I don’t know what to do with my life. 10 tips to help you gain more clarity.

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"I don't know what to do with my life."  How to get unstuck when you feel unsure.

"I don't know what to do with my life."  This phrase can ring true, no matter what stage you are in life.  When this happens, the best thing you can do is to contemplate what it is that makes you happy.  What makes you excited to get up each morning and sparks joy when you think about it?  Even if you're still scratching your head, it's normal not to know what you want to do with your life.

Whether you are a high school senior, a new college graduate, a professional in need of a career change, a parent going back to work when the kids are grown, or getting ready for retirement, having the proper mindset and tools can help you get closer to an answer.

I don't know what to do with my life.

Not knowing what to do with your life.

Let's imagine for a moment that you are in your final year of high school or college.  It seems like most of your friends and classmates have their lives planned for the next 5, 10, or 20 years.  You, on the other hand, get knots in your stomach and heart palpitations every time you think about what you're going to do with your future.

"Wouldn't it be so much easier if you got a letter in the mail when you were seventeen, signed by someone who had a direct pipeline to Ultimate Meaning, telling you exactly who you are and what your true destiny is?  Then you could carry this letter around in your pocket and when you got confused or distracted and suddenly melted down, you'd reach for your wallet and grab the letter and read it again and go, Oh, right." - Po Bronson

Instead, thoughts like these may be popping into your head:

"I just graduated and I still don't know what I want to do."
"The future is so far away, why do I have to know what I want to do right now?"
"I don't know what to do with my life and I'm scared out of my mind."
"I want to quit my job but I don't know what to do or how to replace it with another one."
"I feel so lost and I don't know what to do with my life."
"I can't believe I'm about to retire and I don't even know what I'll do with all that time."

Why is it so hard to figure out what I want?

One problem of not knowing what to do with your life stems from having many choices available to you.  If you live in a place where you can choose what you want to do with the rest of your life, you are probably blessed.  From this blessing though, comes the curse of not knowing what to choose.

My parents grew up in the post Second World War era, in a developing nation that left them with little choice about what they could do with their lives.

My father grew up in a rural village with farmers who had no other choice but to work on the farm in order to provide for the family.  My mother was put to work at a very young age to support her family and wasn't able to go to, let alone afford, college.

Me and my siblings, on the other hand, were blessed to have so many choices available to us.  My parents were able to give us the basic necessities of life and then some.  This made the opportunities more readily available to us.

Still, it didn't make it easier to pick and choose what we wanted to do with our lives when the time came.  For one thing, I was interested in multiple things that had nothing to do with each other.  I loved healthcare, fashion, gardening, singing, sketching, and playing musical instruments.

Another thing that made it problematic to choose a career was I was constantly changing my mind about what I wanted to do.  I wanted to be a doctor, a nurse, a dentist, a horticulturist, a botanist, a landscaper, a famous designer, a concert pianist, a violinist, and a historian.

There were other factors as well, like having fear of choosing the wrong thing or not knowing if I'd be happy or satisfied with my life choices.

There is a certain terror that goes along with saying "my life is up to me".  It's scary to realize there is no magic, you can't just wait around, no one can really rescue you, and you have to do something.  Not knowing what you want to do with your life-or not at least having some ideas about what to do next-is a defense against that terror.  It is a resistance to admitting that the possibilities are not endless.  It is a way of pretending that now doesn't matter.  Being confused about choices is nothing more than hoping that maybe there is a way to get through life without taking charge.  Rather than take charge. - Meg Jay

It's okay if you don't know what to do with your life.

You're not alone in this and it's perfectly normal if you're still wondering, "I don't know what to do with my life."  This phenomenon is far more common than you think and you don't have to beat yourself up just because you don't have the perfect job, or perfect whatever right now.

Society often tells us what we should be doing.  Just look at social media, or the internet, or any time you come across an advertisement.

You come to the conclusion that other people are happy and contented with their lives.  The underlying message is if you don't feel this way then there must be something wrong with you.  This can make you angry or even guilty for not living up to societal norms.

The truth of the matter is, this is just a perception.  A belief that someone made up and convinced you that it is reality.  Just like the belief that you have to know exactly what it is you want to do with your life.  This can be tough not just for those who don't know what they want in life, but also for those who have many different interests in life.

What if I'm interested in many different things in life?

You can be one of those people who has many different interests and that is also okay.  You are not your job, or your status, or your money.

You can have a job doing something you sort of like, alongside a dozen hobbies that you are passionate about and still feel fulfilled.  It's okay to have different passions in life because they bring you joy and meaning.

Putting pressure on yourself to find a lifelong career for the sake of is not just stressful, it can be counterproductive to finding what gives you purpose and meaning in life.

