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Last Updated on June 2, 2020

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

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

“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.

        Take a look at these 10 Strategies to Keep Moving Forward When Feeling Stuck.

        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.

        More About the Meaning of Life

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

        More by this author

        Tracy Kennedy

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

        The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day Toxic Positivity: Why Being Positive Could Be Bad Sometimes What Am I Doing with My Life? Find Your Answer Here Feeling Off Track in Life? Here’s How To Stay True To Yourself 10 Strategies to Keep Moving Forward When Feeling Stuck

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        Last Updated on July 8, 2020

        How to Fight Your Irrational Fears And Stay Strong

        How to Fight Your Irrational Fears And Stay Strong

        She could hear her beautiful baby crying but was frozen in the doorway unable to move. The crying got worse and she knew that unless she comforted the infant soon the baby would be inconsolable, and yet her feet wouldn’t move. She didn’t look at the cot but the floor in front, where the venomous hairy monster sat before her…. .okay it was a UK spider so not likely to kill her at all, and yet still her body was frozen as the tears fell down her face. “What a useless mother you are” she berated herself.

        That awful mother was me 14 years ago. My fear of spiders had not been controlled for years and I was at the stage where I wouldn’t open a newspaper until my husband had read it and removed the images of spiders. I hated houses that had wooden floors or skirting boards because every knot in the wood could be a spider about to crawl across me.

        At the height of my fear, I tried to get out of a moving car. Clearly this harmless 8-legged creature had massive levels of power over me but now that fear is gone, I’m never going to love spiders but I’m not going to leave the room because of one and I can read the word without freaking out and sobbing.

        If you think that fear is irrational, what about the fear of going to airports? Or the fear of not asking for help?

        Today I want to look at how our irrational fears impact on us, how they can destroy (and I don’t use that word lightly) our success. They can damage our health and even stop us from living our lives. And then I’ll share the benefits of fighting that fear and most importantly how you can fight your fears too.

        How Irrational Fears Impact Your Life

        The thing about irrational fears is that we are not keen to look at them. It makes us feel inadequate, weak and daft because we can’t do things that it seems everyone else can. That gives the fear power.

        Fear loves negative emotions and saps up yours making your fear bigger and uglier and even more powerful. Not ideal to say the least. Fears can cause us to:

        • Avoid situations where that fear may have to be faced. Dodging parties, new jobs, new experiences where we aren’t sure we will be able to protect ourselves.
        • Stop us from sleeping for fear the thing we fear will “get us in the night.” For me this was massive, and I stopped sleeping which had massive implications when my job was to look after a toddler and a baby. I felt half dead most of the time!
        • Feel ill with the stress. Stress can be the cause of wrong decisions. Drinking alcohol when we shouldn’t, eating chocolate because it makes us feel better, the list of excuses is long that we hold on to so that we can avoid the cause of our stress.
        • Cause more distress as our minds overload us with negative thoughts of inadequacy. This can damage our confidence. Having coached thousands, I know that a lack of confidence is usually the underlining impactor on most people’s success across all areas of their lives.
        • Risk looking aloof or arrogant because we won’t participate like other people. Our fears can even isolate us in our personal and professional lives too.
        • Feel debilitated. Needless to say, these fears may look irrational and shouldn’t exist to the outside world but to the sufferer they are debilitating. Even impacting on their earning potential, love life, hobbies, travels and personal and professional success.

        Why Bother to Fight the Fear

        Couldn’t you just ensure you live your life in way that you don’t have to deal with your fear?

        I had a client that was so scared of flying that they couldn’t even take their partner to the airport, another who had avoided public speaking for over 20 years and yet now at the height of their profession they had no choice, what were they going to do? Quit? There was another who could never ask for help and another who feared people finding out who they really were.

        All these fears and many more can be fixed but only if we can appreciate the benefits of fighting the fear.

        Let’s look at the benefits of fighting your fears:

        If you’re going to change the way you do something, something that has impacted on your life, thoughts and actions for years, it can be hard to believe change is possible.

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        The first thing you must do is give yourself a big enough reason why. Go back through your life and remember all the occasions that this fear was there.

        I can still see the spider trapped in my hair because it had obviously been on my hairdryer. I also remember that I probably looked ludicrous in the South of France in my underwear running down the lane screaming and flinging my hair everywhere. The poor spider had not only been flung a long way from my head but was probably destroyed in the flight.

