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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

How to Fill the Void in You When You Feel Lost And Confused

How to Fill the Void in You When You Feel Lost And Confused

Feeling empty, lost, and confused can be terribly unsettling, especially when others around you might not feel the same. You are in a secure, well-paying employment. You and your family are generally healthy. Your relationships are sound and healthy. Yet, you feel at a loose end and you can’t pinpoint why—you feel like you’re unable to fill that void.

Having these feelings makes you feel guilty and ashamed. You don’t think you have a right to feel this way. Yet, you do.

If you have been feeling lost or a sense of emptiness—unable to fill that void—and confused as to why, recognizing this feeling serves as an incredible starting point from which to instigate change. That void, emptiness, or confusion is a signpost, and that signpost is telling you it’s time to pivot and change course.

Here are ways on how you can fill the void in you when you feel lost and confused.

1. Acknowledgment and Validation Must Come First

Many of us have not been taught to live life by our own design. Having the freedom to even entertain choice is a grand luxury for a lot of us. Not having the necessary resources and opportunities may have left you kissing goodbye to the goals you had.

Someone may have once said to you that you’re living in a dream world—that to get through life you need to stop chasing fantasies. You need to maintain a level head, get your feet back on the ground, and ‘get real’.

Now, it’s time to get real with what you’re feeling and experiencing.

One of the hardest things to face is that you feel this void. However, honestly acknowledging that this feeling exists within you can bring you catharsis. Recognition of the discomfort and validating its existence can be incredibly liberating and empowering in itself.

Through self-acknowledgment, you start to soften resistance you might have held if you were in denial. What you now need to be ready for is leaning into the other layers of discomfort you might be experiencing. On a deeper subconscious level, your emotional intelligence is telling you something’s amiss, missing, or in misalignment. It’s time to learn to really tune into and listen to your own story of how you got to be where you are now.

2. Learn to Recognize if Your Needs Are Being Met

In 1943, humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow first published his paper The Theory of Motivation. According to Maslow, our choices, actions, and behavior are based on primarily meeting core, basic needs. But as these are met, we move to satisfy more advanced that are higher on our priorities list. This came to be known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.[1]

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Over time, there have been debates about which needs are basic and which are more advanced. However, there is minimal controversy about the existence of core emotional needs that we all need to satisfy to live as emotionally and mentally healthy and content human beings.

3. Love, Social Acceptance and Belonging, Validation—We Matter

Being part of a community where we feel embraced and loved on some level is essential for all of us. We need to feel bonds—a sense of genuine connection and mutual respect with those who you believe matter most.

Whenever you think about your relationships and friendships, which of these features are present?

Outside of personal relationships, many of us seek recognition in some form in our work, careers, or individual projects. Being seen and heard often comes through how we serve others in our vocations.

Purposefulness and having a role that matters in our communities validates our existence and gives us feedback that we are important and have value.

Ask yourself how you define what types of bonds are important to you.

  • How do you know the bonds you seek are there?
  • Are they strong enough?
  • Are they deep enough?
  • What are your measures of knowing this?
  • Are you experiencing enough of this to feel contented—that you are ‘ok’?

If not, you might need to consider ways to invest in increasing the quality of connectedness. Also, recognize that it is as much about you receiving investment from others into your relationships as it is you making deposits into them.

When you look through a magnifying glass at each of your relationships, you’re qualifying and quantifying your emotional portfolio. Look at your working relationships. Look at your family and friends. Look at your intimate relationships. If you identify there’s been a void, you now have potential opportunities to start turning things around to fill that void.

4. Take on Challenges That Allow You to Feel a Sense of Achievement

One main reason you might have this feeling of the void is that you have an absence of opportunities that allow you to experience a sense of accomplishment and personal growth.

Having grand goals with complex mind maps of action steps is not the missing ingredient here. However, it’s highly likely you derive greater emotional and mental satisfaction from exerting some level of effort to achieve some sort of change or result.

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A degree of challenge in the journey allows you to experience more personal satisfaction when you overcome it. Your confidence will grow as your skills expand. You start recognizing you have the capacity to achieve different things—more things if you choose to.