I don't know what to do with my life because I'm bored and have no interest.

It's okay to have to feel bored or disinterested once in a while because you are stuck in a rut or feel stressed out.  Sometimes it's good to go with the feeling and hold space for it.  It could be a signal that you're tired and overworked and you just need a break to reset.

In her book, "Do Nothing", Celeste Headlee  said that "We strive for the absolute best in every aspect of our lives, ignoring what we do well naturally, and reaching for a bar that keeps rising higher and higher.

We're looking for an external solution to an internal problem when what we really need is to shift our minds to start living instead of doing.

If you're feeling stuck, overwhelmed, stressed, or even depressed, be sure you seek some help, from a professional or someone you trust, if boredom or apathy becomes more than a passing feeling.

When you don't know what to do with your life, consider this.

If you are at a point in your life where you are contemplating about taking action, here are some things to think about to help forge your future path.

Be comfortable with making mistakes.

The one thing we fear about choosing what to do with our life is that we're making the wrong choice.  I had this dilemma while I was in college because I had so many interests in life.  I questioned whether or not I'd be happy with every profession that I researched.  When I came close to deciding, I would change my mind and pick something else as a way to protect myself from disappointment.

You'll never know for certain if you chose the right path until you try it.  You can be afraid to take risks and make the jump anyway.  The worst that can happen is that you hate it, the best that can happen is that you love it.

Be comfortable with making mistakes and dabbling here and there until you find what you love.

Stop saying should.

The word should is disempowering.  By listening to others tell you what you should do with your life, even if you don't agree with them, you are only cheating yourself.

Or it can be turned inward and you're telling yourself that you should be doing something that you're not already doing.  This can put unnecessary pressure and stress on yourself.  So pay attention if other people direct this word toward you or if you're doing it to yourself.

Stop comparing yourself.

Comparison is the thief of joy and it can also be difficult to stop.  One notorious place where this happens is on social media.  The things you see on social media are only highlights of a person's life.  You don't see the everyday struggles because people usually don't want to expose this part of their lives.

You're comparing yourself to others, wishing you had more of what they have, like wishing you had kids earlier in life, or wishing you had the time to travel like some of your friends and family.

You might even be comparing yourself to yourself because you're at a point in your life where you thought you'd have more.  More money, a bigger house, a job promotion, or a partnership in your practice.  You planned your life a certain way and it's just not working out the way you want.  So you're comparing yourself to an imaginary version of what you thought you should be.

Just remember that although comparison is natural, everyone has something that they're struggling with, even if you can't see it.  So you don't have to compare yourself to anyone or anything.

Be kind and patient with yourself.

One thing that we all want is to be happy, especially when it comes to what we are doing with our life.  After all, job satisfaction affects life satisfaction, which has an affect on your overall well-being.

All great things take time, so show yourself some compassion.  Compassion and kindness doesn't cost a thing and you might be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

You are where you're at for a reason, and even if you don't understand what that reason is, it's perfectly fine.  Forcing yourself to push forward will only bring frustration and disappointment.

Pay attention to the clues.

You might be that person that everyone flocks to for advice because what you say is always helpful and everyone tells you you're wise.

Pay attention to what others are always saying to you, what are people always going to you for, or praising you about, or thanking you for.  You also want to pay attention to what you are always gravitating towards or what you do best.

Are you good with computers, or do you love to sketch and paint?  Pay close attention because these can give you a clue about what you want to do in life.

Become more self aware.

By becoming self-aware, you gain ownership of reality; in becoming real, you become master of both inner and outer life. - Deepak Chopra

When you get up in the morning, do you get excited to start that day, or do you have to drag your feet out of bed.

This is important because are feelings clue us in as to what will make us feel happy and fulfilled.

Paying attention to your feelings also helps you become aware of what you don't like and what brings your energy levels down so you can keep doing what you actually like and maybe find what you want to do in life.

When you are ready to take action, here are 10 things you can do to help you sort through your life and figure out what you want to do.

10 action steps to help you forge your path in life.

Eventually we realize that not knowing what to do is just as real and just as useful as knowing what to do.  Not knowing stops us from taking false directions.  Not knowing what to do, we start to pay real attention.  Just as people lost in the wilderness, on a cliff or in a blizzard pay attention with a kind of acuity that they would not have if they thought they knew where they were.  Why?  Because for those who are really lost, their life depends on paying real attention.  If you think you know where your are, you stop looking. - David Whyte

Here is a list of actions steps you can take to finally get you closer to what you want to do in life.

