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Last Updated on October 30, 2018

What Am I Doing with My Life? Find Your Answer Here with These Steps

What Am I Doing with My Life? Find Your Answer Here with These Steps

“What am I doing with my life?”

As a life coach and business consultant, I hear this question – or some version of it – all the time. Those asking the question are likely facing one of a couple scenarios.

One, you wake up one morning and find yourself in a job you hate, a relationship you don’t want to be in, or a life that has little resemblance to the one you had imagined. You might be feeling low, filled with frustration, shame or regret. This is not where you wanted to be at this time in your life… it’s not the life you wanted to live.

Or maybe you don’t feel unhappy or lost, but you wake up and realize you want something more, new or different. You may have accomplished many of the things you’d imagined for your life and now you’re trying to figure out what to do next.

My job as a coach and consultant is to support my clients to be happier, more successful and fulfilled. To help them get from where they are to where they want to be, uncovering obstacles along the way. This usually involves working through a process and asking powerful questions so they can discover the answers to their biggest questions – including this one.

What’s Wrong with Your Life?

One of the very first things I share with my clients is this: you don’t have to figure out what you want to do with the entire rest of your life!

You don’t have to work out what you want to be when you “grow up” or discover your entire life’s purpose. You don’t have to commit to a career for the next 20 years. I see so many people paralyzed by thinking they must work everything out for the entire rest of their lives. Of course they feel stressed and overwhelmed!

    My advice? Focus on identifying what’s next. At this age, in this stage, facing your current circumstances. I’m not saying this won’t be attached to a bigger vision, but that doesn’t mean you have to have the whole plan right now. I love MLK’s quote,

    “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, you just have to take the first step.”

    Such is true for figuring out what you’re doing with your life.

    How to Answer the Question – What Am I Doing with My Life?

    Back to the question. Let’s look at a couple of my recent clients.

    Sabine* was a smart, successful, vibrant woman. She already had several successful jobs during her career, traveled the world, had a family, and was settling back in a new city. While she originally called wanting to take her business to the next level, we soon realized that wasn’t what she really needed or wanted.

    She was trying to figure out what she was doing with her life. For her, this meant realizing she had lost her sense of self. While no one would know from the outside, she was feeling overwhelmed, lost and unsure of herself. She was doing all the “right” things for everyone around her, but she wasn’t doing all the right things for her.

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    Together, we were able to help Sabine:

    • Get a clear picture of what she wanted for this next stage in her life.
    • Align her life and actions with her value and priorities.
    • Remember who she was and feel more like herself than she had in years.
    • Regain confidence and take action on things she had been avoiding.
    • Gain motivation, self-trust, and security in her decisions.

    Then, there’s Max*. Incredibly smart, fun and motivated, Max had successfully climbed up through his career ladder and was happily married with his first child. Life was good. He came to me because he was in the second scenario; Max was trying to figure out what he wanted to do next. Even though he had a great job, he was looking for more – something new, different, challenging and interesting.

    In our time together, Max was able to:

    • Identify his priorities and what was important in this next stage of life (and what wasn’t)
    • Pinpoint several new career options/ideas
    • Uncover and work through old, limiting beliefs and thought patterns
    • Start exploring potential new careers.

    Here’s the process and the questions I walked through with Sabine and Max. Following these will help you make progress towards identifying what you’re doing with your life too:

    Step 1: What do you want?

      Whenever you’re looking at what you’re doing with your life, it’s important to take a step back, look at the big picture and identify what you want. Frankly, if you don’t know what you want, how do you expect to get it?

      This seems simple, yet it’s often quite hard to address. When I ask this question, people often tell me what they don’t want or what’s not working. They’ve gotten into the habit of making decisions based on what’s best for their career, family or others… and forget to think about what they want for themselves.

      Sabine originally thought she wanted to “take her business to the next level”, but when she dug deeper, she realized there was so much more. She ultimately found that she wanted to feel like herself again; to feel secure, trust and assert herself, and regain her sense of self.

      Max wanted to love what he was doing. He wanted to be in a career (or role) that he was energized and “jazzed” about.