A complete absence of challenge can leave us feeling lost and empty. If you feel bored and stagnant, it’s time to look for inspiration to fill that void.

Schedule and dedicate time to explore and experiment. Reconnect with your childhood playfulness to test and try new things or experiences you might have always wanted to do but never made the space or time for because you had to be an “adult.”

As you might start creating a list of next adventures and pursuits, take two approaches:

  1. Allow yourself money, time, and space to experiment and explore.
  2. Allow yourself money, time, and space to identify and start something where you can experience gradual progress and personal growth.

Ensure that your list energizes you and brings you a sense of fulfillment that is independent of anyone else’s approval, participation, resources, or decision-making. Let it be yours to own and control alone. Let it validate and allow you to feel good about yourself.

Also, be wary of putting pressure on yourself to follow through with a new pursuit until the end. Have you ever started and not finished something because you lost interest? Accept that.

Recognize that the dwindling inspiration to follow through could be a sign what you’ve selected turns out to be an ill fit. However, be mindful of being flippant and make sure to commit to giving due effort to something before deciding to opt-out or continue.

5. Build Enough Certainty and Security in High-Priority Areas of Your Life

Life can feel empty, even though you may find yourself chasing your tail daily.

In a world where we are constantly ushered to move faster, produce more, and do so with fewer resources, feeling a sense of certainty and stability have become highly prized commodities. Proverbially spinning all the plates in harmony becomes harder and harder. Emotionally and mentally, we feel less and less secure—we feel less safe.

Self-disappointment can creep in as goals that hold more fun and pleasure always seem to get pushed to the wayside. Stephen Covey’s Circle of Control (aka Circle of Influence) can greatly help us recognize how to direct our thinking and efforts in ways that best serve us.

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Imagine a target with three concentric rings. The outermost ring represents things that we feel concerned about because they influence us. However, we basically hold no control over them. The middle circle represents the things we influence. This might be our work circumstances and how we contribute to relationships. We still don’t have full control as others are privy to also influence outcomes, decisions, and actions that are taken.

The center circle—the circle of focus—is the place where you have the most power to be effective. Only you can control your thoughts, your decisions, your behavior, and your actions.

When you feel lost and confused, go back to working on your center of focus. When you do, expect to be liberated but also feel the weight of accountability you didn’t realize you have. You’ll discover what thinking patterns, decisions, and actions you took got you to where you are now.

As you start identifying and exercising better ways of thinking, you can consciously make decisions and different action steps that you feel much better about.

6. Contribution and Service to Others

It’s time to change your perspective and shift and lift your mindset. Research has shown that certain parts of our brain’s reward centers are more activated when we give support and serve others compared to when we receive support.[2]

Engaging even in just small scale, short-term activities that temporarily take your focus away from your problems gives your brain a rest from feeling the weight of confusion and frustration you’ve been drowning in.

Choose something that allows you to exercise your natural gifts and abilities. It might be helping a neighbor or relative out to do domestic projects in their home. It might be helping to organize or coordinate an event to ease the toll you can see it’s taking on someone you care about. In doing so, you are reconnecting with your sense of purposefulness and value by doing something meaningful for others.

As you operate in this newly awakened mindset, check to see if the void you’ve been feeling and experiencing looks different through this new lens. More selfless acts of service help to widen your perspective. The weight of emptiness and confusion you might have felt may start to feel less heavy. With some of the mental and emotional toll lifted, you’ll be in a better mental state to explore ways to claw out of the swamp of stagnation.

7. Practice Daily Gratitude and Review Your Life

For gratitude practice to be effective in helping you fill the void, it needs to be relative to your situation and involve identifying things that are important to you.

Yes, you can be thankful for having a roof over your head, having food to eat, nice clothes to wear, and relationships with people who love and respect you. However, such recognition can often guide you to complacency and feeling guilt for feeling ungrateful even amidst our quality living conditions.