1. Make a priorities list so you can eliminate distractions.

Your priorities in life are the things that are at the top of your to do list.  In this day and age, your attention can be pulled in so many different directions, from your family, to your work, to social circles, and technology.  Therefore, it's a useful tool that can ultimately help you find out what you want to do with your life

Making a priorities list allows you to evaluate the things that are most important and urgent in your life so you can focus your time and energy on them.  It also enables you to eliminate the activities that are just a waste of your time.

2. Get still and meditate.

Meditation can help you center yourself so you can take a journey inward and tap into your subconscious.  Often times, the things around you can distract you, leaving you lost and confused.  Even the noise inside of your head can pull your attention away, making it hard to focus and even connect to yourself.

To begin a meditation practice, find a quiet a place so you can focus, even for just 5 minutes.  Take deep breaths and allow yourself to relax if you can.  Then when you are able to, ask yourself what you really want to do with your life and allow the answers to flow to you.  Write down whatever came to mind so you can use the information to help you get more clear about what you want to do with your life.

3. Know yourself better.

Knowing who you are is fundamental to finding out what you want to do with your life.  It requires honesty and a bit of digging around.  Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Who do I admire and why?
  • What are my favorite books, subjects, and topics?
  • Where do I like to hang out?
  • What are my favorite activities?
  • What do I want to learn more about?

If questions are not your thing, here are some other unique ways to know yourself better.

Unique ways to get to know yourself better.

The following are unique and unusual ways to get to know yourself better.  They do not define your personality in any way, only you can define who you are.  These tools, however, but can be used to gain more clarity about yourself so you can figure out what you want to do with your life.

Myers Briggs Type Indicator.

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can help you sort out what you want to do with your life by assigning a personality type based on how you make decisions and perceive the world.  It is based on the Jungian theory of personality types, which is 16 in total.

The test also measures your interests, reactions, values, motivations, and more.  You can take a free version of the test here.

Astrology.

Astrology is the study of planets and stars and how they influence events.  It has been used to predict personality and behavior, based on the alignment of celestial bodies at the time and place of your birth, since ancient times.

Because the word astrology is synonymous with horoscopes and zodiac signs, there was no question in my mind about its dubious validity.  However, I was curious about how the heavenly bodies affect the way we think and act, so I took a test and was pleasantly surprised with my results.

Like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, this is considered a pseudoscience, but can be a unique and unusual way to gain more clarity about yourself.

Ayurveda and Dosha type.

Ayurveda, a.k.a. Ayurvedic medicine, is an ancient holistic healing system that originated in India and dates back 5,000 years.  According to Ayurveda, there are 3 basic personalities based on body types called the Doshas.  They are:

  • Vata - This body type is associated with the air and space (or ether) elements.  People with a Vata body type are usually slim, energetic, creative, and easily distracted.
  • Pitta - This body type combines the fire and water elements.  People with a Pitta body type are usually athletic, strong, muscular, and aggressive.
  • Kapha - This body type combines the earth and water elements.  People with a Kapha body type are usually heavy, steady, caring, and slow.

Most people are dominant in one form of these doshas and can have a mixture of the other two dosha personalities.  Just like the other two systems that assign personality types, dosha body types are not definitive personality types; only you can determine who you truly are.

These are just examples of questions and tests to help you get to know yourself better.  Knowing yourself is important because it is a lifelong practice and will be your internal guide to help you when you feel lost or stuck in life.

4. Make a list of your core values.

Values are what you believe at your core and can influence the way you live your life.  They are both your inner truth and a product of your experiences and memories.

It's important to make a list of your values so you can align them with what you want to do in life.  Becoming aware and staying true to your values can give your life more purpose and meaning.

Here is a a short list of core values:

  • Integrity
  • Beauty
  • Compassion
  • Recognition
  • Intimacy
  • Family
  • Money
  • Creativity
  • Equality
  • Balance
  • Wisdom
  • Service

5. Write down your strengths and weaknesses.

Your strength is something that you're good at and your weakness is something that you don't excel at or needs improvement.  Making a list of your strengths and weaknesses helps you evaluate the things in your life that you want to cultivate, improve, or eliminate.

Keep in mind that these are relative terms.  What you or someone may perceive as a weakness can be regarded as a strength.  For example, being quiet can be viewed as being closed off to some.  But to others, a quiet person can be perceived as someone with excellent listening skills.

Conversely, what may be perceived as a strength can also be seen as a weakness.  For instance, having strong opinions might be viewed as a strength by some, but may be off putting and regarded as a weak trait by others.

6. Make a list of your passions.

Your passions in life are the things that you have a strong desire or feeling for.  Making a list of your passions can help you determine what you want to do with your life.

Sometimes a passion in life can turn into an occupation.  For example, you have a passion for helping others heal, so you study to become a doctor or a therapist.