      Your turn:

      What do you want? Get specific.

      Is it a new career in which you feel excited and energized? A relationship where you feel honored and loved? To be confident and happy with yourself? To live in a particular place or to explore the world?

      Maybe, like Sabine, when you think you have your answer, ask yourself, “what else?” and see what comes up.

      Once you are clear on what you want, you can move to the next question.

      Step 2: Who are you?

      I have a strong belief and a lot of experience that self-awareness and a little soul searching is critical for success – especially when you’re trying to figure out what you’re doing with your life.

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      Understanding yourself at a deeper level and making decisions based upon those insights will make sure whatever you choose to do next is something that will make you happier, more successful and more fulfilled. It will make sure that your next step is a step in the right direction, not just another step.

      While I take my clients through a series of many questions, here are a few of my favorites:

      • What is most important to you right now?
      • What are your core values? What are the beliefs, guiding principles or ideas that are deeply important to you? Which ones are you off track with?
      • What are your passions? What do you love? What interests you? What gets you engaged, motivated, excited?
      • What are your skills and talents? Which would you like to use going forward?
      • What is your wish list? What do you want and need in your life/career/relationship? This might include the type of environment you thrive in, people you want to be surrounded by, or something you want in a role.
      • What is the impact or difference you want to make? How do you want to serve, contribute or add value?
      • What do you NOT want? While you don’t want to spend too much time in this space, it’s as important to be aware of what you don’t want as much as what you do!

      In addition, I always have my clients take the Instinctive Drives™ questionnaire. It’ s a profiling tool that helps you understand what you need to be at your best. While it happens to be my personal favorite, I highly recommend any tool or resource that will help you gain personal insight.

      In her soul searching, Sabine identified that she needed to find and surround herself with her “people”; uncovered what she needed to feel safe and secure; learned she needed to delegate more; and discovered that her direct approach was getting in her way.

      Max realized what was most important to him at this stage of his life, identified the limiting beliefs that were getting in his way, learned to stop comparing himself to others and realized how important it was to infuse humor and joy into his everyday life.

      Your turn:

      Grab a journal. Ask yourself these questions and allow the time and space to discover the answers.

      Write everything down. Then, review what you wrote and highlight or circle what stands out or resonates the most. These are what you want to pay attention to as you move forward and think about what you’re doing next with your life.

      Then, with a little soul-searching under your belt, it’s time to move on to step 3.

      Step 3: What are your options?

      You’re not happy where you are. You know you want something else. But what is that “something”? This question allows you to explore what your potential options.

      At this point, it’s not about deciding the one thing or making the right choice, it’s about allowing your creative mind to expand and see all the possibilities.

      If you hate your career, what new potential careers are on your mind? If you’re unhappy in your relationship, what can you do? If you’re feeling like you need change or an adventure, what could those possibly be?

      Brainstorm ALL your options without worrying about whether they are possible or not (just yet). Make a list and keep asking yourself…. what else? This allows you to dig deeper and see opportunities you might have otherwise not explored.

      Your turn

      What are all of your possible options at this point in time? Don’t limit them if you can’t see how it’s possible, just get all your ideas out on paper.

      Once you have your list of options, then you can move to the next step.

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      Step 4: Which options are the best fit right now?

      Okay, so you have your list of options and possibilities. Now it’s time to narrow it down and explore those options in a little more depth.

      Once Max had a complete list of potential career options (including advancing in his current role), he narrowed the list down to the top most interesting and compelling opportunities. We then worked through each of those in greater depth.

      A fantastic way to do this is to envision your life “as if” you were in that new role/situation/relationship/option.

      Max imagined himself living the life in his new career options. First, he imagined himself as an REI employee. Yes, he had grown a beard and was drinking from a metal mug.

      But the next question was even more important. I asked him how he felt. He said while he was excited to be outdoors more, he realized he wouldn’t be fulfilled in that role. He definitely didn’t feel “jazzed”.

      We went through all his options, envisioning what life would be like in each role until he found the one in which he felt the most connected. We could both feel a shift in his energy immediately…he was on to something.