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Exercise retrospect to contemplate:

  • What obstacles have I managed to overcome to get me here?
  • What skills and attributes do I possess that enabled me to overcome those obstacles?
  • What unique traits and characteristics allow me to have developed the connections I have with people I love and respect?
  • What accomplishments do I have a license to be proud of? (These include work-related feats, recognizing personal skills and talents, overcoming challenging situations, and personal growth in relationships.)

Don’t simply exercise gratitude for tokens and trophies of achievements. Expand your recognition of your efforts and experiences that these symbols represent.

Review the current state of play in each of the main areas of your life — which we call the Wheel of Life (i.e. work/career, finances, intimate relationships, friendships, personal growth, health and fitness, spirituality), and check your level of gratitude for where things currently sit. Then, ask yourself for each area: where do you want to go next?

You might find inspiration and reminders of goals you set but had lost sight of or forgotten. Confusion can quickly transform into better clarity. Before you know it, you’ve got plans and a new-found excitement to get started.

8. Be Wary of Seeking Quick Fixes to Fill the Void

Many of us feel that we operate best in productivity mode. We are making something, creating something, achieving something, and changing something. We’ve been conditioned to think that there is something wrong with us if we are not. Constantly trundling and moving on to the next thing at lightning speed without much thought is often what leads us to where we are.

As you make changes, be wary that should you start doing things that primarily replenish your emotional and mental tanks first. You might be met with disapproval, judgment, and opinions (potentially unwelcome) from others. Changes that better serve you may upset the normal rhythm others are used to experiencing with you.

Manage your expectations of yourself and exercise gradual consideration where you see changes are required. Give yourself and those around you time to adjust. Friendships and relationships may change. Some may disappear altogether, while others become strengthened.

Just as the accumulation of time and experiences has led you to feel a void in your life, so will the accumulation of time and new experiences be required to fill it. However, this time, you’ll be doing so by your own design, not by default.

Final Thoughts

It is normal to feel lost and confused at some point in your life. What matters is how you face challenges along the way. These tips can help you fill the void whenever you feel like life’s not working out.

It needs to be said that if you have felt chronic emptiness and have found it increasingly difficult to do what you normally find quite simple and easy, it may help to consult a medical and/or mental health professional. There may be other physical and mental health-related changes developing from sources that aren’t easily visible.

More on How to Live a Meaningful Life

Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com

Reference

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Malachi Thompson

Leadership & Performance Edge Strategist

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Last Updated on April 14, 2021

How to Find Your Core Values to Live a Fulfilling Life

How to Find Your Core Values to Live a Fulfilling Life

Everyone has things that are important to them. It can be getting in that morning coffee, going for a run after work, spending time with friends and family, or volunteering. The things that are important to you can give you a clue as to what your core values are in life.

This is important, as, according to The Atlantic, 7 out of 10 Americans say people’s values have been getting worse in America over the past decade.[1]

Let’s first define core values and then dive into discovering what yours are.

What Are Core Values?

Your core values are a testament to your true self because they are what matters most to you when it comes to your personal and professional life. Your values influence that little voice in your head that tells you whether or not to care about something and how you should prioritize your time.

Your values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work.[2] They help determine what you truly want out of life while simultaneously acting as the measuring stick you use to tell if you’re satisfied with your current situation and living in a meaningful way. Core values define who we are while helping us find our purpose.

Here are a few good examples of values:[3]

  • Reliability
  • Loyal
  • Committed
  • Teamwork
  • Caring
  • Adventurous
  • Listening
  • Diversity
  • Humility

Some of these values are instilled in you from childhood. They can be cultural or learned through watching your family and hearing their discussions about things they’re passionate about.

Perhaps now, in adulthood, you realize you’re passionate about those same things. It’s not a bad thing to share core values with those around you, but it can be detrimental to live a life that doesn’t honor those core values once you’ve identified them.

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How Core Values Affect Our Daily Decisions

We make decisions based on our values every day, but we sometimes forget about the important decisions we face, big and small, and the potential stress those choices can create.

When you can identify your values and make choices that align with them, life suddenly becomes a little easier. But when you’re running on autopilot and not allowing your values to coincide with your choices, you can find yourself becoming incredibly unhappy, and maybe you don’t know why.