Passions change as you go through different phases of your life.  For instance, when I was a kid, I had a passion for bike riding, rollerskating, playing dolls, and doodling.  As I got older, my passions changed and I had a strong liking for growing plants and reading books.  Right before I had my kids, I had a passion for knitting made several scarves and a blanket.  Even if my ephemeral passions didn't become a career, they still brought meaning and joy to my life.

7. Find your purpose in life.

A purpose in life will give you the direction you need to find out what you truly want to do with your life.  Having a purpose in life is also beneficial to your health and longevity.  Your purpose in life can even help you through those times when you feel lost, confused, or stuck.

Finding your purpose in life is a process, so be sure to take your time with this.  You can use your purpose to align with your job, or anything that you do, and give it more meaning.  Here are some questions that can help with this:

  • What are my core values?
  • What do I believe in?
  • What do I stand for?
  • What would I say to my 8 year old self?
  • What do I want in a relationship?
  • Where do I see myself in 1 years?
  • Where do I see myself in 5 years?

These are just a few examples.  If you want more questions, you can download this free helpful guide to help you find your purpose in life.

8. Network with other people.

Network with people that you have something in common with or are doing something you are interested in.  People with knowledge and experience in your field of interest can be a great resource to help you find out what to do with your life.

They can point you in the right direction by giving useful information, advice, a fresh perspective, or a different view on something.  Getting more information and connections can make the process of figuring out what to do with your life easier and less lonely.

9. Volunteer.

Volunteering is usually donating your time and service to someone else for free.  Volunteering is great when you don't know what to do with your life because it can help you boost your skills or learn new ones.

You can check out an occupation that you might be interested in without committing too much, especially if you are strapped for cash.  This will also build your references and network that you can use them in the future once you do know what you want to do in life.

10. Track your goals and habits.

Goals are intentions with a specific date of completion.  Once a goal is established, it becomes a habit.  Your goals and habits are important when you don't know what to do with your life.  They keep track of your progress so you can evaluate yourself and make any necessary changes to improve your life.

When setting goals, be sure to follow the SMART acronym:

Specific - Write exactly what you want to accomplish in detail.

Measurable - Be sure your goal is something you can track.

Achievable - Make your goal something that is within reach.

Realistic - Don't aim for something that would be impossible to do.

Time bound - Be sure you can complete your goal during a specific time frame.  If you need to, you can break your goal down into smaller, more workable goals.

You can turn your goal into a good habit by doing it at the same time and day of the week.  If you couple it with something positive, it will help reinforce the new behavior so you are more likely to stick with it and transform your life.

Taking these action steps will help you figure out what you want to do with your life by connecting you to your values, purpose, your higher self, and others.  If you're still having trouble with this, it's perfectly fine.  Here are some tips that may help you have some peace of mind if you're still unsure about how to move forward in your life.

What if I never know what to do with my life?

Acceptance.

If you're still thinking, "I don't know what to do with my life" or you're not 100% sure, that is okay.  Accepting yourself as you are right now rather than pushing yourself to find what you want to do with your life is liberating.

You don't have to like what you are doing right now, but you can find more meaning and purpose in what you're doing already.  Accepting yourself and your circumstances fully can bring some inner peace if there are lingering insecurities and doubts.

Just let go.

Nothing in life is guaranteed and there is nothing certain except uncertainty.  That is why it's important to detach from the outcome when it comes to figuring out what to do with your life.

Just like life, your pursuits and your goals can change due to things you can't control, such as unforeseen setbacks and challenges.  Letting go and embracing imperfection can help you go with the flow of life so you don't feel overwhelmed with figuring out your future.

Be ready when the opportunity comes.

Remember that life is unpredictable.  That is was makes it both frightening and exciting.  You need to be ready to strike when the opportunity comes along.

All the efforts you've been putting into your life up to this point, however random or disconnected they may seem, have the potential to help you find out what you want to do with your life.  Thus, your energy is neither wasted or in vain because each chance you take is a learning opportunity.

Final thoughts.

Being unsure or clueless about what you want to with your life can feel frustrating and even terrifying.  Having a certain mindset and the right tools under your belt can help make the process easier, such as looking for patterns & clues, being more aware, finding your core values, discovering your purpose in life, knowing yourself better, and networking with other people.

Even if after you've done all the soul searching and you're still thinking, "I don't know what to do with my life", that is perfectly alright.  Know that it's okay to accept where you are right now so when opportunity comes knocking at your door, you can embrace it with open arms.

I hope these tips bring you closer to finding what you want to do with your life.  I'd love to know what you think!

Christine Songco is the creator of Third Bliss and is passionate about helping others thrive holistically by finding passion, meaning, and purpose in life. Christine has been featured in WebMD, Authority Magazine, Philips Lifeline, Owl Guru, and The Lifestyle Blogger UK.

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