        Remember the feelings, the actions, the negative feelings you felt afterwards, for me it meant that every time I picked up a hairdryer I could see a spider crawling towards my ear in my hair. Guess how helpful that was for reinforcing my reactions and irrational fear?

        Really experience the fear. Make it so painful that you probably notice your heart racing, your shoulders drawing up and your breath changing. That fear is causing physical change in your body, doesn’t feel good does it?

        When the irrational fear is challenged and destroyed, it can’t have power over you. So new opportunities can come your way and instead of fearing them and what people will think of you for your choices, you can be open to;

        • New hobbies
        • New travels
        • New opportunities
        • More success
        • Financially more secure
        • Happier
        • Healthier
        • Confident

        The list is long so what can you do to get rid of your fears?

        How to Fight Your Irrational Fears

        In my book Fight the Fear: How to Beat Your Negative Mindset and Win in Life, I cover 12 of the biggest fears that I see impact on success and happiness. Not all of these are obvious but they all have far reaching impacts on our lives.

        Here are some of those ideas to help you fight your fear and get more of what you want out of life:

        Why Did This Happen?

        For some people they really need to know why the fear started, for others all they want is to get rid of it. If you need to understand yours then don’t skip this tip. Learn how your fears are made and appreciate where yours came from. If you don’t care how it arrived, you can jump to top tip 2.

        I’ve seen some clients who are not prepared to look at how to get rid of the fear until they’ve understood how it got here in the first place. It’s not my place to tell them that is right or wrong, just to help them find the right steps to lead them to a happy path.

        When a fear first starts, we don’t acknowledge a fear has entered our lives. It is only after a few occasions that we begin to notice that there’s a strong negative emotion connected to this “thing”. That’s how fear is allowed to grow because as humans we have in-built responses that have kept us safe for our entire existence. This means we are meant to perceive fear and either run or fight, either way our bodies jump into action creating physical responses to the perceived threat.

        Look for when you first noticed the fast heart beat, the shallow breathing, the shaking hands, the redness. You have created an automatic way of dealing with this fear. It could be that it felt sensible to fear this because you had an unhappy outcome, although it is usually the case that your head has the facts and your heart is not prepared to hear them as it creates a version of the event that is far scarier than it actually was.

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        Learning how to remove the emotions and feelings will help you to change your body’s response. The first time I fixed someone’s fear of public speaking, they told me that it physically closed their throat, I worried that was it possible with words to change our physicality? The answer was yes! With the tools and techniques I share below.

        The Tool Kit to Fight Your Fear

        From the many people that have contacted me after reading Fight the Fear to my clients, I know for even myself creating a tool kit is a must. This is not a bag that you physically must haul everywhere. This is about learning tools that really resonate with you so that when you can feel the fear start to impact on you, you’ve got your kit ready to take it on.

        I don’t have the space in one article to share all of those tools so let’s visit a few:

        1. Why I’m Awesome?

        Creating a 2-page handwritten document of why you are awesome can help. This document will be packed with achievements, successes, overcoming adversity and all of those will be full of positive emotions, actions and feelings. It is not easy to write, and I get many messages telling me so however it is a powerful reminder that you can stand up and accomplish.

        2. Draw out Your Emotions

        Earlier we looked at how irrational fears can damage every aspect of our lives. If you were to follow the negative spiral down you can follow the positive spiral up again.

        I draw these individually for clients and with each action, thought or feeling we put an arrow between them. Each arrow is an opportunity to do something different. If we know that irrational fear is an automatic thought process, then we can start to see that we need to think, do or feel something different. Top tip 3 will help with that.

        3. Acknowledge That You Need to Change

        It’s not easy to change, and that is a belief that many hold. Top tip 4 could assist further, however for this tip, remember that when you want to do, think or feel differently, you’ve already achieved the first step and that is recognizing something must change (you don’t need to know what). But if you aren’t sure yet if there’s really something different you want to do, this story about Nancy may help you to figure it out.

        Then it’s about acknowledging it. That means not only accepting it but feeling that it is yours to take on and change.

