It’s common knowledge that life’s full of ups and downs. Unlike your phones or electronic gadgets, no one comes to earth with a manual for life and this means that many people think “I don’t know what to do with my life”. There are many roads one can follow and no natural pointers on which is the right one, ending with you struggling through thickets.
Consequentially, there’s going to be lots of stumbling, lots of groping in the dark, searching for the light at the tunnel’s end. People spend a lot of time doing this, typically during the stages of youth. Some others remarkably don’t.
But that’s not the issue. Irrespective of the stage of life, there are bound to be moments when you’re caught up in the clouds, feeling fly, and on your A-game. And moments when you hit rock bottom, the worst of the worst, and it’s almost like the entire world’s fighting against you. We all know these are normal.
However, it’s too easy to forget that there are fine lines between feeling high and low. And sometimes, it’s like these nuances are worse than hitting rock bottom because when you’re at your lowest point, it’s usually not without cause. But here’s the million-dollar question: how many times have you found yourself wrapped up in such ambivalence, such stagnancy, that you openly say or think, “I don’t know what to do with my life”?
I Don’t Know What to Do with My Life
Issues like this prevail because they’re one of those things that people generally like to pretend aren’t there. But they are. Not only do they make you feel bad, they plunge you into depression, and before you know it, you’re having suicidal thoughts.
Here in this article, I’ll not only address this issue, but I’d also proffer a way out. I mean, there’s always got to be one. No situation in life is as solid as a rock. After all, there are also ways to get out from feeling the good stuff like success, progress, happiness, etc. But that’s not the goal.
What Does it Mean When You Don’t Know What to Do with Your Life?
Society has always had lesser views of generally unproductive people. That’s why the only people you find living rent-free in people’s minds are successful figures like Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Einstein, Newton, Steve Jobs, Musk, Gates, and the list goes on and on.
You can survey the people in your neighbourhood, and you’ll find that there isn’t one person who is not familiar with these names. It’s because they were productive and made out something with their lives.
The desire to make out something for oneself has become more paramount in recent times. Even more so for women, who have a need now, more than ever, to believe in themselves not as a means of validation to society but to themselves as humans. And one of the best ways to reflect this lies in their productivity, an assertion of their right to live meaningfully in society and command due respect.
What is Success? What is Productivity?
As far as being productive goes, there are no actual measurements. You may measure your productivity and achievements by your ability to maintain a relationship, get a job, and get married. Another could be to finish college, pay up college loans, and so on. However, as endless as this list is, there are those moments when you feel like you’ve hit a standstill. What does this mean for you? Is it the end of the world? If you’re a stickler for predestination, does this mean that you’ve been earmarked for a tragic fate?
If you find yourself saying things like “I don’t know what to do with my life”, you’re experiencing a great deal of uncertainty over what to make of yourself. You’ve climbed several steps, and it feels like the next step is not there. It’s like trying to climb a tree, and midway along its trunk, you discover that there are no stumps or branches to help you ascend.
Feeling uncertainty about our lives is one of those things life throws at us. And like I mentioned earlier, there are ways to get out of that stagnation and find happiness and fulfilment again. Going down that tree looks like the only thing to do, but you’ve worked so hard to get to where you are now. You’ve put in so much effort to scale pretty ugly things.
2 Reasons You Think “I Don’t Know What to Do with My Life”
While it’s true that sometimes there could be no reasons for this kind of feeling, more than half the time, there’s an instigative issue in the background.
1. You achieved a goal
It’s possible to feel stagnant if you’ve checked all the boxes on your to-do list. To-do list, here, doesn’t have to be confined to the list of activities you draw yourself on a day-to-day basis. The goals you set for yourself are also inclusive – short-term goals and long-term goals alike. They’re all similar in that they are nuggets you set out to include in your lists of achievements.
Now, imagine that you’ve been working towards getting a dream job, perhaps, a designer in the fashion industry. And it’s been something you put your entire focus on. There’s no plan for a future after this particular dream. The dream becomes your future. And your present becomes doing what’s necessary to make this dream an accomplishment. What do you think happens when you finally fulfil this dream?
Yes, you’re living your goal as a fashion designer, but what’s next? You’ve had your mind focused on getting this dream job that you didn’t have the time to figure out what to do after your dream becomes a reality. It’s now that the question of what to do with your life starts to bite at you.
Ever heard the saying, “Man plans, and God laughs?” Sometimes, you’ve made plans on how to be at your utmost best. You’ve done the necessary research, but then along the way, things begin to crumble due to unforeseen circumstances. Such occurrences could lead you into a tight corner where you’re assailed by confusion and frustration until you start to think, “I don’t know what to do with my life”.
2. You compare yourself to others
Sometimes, comparing yourself to peers and people around you can absolutely contribute to your feeling like you don’t know what to do with your life. Your classmate Janice works in real estate, and she’s already got a mansion in LA. You’ve been slugging it out in the same sector, and you’re barely managing to hold your own in a modest apartment in the middle of town. Thoughts like this can make you feel worthless. And with feeling powerless, you begin to see that your life has got no meaning.
