concept perfectly in his guest video on PragerU’s YouTube channel.
Step 4: Prepare for Failure
Failure is a part of living, and nobody enjoys it when it comes about. However, even the brightest minds in the business world will tell you that the key to a successful life is knowing how to deal with failure.
Think of your favorite actor. How many films were they in that made them a household name? More importantly, how many films did they star in that ended up being box office bombs?
Now think of your favorite author, celebrity, politician, historical figure, or even a friend or a family member. Ask yourself about their own failures.
Nobody is asking you to act calmly when you fail — if you feel like raging or crying about it, feel free to do so. But the key is to continue to do what you love to do. Your current failure might just be a stepping stone to your future success.
Step 5: Find Inspiration
Did you know that George Lucas’ father called his own son a late bloomer and thought that he would amount to nothing in life? That same man changed his mind once his son made a series of science fantasy films that continue to be the pinnacle of movie-making even today.
Of course, Lucas is not the only person who had no direction in life, only to rise to stardom and the admiration of millions. Whenever you feel down, you can read up on your idols and see just how they ended up doing what they love. More importantly, you can learn about everything they had to endure along the way.
Step 6: Good Habits Are Key
This step is quite self-explanatory, so I’ll just provide a shortlist for you to follow:
• Eat healthy food and keep yourself hydrated
• Exercise regularly
• If possible, sleep eight hours a day and wake up early
• Don’t slouch when sitting down
• Always let fresh air into your home
• Always be prepared when doing an outdoor activity
• Go in for regular doctor and dentist checkups
• Keep your room tidy
• Keep your workplace tidy
• Socialize as often as you can
This list is, by no means, extensive. By developing these good habits, you will always be physically and mentally prepared for anything that comes your way.
Step 7: Try Helping Others
Believe it or not, if you’re stuck with no direction, you can get out of the rut by helping someone else. Remember — you’re not the only one who has the I don’t know what to do with my life problem.
By helping others, you will get a better perspective on your own issues. In addition, if the person is thankful, they might become an ally and help you reach your own goals, as well as find a purpose in life.
Step 8: Be Aware of Change
Change is inevitable. Even if you end up doing something you love, eventually, it might tire you out. Once it does, you’ll be back at the beginning of this irritating I don’t know what to do with my life game.
But don’t despair! Even if that happens, remember these steps and move on to the next thing that you love doing. That’ll surely keep things interesting, not to mention let you continue moving forward with minimal losses.
As I stated earlier, these steps are not the be-all and end-all of finding one’s life purpose. Even today, after all these years, there comes a time when I don’t know what to do with my life and need a good rethink. Essentially, I completely understand if this all sounds scary to you — because it IS scary.
Still, if you stick to your guns and keep pushing forward, you’ll find your niche and gain that fulfillment that everyone needs.