      Your turn

      Go back to your options list and circle the 1-3 that you feel most connected to, energized by or engaged with. You’ll want to make sure those options fit what you want (question 1) and who you are (question 2).

      Once you have a short list, imagine your life as if you took that as your next step. What would you think, feel, hear and see? Can you picture yourself there? Does it feel good? You can also do some research at this point to learn more about each of your options.

      Then, armed with information and idea of the best next option for you, it’s time to move on to the next question.

      Step 5: What’s stopping you?

      This is a big one. As you explore your options, it’s likely you may come up against some barriers.

      Perhaps you have fears or limiting beliefs of what you can or can’t do or what someone said you were capable of. Maybe it’s lack of self-esteem or confidence. When these come up, it doesn’t mean the option is wrong, it just means you need to dig a bit further to find out what’s going on It’s important to explore what’s getting in your way.

      With Max, he was being held back by a deep, long time belief that he wasn’t good enough – that he wasn’t capable of taking on a higher level, higher risk role. This was holding him back. We worked together until he could move past this perception and on to his next step.

      Your turn

      Think about what’s getting in your way or stopping you from moving forward. Once again, don’t stop at your first answer. Ask yourself, “what else?” until you identify what’s getting in your way.

      Then, it’s time to move to the last question..

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      Step 6: What can you do to move forward?

      You’ve narrowed down and explored your options and now it’s time to take action. I know this part is hard.

      What if it isn’t right? What if there is something else out there? What if it’s the worst decision I ever make? Arrgghh!

      These are all real and good questions, but not if they stop you from moving forward towards a more fulfilling life. If you’re feeling hesitant about taking the next step, let me give you a different way to look at it.

      If you’re unhappy where you are now, what is the bigger risk? Staying where you are out of fear of doing the wrong thing OR moving forward and seeing where it leads you? It’s better to rock the boat than to die sinking in it, right?

        Once you’ve decided, it’s time to act. What’s your first step? Take it.

        Give yourself a deadline, a timeline or a goal to make it happen so you can move from ideas to reality.

        Your turn

        Make a decision about which option is best for you to move forward into the life you want. Then, take the first step towards that option. Then the next and the next one after that.

        Final Thoughts

        So, what are YOU doing with your life?

        Just the sheer fact that you’re asking yourself what you’re doing with your life is a step in the right direction. A mentor of mine always said, 90% of solving a problem is awareness that it exists. You know you need to do something.

        Now, if you’re serious about moving forward, it’s time to take the time and put in the effort and answer the questions above. Then, like Sabine and Max, be willing to take action – to step forward into a more fulfilling future – even if you’re not exactly sure how it’s going to play out.

        Be brave. You’ve got this. It’s not too late. It’s your life, and, yes, it can be everything you’ve imagined.

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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        Tracy Kennedy

        Lifehack's Personal Development Expert, a results-driven coach dedicated to helping people achieve greater levels of happiness and success.

        How to Deal With an Emotional Breakdown After a Devastating Loss Why New Year Resolutions Fail And How to Set Yourself up for Success 10 Strategies to Keep Moving Forward When You’re Feeling Extra Stuck What Am I Doing with My Life? Find Your Answer Here with These Steps How to Be More Confident (the Definitive Step-By-Step Guide)

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        Last Updated on March 14, 2019

        7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

        7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

        Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

        For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

        Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

        1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

        A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

        It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

        It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

        How it helps you:

        If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

        Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

        2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

        Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

        Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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        How it helps you:

        Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

        Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

        If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

        Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

        3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

        Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

        Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

        How it helps you:

        This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

        For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

        Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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        A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

        4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

        To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

        A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

        How it helps you:

        One word: hierarchy.

        All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

        In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

        If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

        5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

        Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

        Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

        How it helps you:

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        Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

        If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

        This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

        6. What do you like about working here?

        This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

        Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

        How it helps you:

        You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

        Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

        Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

        7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

        What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

        As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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        How it helps you:

        What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

        First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

        Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

        Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

        Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

        Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

        Making Your Interview Work for You

        Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

        Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

        More Resources About Job Interviews

        Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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