I’ve never heard of so many people feeling lost in life as I did during the pandemic.
As someone who interviews people as part of my job, people from all walks of life shared how the onset of COVID brought with it a kind of existential crisis.
We all heard about how for some people this meant the breaking up of marriages and relationships that had been “coasting” for years.
For others, the pandemic compelled them to quit unfulfilling jobs so that they could pursue livelihoods that were more aligned with their personal values. Many decided to go into business for themselves as a way to gain control of their time.
For me personally, I felt a bit disillusioned with my career and COVID compelled me to take on stories that were more meaningful and impactful to the world—such as those that cover human rights.
Feeling lost can actually be a good thing because that feeling is trying to tell you that some kind of change is necessary: it could mean to dial down a frantic pace or it could mean that you need to level up in some way.
If you’re feeling lost in your own life and don’t know what the next course of action should be, it might be worthwhile to dig deeper into your psyche for insight.
Asking yourself the following ten questions can be the key to finding yourself when life feels off-course.
1) Who am I at this point in my life?
When we ask ourselves the question “who am I”, we are really asking what we want to do with our lives, where do we fit in and how do we matter, says Suzanne Mason, whose online platform strives to help people know themselves from the inside out so that they can live life to the maximum and on their own terms.
“Different people at different times in their lives have been prompted to ask how they can find themselves,” she says. “This is especially common at times of strife. These could be things like a divorce, a breakup, loss of job, change of job, getting older, [and] moving through different phases of life.”
2) Who do I want to be?
If you find the above question to be too vague or too complicated and you’re not sure how to define yourself—perhaps a better question is—who would you like to be?
This is a broad question but it’s a good first step in figuring out what you’re looking for in life. It could be personally or professionally.
For example: “I want to be someone who helps other people for a living,” can point you towards a career in nursing or volunteering at a nursing home.
Reflecting on this question is crucial to figuring out what stirs your soul.
3) How do I want to describe myself?
If you want to, say, describe yourself as someone who has an active social life (but the reality is that you don’t have an active social life), then this insight can help you take steps in that direction.
For instance, you could already be a book lover, so joining a book club could be a great way to meet like-minded people.
If you want to be able to call yourself an avid traveler, then you have to make a commitment to take a trip to a locale you’ve always dreamed of.
Travel, especially, can help you to find yourself when you’re feeling lost because you’re out of the daily grind and your mind is more receptive to inspiration and insights. This could shed light on the new leg of your life’s journey.
The idea is to define what you see the ideal version of yourself to be and then follow through on taking steps towards that goal. It doesn’t have to be immediate, but planning for it can put you on a working path towards it.
4) What truly inspires me?
Another way to ask yourself this question is: What excites me? What gets my juices flowing?
If artwork inspires you but you only ever go to a gallery once a year, then you need to make it more of a priority in your life. This could be going to galleries, yes, but also taking up a paint or pottery class. It might mean attending an exhibition in another country.
The point is to put yourself in settings that excite you on a regular basis, or at least as much as you can. All it takes is a bit of time and commitment on your part.
Following the map to what inspires you can point the way to a sense of purpose in life.
5) What do I want professionally in my life?
Life can be especially fulfilling when your purpose and your profession are one and the same.
Do you feel that your career is your calling?
If you don’t, it’s easy to feel disillusioned—and lost in life.
If you’re in a transition phase or looking to get out of the grind of a job that makes you dread Monday mornings, then taking stock of what you want your calling to be is crucial.
The way I see it is to think about what you would do even for free if you could. And now imagine getting paid to do it. Enough to make a comfortable living.
It might take a bit of introspection, but investing the time to reflect on the right job for you and then taking steps toward that path is worth it. It could be a night course or a side hustle until it’s feasible for you to go all in.
6) What do I want personally in my life?
Many of us feel lost when there is something lacking in our personal relationships. It could be communication; perhaps we’re not as close to our spouse or our immediate family as we would like to be.
A good idea can be to write these desires down so that they become more focused.
Going by our example, if you want to do more things with family, then take the first step. Suggest a barbecue or a day trip somewhere or a family dinner out. Sometimes all it takes is getting a momentum going.
7) What are my goals now?
Sometimes we get too caught up in the how of life. How can I afford to go on that trip I’m longing to go on? How will I get into that academic program?
Many manifestation gurus emphasize the concept of living in the end. Living in the end means to think about how things would be if you reached your manifestation —in other words, your goal? What would you be feeling? Not wanting or hoping for it, not wishing for it, but actually feeling like you already have it?
Focus on the feeling and do this regularly until you embody your desire and you know in your being of beings that you’re going to have it.
This is not to say that you don’t have to take any steps towards it. You do. But you also have to believe that it will happen. When you believe it, the path to getting it will become clearer.
People who can help along the way will also cross your path, so pay attention.
8) What changes do I need to make?
If you feel like you’ve lost your way with certain aspects of your life somehow, there may be some changes you need to make to get back on track.
For example, if you went through a particularly stressful period in life like perhaps a divorce or you lost someone close to you, you might have picked up a less-than-healthy habit or two to cope. Maybe you took up (or went back to) smoking.
Maybe that evening cocktail with dinner has turned into two or three glasses an evening.
First things first: Don’t beat yourself up over it. We’re human and stuff happens.
Be proud of yourself for identifying the fact that you want to change this. Then start to decrease the habit little by little and see how you do.
Find a support system. If you feel you can’t kick the habit on your own, there is absolutely no shame in getting help. It’s commendable that you want to take this step. Talk to your healthcare provider. Go to a support group.
Making any kind of change can be scary, but you’ll learn to navigate it day by day.
9) Who is my tribe?
The people around you can reinforce your lifestyle habits and make it easier for you to establish new ones, for better or for worse, says lifestyle writer Rebecca Collins.
“Naturally, you’ll want to add positive influence—that doesn’t have to be an objectively good influence…someone who (or something that) drives you in the direction you want to go.”
You might want to experiment with your environment, says Collins. Ask yourself if you thrive among like-minded people or if being the “odd one out” is more motivational for you.
Of course, you’ll want to assess your personal values when looking for your tribe. Things such as achievement, integrity, reliability, and growth can be non-negotiables—because these people can be the best people to support you.
10) What do I want my legacy to be?
Or another way to put it if the word “legacy” sounds a little intimidating: what do I want to be remembered for?
This could have something to do with your character, your personality, your accomplishments, and your family—or all of the above.
Having a good understanding of what you want the world to know about you can light the path forward.
Whatever it is, put your best efforts into that.
“Ultimately, your legacy is all you’ve got,” says Kimberly Wade-Benzoni, Associate Professor at Duke University. “Think about how you want to be remembered by other people and act on those thoughts.”
You have to be intentional about it
If you’re not intentional about figuring out what you want in life, it’s easy to fall into survival mode, says Allaya Cooks-Campbell, who is the Associate Learning Experience Designer for BetterUp.
“You become lost, focusing only on what’s in front of you, which leads to frustration and disillusionment,” she says.
“Often, if you don’t know what you want, you can become bored and restless with what you’re doing — even if you used to love it. Over time this can increase stress, depression, anxiety and can make you feel like you don’t have control over your life.”
Figuring out what you want in life is essential to living an authentic, purposeful life, because it will influence all aspects of your life—and “it makes life worth living.”