You realized out of nowhere that you have no idea what you’re doing with your life.
If you’ve been living your best life until now, you might start to wonder why you feel this way. After all, you already have it all figured out, right?
In this article, let me help you understand why you’re going through this crisis, and what you can do about it.
Why do you feel this way?
1) You’ve been living your life for others
One reason why you’ve been feeling lost in life is that you simply don’t have a life of your own. Instead, you’ve been living your life for others.
It could be that you’re trying to reach milestones so that you can make your parents proud, or that you have been so selfless that almost every time you do something it’s always for the sake of others.
The approval of others—most especially that of our parents—may give us joy in the moment, but it’s a fragile and empty joy that leaves you a slave to other people’s feelings and judgment.
And when that happiness fades, you will look back and wonder “what am I doing with my life?”
2) There has been a big change in your life
We, humans, are creatures of habit and, when something drastic happens to disrupt our mostly predictable day-to-day lives, we may find ourselves lost.
No matter how independent and free we may seem, we all need that stability to cope with the chaotic nature of the reality we live in.
Let’s say that your marriage of 20 years fell apart. Such a thing would leave you feeling that you’ve wasted 20 years of your life—years that you’ll never get back from having invested in the wrong person.
But that’s not all. When we’re going through a big life change, we will also start to question everything else in our life. You might start to ask yourself why you still want to live in the same town or the kind of friends you have.
And most importantly, you can’t stop yourself from asking what now?
3) You’re gripped by the need for more
Another big reason why you might feel lost is because you’re overwhelmed by what you don’t have. You have been chasing after things you want, but they’re always out of reach no matter how hard you try.
Or maybe you’ve reached them and you realize they’re not enough to make you happy.
Let’s say you’ve always wanted to have a car since you were a kid. You thought you’d be content with just a cheap four-seater, but the moment you got one you realize you actually want a camper van.
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To satisfy that need, you keep working harder to get an even better car.
Then you realize just how futile and pointless it all is. What’s the point, after all, of getting so many new cars if you’re too busy to really drive them around anyways?
You thought you’d be happy once you get that certain something but you end up feeling hollow once you finally get it. Moments like this can definitely make us ask ourselves “what the heck am I doing?”
4) You’ve been stuck doing the same things every day
You’ve been doing the same thing over and over again and you just realized just how dull and pointless your life so far has been.
This usually happens when we get out of our routine, like when we travel to some exotic place, making us see the world—and more importantly our life— in a different way.
You realize that this cannot continue, but at the same time you’re at a loss as to what you can do.
You look back at the days you’ve wasted away and wonder what you have even been doing until this moment.
5) You haven’t found your goals
Some people know what they want out of their lives very early on, and then spend the rest of their lives in pursuit of that goal. Most of us, however, don’t, and instead get by doing whatever we need just to get by.
You might have been struck by an epiphany and, looking back, realized that you haven’t really achieved at all that much. You have been living aimlessly, and as a result your life—at least to your eyes—has gone nowhere.
This feeling usually happens when we reach a “milestone” age like 25, 30, 35. It can also happen around the end of the year when everyone’s setting brand-new goals.
You might feel either crushing despair or a burning need to set your life straight for once, and regret all the same that you haven’t realized sooner.
6) You compare yourself to others
You’re proud of what you’ve become and you’re quite happy with the way things are.
But then all of a sudden, you see your friends getting married, getting awards, and owning million-dollar houses…and now you feel so inadequate. You even think life is unfair.
You know you’re supposed to be happy for them but the truth is, you want the level of success they’re having, too!
Look, it’s okay. Envy is a perfectly normal emotion but make sure you don’t wallow in self-pity. Be inspired instead! Everyone has a different timeline.
7) You’re stuck on what-ifs
You might be happy, but you can’t help but wonder about the other roads you could have taken in life.
What if you chose another course in college instead? What if you had decided to date a rogue or nomad instead of the busy entrepreneur you now call your partner?
You ask yourself “what am I doing with my life” and if you are not careful you might just answer that same question by indulging in these what-if scenarios.
If you’re married, you might find yourself getting involved in an affair. If you haven’t taken a sip of wine, you might surprise your friends by becoming the new town drunkard.
This is not an excuse for you to do these things, of course. Ultimately it is still up to you to decide whether to cheat or to drink yourself half-dead, and no amount of blaming your mid-life crisis will excuse you.
8) You’re bogged down by regrets
Maybe you broke up with someone and only now realize that you should have stayed with them.
Even if you are not necessarily stuck thinking of what-ifs, you can’t help but regret your choices. It feels like you’ve wasted so much time already, and there’s no way you can change your decision now.
You have to choose and then commit to it for life. And that’s what makes it such a bitter situation for you.
You have to keep walking down a path that you know is not the one you should have chosen and every step of the way, you can’t help but wonder, “why this when the one I had before was much better?”
9) You have been indulging in self-destructive habits
I had just talked about the sense of being lost easily leading you to self-destructive habits. The tragedy here is that those same self-destructive habits can also lead you to question your life.
Let’s say you started drinking so that your regrets and troubles are easier for you to handle. You might realize at some point that you’re ruining yourself.
You question your new vice, even fully aware of the reasons for it. You know the harm that’s being done to you, but you can’t stop.
“What am I doing with my life,” you will ask, seeing how you’re willingly leading it to ruin.
You stepped in a hamster wheel and now you can’t get off it.