When you find yourself thinking along this line, the usual thing is to freak out; succumb to the ensuing sadness. But there’s an easier path. Think of it as a phase of life. Others have overcome it. You, too, can overcome it.
5 Things to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do with Your Life
No situation’s ever the end of your story as far as you still breathe. Some cultures don’t even think death is the end of the human story. So, there you have it. There’s always hope for you if you look at the right places. If you find yourself thinking, “I don’t know what to do with my life”, you’re in a fix, and here are some things you can do to liberate yourself.
1. Think of the Reason
There could be a million and one reasons why you feel the way you do now. And there could be none. But how can you know for sure? You have to think, get into a self-reflective state, or meditate. Think backwards carefully on the things you’ve done or said before getting to this point of indecision.
Your answer could be right there among the trail of memories and could provide an insight as to why you feel your life’s useless. It could be that your recent job isn’t giving you the satisfaction you expected it would. Your college applications are backfiring. You’re not meeting up to your goals and dreams of achievements; the range of issues is wide.
But if you can pinpoint the root behind your feeling, it becomes easier to think of a way out of the fix. There may be so many contributing choices, and there’s the possibility that you may be too overwhelmed to pinpoint a particular issue. Nevertheless, it’s not the end of the road for you.
2. Think of the Essentials of Life
Most of the things we do in life grow around basic urges or activities like sleeping, eating, etc.; basically, survival. I put in the effort for my job because I want to have a good life. You go into relationships because you want to benefit from the results of that meaningful connection.
If you take a deeper look around you, you’ll find that everything is all about survival. It’s the essence of living. When you find yourself saying, “I don’t know what to do with my life”, it’s because you’re looking for something big: some significant accomplishment, that big promotion, that long-lasting relationship, nailing that career dream you’ve always had.
But, in times like this, when you feel so unsure of yourself, focus on the little things. Try getting yourself successfully to the next day. Eat healthily and exercise! Get out more. These things may look insignificant, but they help clear your mind. And with time, you’d be able to get yourself out of this negative emotion.
3. Develop A Positive Mindset
When you keep telling yourself, “I don’t know what to do with my life”, you’re operating under a negative mindset. It goes without saying. Whether you’ve found the reason behind it or not doesn’t matter as much as transforming your entire thought process.
A particular kind of thinking got you into this chaos, and a specific kind’s going to get you out of it.
For one, your life’s not entirely been one long story of sadness. There have been good moments in them, yes? Think about those. It doesn’t mean you should fixate on your past. But having fun memories to be fond of reminds you that life never moves on one straight angle.
It’s got twists and turns. It’s up to you now to believe your current mood can be turned into something exciting. You’ve got to work towards that.
There is an abundance of literature to help you out on developing a positive mindset. What I’m doing here is part of it. But there’s more; much more. Read books that guide you out of the dark tunnels in your mind and into the light.
Listen to motivational speeches, you know, pieces that will shed some light on what you’re going through and boost your morale. Meditate. Talk to friends. Consult a therapist. Find inspiration from outside yourself.
Growing a positive mindset from a negative one is like taking baby steps, but you’ll only know how far that can get you when you find yourself out of the pit of “I don’t know what to do with my life.”
READ MORE: What does it mean to live your best life?
4. Set Short Term Goals
Like I mentioned earlier, sometimes we say, “I don’t know what to do with my life,” because nothing monumental has happened to us. But rather than get worked up about your long-term goals, why don’t you focus on the short-term goals?
Short term goals are way easier to accomplish than long-term goals. Instead of putting all your focus on getting that career change, why don’t you focus on the things you’ve been able to do at your current job? Why don’t you think about the steps you’re able to achieve on your way to making that career change?
Life, generally, isn’t straightforward. It’s a holistic experience. Focusing on going along a specific trajectory is good. It gives you a sense of purpose and accomplishment. But there are so many other things you can do by the side to keep you on your feet and excited while you chase the big dreams.
Think of your short-term goals as the little trophies you’ve got to pick on your way to your long-term goals. These little trophies will give you something to think about when the feeling of worthlessness is imminent. They’ll provide the necessary encouragement when it seems like your long-term goals are still out of sight.
5. Focus on Track Records
You’re not the first person to be in this world, neither am I, and there will be many others after us. Do you think this feeling of not knowing what to do with your life is your thing? Do you feel alone because you feel it’s unique to you? You’re mistaken!
Many others before you have experienced this same feeling and so many others will experience it after you. When you don’t know what to do with your life, look at the track records others have left behind and learn from them.
J.K Rowling received quite a good number of rejections for her Harry Potter books. Coupled with the fact that she was a single mom and also under the welfare program while she wrote her first book, it was relatively easy to feel uncertain about what to do with her life. But she persisted, and today she’s widely successful. Her track record can teach you a few things about being persistent.
The key to always being at your best is in your hands. Indeed, life can be a very mean bully. But it’s up to you to suck it up and show just how strong of a person you can be.
You don’t have to think “I don’t know what to do with my life” anymore. Get out there and make your life powerful!
READ MORE: How to Seize the Moment in Your Life!