Discovering your core values don’t help with huge aspects alone; they impact seemingly small things, too. Think back to that new phone you bought that you didn’t really need. You decided that spending money wisely was not valuable to you, but is that truly how you feel?

Now it’s the end of the month and bills are due. Perhaps it would be really helpful to have that money back, so it has created stress. That disconnect stems from living a life that doesn’t correlate with your core values.

When you begin to make those choices that seem small at the time knowing what you find valuable, you begin to feel less stress in other aspects of your life. This has a snowball effect that leads to better choices and prolonged stress-free existence. And the best part is, there’s no hard work needed, just some introspection and self-awareness.

And if simply sitting alone for a few minutes could impact the rest of your life positively, wouldn’t it be worth it? After all, knowing your values helps you make important decisions, like accepting a job, starting a business, or making a big change.

How Do We Find Our Personal Values?

Core values are important to us. By figuring out the things that matter to us most, we can lead a better life.

To get started finding your core values, you can check out Lifehack’s Free Life Assessment, which can help point you to what you believe to be important in life.

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Then, you can try the following two ways to find your personal core values.

Start With Your Morals

Knowing your core values can certainly sync up with your morals, which you likely already have a good handle on. After all, your values have a direct impact on your standards of behavior.

Think about it: if it is morally important to you to arrive at your workplace and focus on nothing but work on company time, it will also be true that being an honest and efficient employee is a value you carry to every job you occupy.

If you’re the kind of partner who puts their phone away when on a date, this probably means you are a morally loyal person and want to ensure your partner knows you value time with them.

This is a strong indication that, as a core value, you put relationships first and work hard to show people you care. You could easily list respect and commitment on your list of core values.

Analyze Your Own Experiences

For instance, think back to a time you were the happiest.

Can you name the thing that caused you to feel happiness? Was the fulfillment you felt due to other people, and if so, who were they?

Think about when you were proud of yourself, and why you felt that pride. Your own experiences can shine a great light on what you hold important.

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Don’t be afraid to look ahead and analyze where you want to challenge the status quo. What values do you want to exemplify to your children?

If you want others to value it, it’s valuable to you.

What Should I Do With My Core Values?

Just sit down and make a list of what comes to mind, and let yourself explore those core value words. There is no set limit on how many values you can have, so allow yourself to list as many as you can.

1. Prioritize Your Values

If you wind up with 20 words, consider crossing out those that barely made the list and prioritize your values.

Personal development blogger Steve Pavlina suggests identifying the top value, then the second-highest value, and so on until you’ve rebuilt the list in order of priority from the top to the bottom.[4]

As you’re trying to prioritize the values, have this question at the back of your mind:

If I have to choose from these, which one goes first, and which one can I live without?

Some of the words may easily float to the top, whereas others might stump you. Allow that to happen, and accept that it aids in teaching you who you are.

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2. Look to Your Values Every Day

Once you’ve determined what your core values are, it’s vital to look to them every day. We all face challenging situations and decisions, and it’s important to know your core values in those instances, as they will help guide you when the best choice isn’t the most obvious one.

Let your core values be valuable to you. Everyone is on their own path, and no one can tell you what your core values are but you.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Rework Your List in the Future

When you realize your values and begin to live by them, you may find that not all of them are as important as you believed.

Rework your list when the time comes. You’re allowed to consciously change your values as you grow and evolve as a person. In fact, it will be entirely necessary throughout your life.

Final Thoughts

You are not your values. You are the thinker of your thoughts, but you are not the thoughts themselves. Your personal values are your current compass, but they aren’t the real you.

Remember, your important values should aid in creating your best life, and your most authentic self.

You make the rules, so be patient with yourself and dedicate the time to discovering your core values. You’ll be amazed at the things you can accomplish.

More on Discovering Your Personal Values

Featured photo credit: Bewakoof.com Official via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Atlantic: 21 Charts That Explain American Values Today
[2] MindTools: What Are Your Values?
[3] ContentSparks: Big List of Core Value Words
[4] Steve Pavlina: Living Your Values Part 1

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