You look at the mirror and realize just how little you’ve done.
But you tried. God knows how much you tried, but nothing just seems to turn out right so now you ask yourself, “what the hell am I supposed to do with my life?”
I understand it could be tough especially as we get older. In this article, I will offer a few tips that I hope will help you find your way through life.
Evaluate your life
The first thing you should try to do is to evaluate your life up until this point. Before you try to fix a problem, the first thing you should do is to try to understand the problem and what might be causing it before you try to act.
Otherwise, you’d simply be wasting your time at best. The worst-case scenario is that you’ll make things even worse.
To start off, you should sit down and try asking yourself some questions:
1) What got me here?
Think about where you are right now and how you got there.
Trace the steps you took, and try to identify the things that had held you back, and the ones that pushed you forward. Think about it deeply, and try to identify any patterns, any clues that you may find.
For example, if you find that you got fired or dumped every time you get a little bit irritated, stop and think about how you act when you’re pissed. It could be that, without you being aware of it, you become a bit too loud and abrasive for other peoples’ liking.
Try to avoid personal biases as much as you can, make a list, and write down everything that you could think of. It might help to have a good friend—one who isn’t afraid to call you out—by your side to offer their opinions as well.
2) Why did I do what I did?
Now that you’ve thought about the things that got you to where you are, think about the why.
Why did you make the choices you did back then? Why did you get into certain situations?
Let’s say that you got fired because you kept on signing in to work drunk all the time. Why did you keep on drinking when you know you’re going to go to work that day? Was it because you were trying to drink away some deep personal hurt, or because you were addicted?
Be honest with yourself here. Some of your bad choices are going to have been for the shallowest, pettiest, and stupidest reasons you can think of, and it will hurt to admit that. But honesty is needed if you want to improve and find the right way forward.
3) Who am I now, and what am I doing?
Don’t get so lost thinking about the past that you lose sight of the present.
You might be lost and confused as to where you’re going, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a life right now. And it’s important that you give your current state some thought.
So, what are you doing right now?
Are you doing something you love or not? Are you in a neighborhood that you like? Do you have good enough relationships?
Really paint a clear picture of the life that you have now.
Once you’re done, zoom out and ask yourself why you’re dissatisfied with your life. How does it match your expectations for yourself? What about the expectations your friends and family have?
Perhaps you and your family expected you to be an engineer because of how good you were with math, but because you had no choice you had to work as a cook for a fast-food chain. And you hate it because you feel you can do much better.
4) What am I truly capable of?
You couldn’t have gone this far in life without having gotten a few skills under your belt.
School and work should have taught you some useful things, but don’t forget about whatever you might have learned in pursuing your hobbies, doing some self-study, and simply experiencing life!
Even something as simple as talking to a lot of people can teach you plenty of useful lessons, such as knowing how to talk to people, or to exercise critical thinking, and how to speak publicly.
And then there are your intrinsic strengths—your talents. Perhaps you simply find it easier than others to do math in your head. Or perhaps you have good judgment regarding aesthetics.
Write down all of the strengths you can think of, big or small. Knowing them will give you more options in figuring out the next steps you want to try in life.
5) What are my limitations?
Knowing your abilities without acknowledging your weaknesses and limitations is a sure-fire way to dive head-first into failure.
Think about the things that you have difficulties with. The things you simply cannot do, or do so badly that you’d rather have someone else do it for you.
It could be that you can speak easily in front of a crowd, but cannot handle personal interactions. Or maybe you know how to write stories, but you suck at following deadlines.
Acknowledging your weaknesses—even if it might be frustrating to admit they even exist—could be the first step to making things right.
Maybe that’s what’s missing in the equation all this time. For example, instead of focusing your energy on learning how to do something you’re bad at, you can hire someone who can do them for you! Or instead of being in denial of your weaknesses, you can start trying to improve yourself.
6) What do I want?
Write down everything you want to have in life. And I mean everything—from small and pure desires to more materialistic ones.
What kind of place do you want to live in? Where exactly? How many rooms and how many pets?
What kind of things do you want to experience?
Who do you want to be?
Who do you want to be with?
Do you want to be a billionaire with thirty yachts to sail the world with? Go ahead and say it. Or perhaps you’d rather be someone earning a moderate wage, living in a nice house in the countryside with a pretty wife and three kids.
So long as you also have more realistic dreams to strive for and you’re perfectly aware of how far away some of your goals may be, then it will serve as your great motivator, which is always better to have than just having small dreams.
7) Who do I get along with?
Read the notes you have made earlier, and think of the people who have been involved in your life and then try to figure out why these people made you feel the way they did.
Who were the people who made you mad, and what were they like? What about the ones who made you happy?
For example, maybe your boss and that cousin you have always hated were both loud and needlessly fussy about the things they disliked.
And maybe your best friend and your first love both just so happen to be energetic, creative people with sunny personalities that you find endearing.
Keep in mind how you react to certain personality types. Write them down, even.
Knowing and understanding why you get along with certain personality types more than others will help you figure out who to hang out with, and who to avoid.
It’s important that you take your time to evaluate your life. However, all the thinking and reflecting in the world won’t amount to much if you don’t back it up with action.
If your dirty laundry is stinking up your room, you’re going to have to wash that laundry if you want it to stop stinking.
Here are the steps you need to take:
1) Change things up a little
A little change in scenery will help freshen up your life a little.
Try to break up the pattern your life has fallen into by doing something slightly different every day. Try to think of ways you can get the things you’ve always wanted in life. Sometimes you’ll have to leave your comfort zone… and you definitely should.