        Then for 2 weeks, decide that you won’t allow the thought to be in your head. There are usually some negative thoughts allowed to fester in your head. At this stage, just say “No I’d like you to stop.” After 2 weeks choose a new thought that you would prefer to hear in your head, maybe “I can cope with situations that scare me” or “I am stronger than I know”.

        There will be times when you fail. Don’t berate yourself because that is another negative thought you are allowing your head to process. Just start again and at times like that have a read of your “Why I’m awesome list”.

        4. Choose Your Words Carefully

        I’ve heard many clients tell me that “It’s going to be hard to change” “I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t petrified” or “This is a lot to ask”. Any thought that gives power to your fear takes away power from you to fight it. Therefore, choose how you word your goal to overcome your fear carefully.

        Think thoughts like “I remember when I achieved xxxx and that reminds me I’m far tougher and more capable than I give myself credit for”. (Take the xxx from your why I’m awesome document.)

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        5. Believe That You Have the Control Power

        The only person that can control what we think and feel is us. I know it can feel like other people are impacting on us, however they can only do that if we give them permission to do so.

        If you really think about that for a moment, can you see that you have the right to think and feel anything you want right now? I’m certain you wouldn’t choose pain, fear or anxiety. So, what would you choose to think about your fear?

        6. Put up Physical Reminders

        Working one to one, I can find the fear, work through it and create a tool kit of thoughts, feelings and actions that will help them fight that fear and get rid of it. For some, they don’t need physical things to help them; others do.

        For example, the CEO who was petrified of public speaking but could handle a conference call with 300 without a second thought, imagined the microphone was a phone when they spoke in front of 400 people to help reinforce the positive thoughts and ideas we’d created.

        Or the client that always worried that they were an imposter and “someone else can do this better” pinned on their office wall a tag cloud of all the words that made up their “Why I’m awesome document”.

        So they had a daily reminder. They were the right one for the job and they could do it. These daily reminders all come down to one key point — help you to Hack the Habit Loop.

        What would be your visual clues to remind you that you can overcome this?

        7. Physical Supports

        Music, environment and even smells can impact on us. Know the music that makes you feel alive and ready for anything. Try aromatherapy oils to feel positive and energised. Even choose your work environment or clothing to empower you.

        Changing these things is physical and giving yourself physical ideas to action can help power up your emotional state too.

        8. Don’t Go It Alone

        The fear to ask for help is very real (and has a whole chapter in my book) so I know people really struggle with this. The fact is we all need people. We are not insular by design and as such it can be tough to admit that you have a fear impacting on you.

        However, by sharing your fear with a trusted friend, colleague or loved one can mean that when you are feeling the fear. you can talk to someone. It could be that you share with them the contents of your tool kit and ask their permission to be added to it. That way they know what works for you and how to best support you.

        It’s not a sign of weakness to tell people about your fear. It takes massive levels of strength to say, “I have this fear, and I want to get rid of it.”

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        9. Get Physical

        One of the reasons that a fear can escalate is because we have come to accept that response. Our body reacted in a certain way, once repeated the behaviour and it became a formed habit that was accepted.

        Challenging a fear can be done using our body too when we appreciate that fear is actually a reaction inside our bodies. We don’t need to understand where in our brains or what chemicals are racing through us to use our physicality to help us challenge our fears.

        When I was writing my book, the Cuddy Superhero pose[1] was proved and disproved by various researchers around the world 3 times. Whether it’s real or not, the fact is the way we stand, the way we breathe and even the speed at which we speak can impact on us as well as those around us.

        If you have a fear of public speaking or a fear of people thinking you are stupid or a fear of what people are thinking you can look at how you speak, stand and move. If you compare these with people you deem confident and happy in these situations, how do you look? What can you learn?

        The research around placebo’s reinforces us that if it feels like it is working, then keep doing it! What could you use to help reinforce your power and fearlessness?

        Final Thoughts

        A little fear can be good. As someone famous once says:

        “It is not fear, it is performance energy.”

        Despite having an absolute hatred of public speaking 10 years ago, I now love an audience and yet I have a healthy level of fear. That level of fear says “Are you well prepared?” “Do you know your audience?” “Have you rested your voice?” “You really want to deliver to this audience what they need” And those thoughts are sensible.

        So as you reduce your fear, be aware of a good level of fear.

        More About Fighting Fears

        Featured photo credit: Isaiah Rustad via unsplash.com

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