10) You’re disillusioned with life
This is especially likely if you’ve always been an idealistic person. It’s all too easy to place your trust in someone who did not deserve it, and then have that trust broken.
What’s the point in being charitable if people are only going to take advantage of your generosity?
What’s the point in trying to love, if you’re only going to get hurt?
It’s admittedly difficult to free yourself from disillusionment once it sets in, but this is completely healthy.
It’s called growing pains and it’s part of life. You have to experience it to grow.
What can you do about it?
1) Think of it as a blessing instead of a curse
The first step to getting over this feeling is to welcome it. The more you shoo it away, the more it will hurt and haunt you.
It might be hard to face the fact that there are legitimate reasons as to why you’re feeling this way but here’s the thing: it’s actually a blessing.
If you feel bad about how your life has turned out, that means you still have hope. There are so many people who just waste their lives away because they try to evade negative feelings.
These seemingly negative feelings are there to wake us up from the mundanity of life. It’s that guiding voice that tells us “hey, don’t forget your dreams” or “hey, it’s not too late.” or “Hey, don’t go there.”
Existential crises and discontent can actually be good for us. Thank it for visiting you because it will help you figure out your life and get to know yourself again.
2) Unplug from the noise
If you’ve been feeling lost because you just can’t find contentment, chances are that unplugging from the internet is going to help you.
The culture of consumerism is one of the leading causes of modern-day despair. It’s in the corporations’ best interests to keep you unhappy so that they can offer the promise of a cure.
Just switch on the television or browse the internet. You’ll find brands saying that you’re not worth looking at unless you put on the lipsticks that they sell, or phone companies trying to tell you that you NEED their latest smartphone or you’re not hip.
It’s been proven that the more advertisements you see, the more unhappy and dissatisfied you become.
You need clarity why you’re feeling lost in your life. Tune that out. Even if it’s not the primary reason for your problems, it would help you nevertheless to spend time tuning out or otherwise distancing yourself from external influences.
3) Have a change of surroundings
If your life had fallen into routine, the most obvious solution would be to shake things up a bit.
Rearrange the furniture a little, change the path you take on the way home from work, or find new people to hang out with.
If you only live in one city all your life, book your first trip out of the country.
You might not realize it, but a slight change in your surroundings can have a big impact on your mental state. A less cluttered room will make you feel less boxed in, and new friends can offer you new perspectives that can change the direction your life is headed.
If you’re feeling lost, don’t try to find the answers right away. It might help if you relax a little and let go of control. One day, your answers will come but you have to zoom out from your life to actually see things more clearly.
4) Prioritize yourself
It might be a bit jarring to think of being selfish as being a good thing, especially if you’ve lived your whole life for the sake of others.
It doesn’t help that people like to talk of selfishness as bad, and selflessness as good.
But the reality is that we all need to be a little selfish sometimes. Stop for a moment to think about what you want, without thinking about others, and try to work for it.
While it’s true that you should think about others, you should also remember that you matter too.
Remember the airplane rule?
Put your oxygen mask on first before you try to help others.
Don’t take life too seriously. You can always have a do-over if things don’t work out as planned.
It is by doing that you stumble across your passions, and from there your goals. It’s rare for people to wake up one day completely sure about where they’re going in life.
So go out and embark on a journey of self-discovery. You’re not too old to explore.
Learn a new language, take up new hobbies, change careers…find ways to make your life colorful and meaningful.
Take your time. Don’t rush yourself to find your one true passion in life or your one true calling.
Most of all, don’t try to focus on the outcome and just enjoy your journey instead.
You cannot discover your passions with a hard fist. You have to learn to play and experiment.
6) Fix your lifestyle
Think of any bad habit that you have. Do you drink too much? Do you eat nothing but fast food every day?
Put a stop to them. Bad habits force you into an even worse state of mind in the long run, so putting a stop to them will help you from digging yourself deeper into the mud.
Cultivating good habits in their place will then help you—even if barely—put yourself in a better mindset.
And when you’re in a better state of mind, it becomes easier to get a grip on your problems and the reasons why they’re there in the first place.
7) Write it down
A common piece of advice given to people who are suffering from troubles seemingly too big for them to handle is to have them written down.
Get a notebook or go to your computer and begin typing away all of your doubts, fears, hopes, and dreams.
Writing your problems down can make them easier for you to digest and help you see the big picture more easily.
Sometimes thoughts that seem convincing or terrifying in our heads look silly when we write them down, and that’s often because they are. Moreover, you can then draw lines between them, making connections between them and see how your problems feed into each other.
When you demystify your problems this way, it will make it a lot easier for you to deal with them.
8) Reach out to others
At the end of the day, we need the love from our family and friends but the help from a professional therapist and a mentor isn’t easily matched.
You can try sharing your struggles with your friends and ask for advice, but you can’t be sure that they can give you anything actually useful to your journey.
You can invest thousands into a house, or into your car, or into fancy decorations and exotic food from all over the world. But all of that is pointless if you don’t also invest in yourself.
There are many reasons why you might doubt your course in life, why you might stop and ask yourself “what am I doing?”
It feels bad, and you wouldn’t be at fault for thinking that being in this state is a bad thing.
But there’s a bright side to all this!
You are forced to think, to reflect on and evaluate your life. Being in this state can be the catalyst for you to change as a person— to find your calling in life or to better appreciate what you already have.
Stay strong, think deeply, and trust that you’re being led to a better direction