Let’s say you’ve always thought soft cheeses were disgusting but your friends seem to be crazy about them—surely it won’t hurt for you to try a slice of camembert. You might just like it and be able to relate to your friends for once!
Leaving your comfort zone broadens your horizons by just a tiny little bit. And that tiny little bit of perspective goes a long way.
2) Be creative
Our everyday lives are, to put it bluntly, dull and mind-numbing. We are often left with very little time to exercise our creative side—and we all do have one, even if you might think of yourself as not being particularly creative.
You don’t have to become the next Mozart or Georgia O’Keefe—just go and do something artistic. Draw stick houses, or play around with paint. Or maybe you can try arranging plants in your garden and writing short stories.
Not only will you brighten up your life a bit by being creative, but it can also shift your brain and make you think of different ways to approach everyday life.
3) Meet new people
You might be happy with the friends you have now, but it doesn’t hurt to try and meet new people. By now you should know what kinds of people you can get along with, which ones you don’t, and how well you react to either.
So when you end up stumbling into people you don’t like, you can temper your reactions and leave before things get hairy. Likewise, you would recognize the kind of people whose company you enjoy and try to befriend them.
Plus, as they say, it’s not what you know but WHO you know.
Maybe you will meet someone you can collaborate with or who can offer you a great opportunity to do what you love while getting paid for it. Maybe you’ll meet the love of your life and live happily ever after.
4) Talk to a friend or a therapist
You might be on a personal journey to center yourself and figure out what to do with your life, but there’s no reason you have to walk through it alone. In fact, it would help you to have someone you trust to bare yourself to.
Treat yourself like a baby during this important phase of your life. Be very gentle to yourself and treat yourself with kindness and love.
Talk to a friend about the things you’ve realized about yourself. Maybe even show them the things you have written down in your introspections and ask for their opinion. And if you have access to a therapist, then that’s even better.
But while the advice and perspectives they have to give is surely welcome, the most important thing a companion can offer you is their company. The reassurance that you’re not going through this alone.
5) Set big goals and small goals
Look at the list of things you want to achieve in your life—if you haven’t made one yet, make one now—and then try to figure out which ones might be easy to achieve and which ones would be difficult.
Break down the more difficult goals into smaller, easier ones and then sort your goals by difficulty.
Give yourself plenty of time to work on the bigger goals, but also make sure you have some small goals to work for every day.
The small goals are there not only because they matter too, but because they can boost your confidence in yourself. Make those goals really doable like flossing your teeth every night.
It can also give you something to work on every day, giving you mini bursts of joy.
So let’s say you want to be fit, and you also want a house in the countryside.
You should probably give yourself about five years to get that house (big goal), but working towards fitness (smaller goal) can be easy. Maybe you can make it a goal to jog for at least an hour a day.
6) Change your habits
If you have identified and noted down any habits of yours that might be holding you back—and there probably are, if you are perfectly honest with yourself—then you should try to get rid of them.
It won’t always be easy. In fact, it would be surprising if it were easy.
And that’s going to be because the things holding you back are most likely also going to be things that you have always held dear. It could be that you love to drink, but it’s precisely because you get drunk all the time that you’ve never gone anywhere in life.
It might be tempting to settle for a compromise, such as drinking only half as much as you used to, but if you truly want your fortunes to change then you will have to cut off your bad habits completely.
Our daily life is made up of many habits. If you want to change your life, of course you have to change your habits.
7) Welcome “failure”
You’re going to “fail” again and again and again. But that’s okay!
It isn’t something to be feared because nothing is really a failure. We’re all in the process of becoming what we want to be, of designing our lives…so of course, there are some things that won’t work, and that’s just part of the process.
In fact, if you tried to introspect like I asked you to in this article, you’ll find that it’s often the best teacher you’ll ever have.
Every failure is an opportunity to learn and become better, it’s an opportunity to find other directions.
Few things slow you down in life like the fear of “failure” does. And when you’re no longer afraid of failure, you can begin working towards your goals with greater ease and confidence.
Just think of it this way: Make it a goal to “fail” a hundred times this year. Trust me, “failure” is better than stagnating.
8) Make the first step, then the next.
Think of the things you want to achieve. They’re not going to happen if all you’re going to do is wish they were real. Even the most meticulous and well-researched planning won’t make things happen if you won’t actually take action.
Do you want to write a book? Then do it. Your book is not going to write itself into existence, no matter how much you daydream about the things you want to write about.
And if you want to be a millionaire, learn how to become one and do something every single day that would make you closer to that goal.
It doesn’t matter if you’re slower than a snail but move and make sure you commit to it.
9) Don’t be hasty
You might be feeling desperate to change your life, and having gone through everything so far you might be tempted to make immediate drastic changes to your lifestyle.
It’s important to think a lot, and deeply, when thinking of your past. It’s also important that you give your future that much consideration and thought.
I know you might think fast actions equals fast results, but not really. Smart, well-planned, well-executed actions can give faster results. But why aim for speed when you should aim for a sturdy foundation of the life you’re making? And that takes time and effort.
Be patient. Learn to relax while you walk this new path. Trust that you’re not simply wasting your time because you will eventually get there.
It’s not easy to feel lost and listless, to have no idea about what you’re supposed to do with your life.
The solution isn’t going to be easy either—you will have to be completely honest with yourself and face your vices head-on. Many people aren’t strong or mature enough to handle that, and even more, are unable to fully commit to change.
But nothing in life is ever easy, and the sooner you try to set your life straight, the closer you’ll be to the life you’ve always wanted.