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Last Updated on February 4, 2021

I Don’t Know What to Do With My Life! 5 Steps to Get Unstuck

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I Don’t Know What to Do With My Life! 5 Steps to Get Unstuck

“I don’t know what to do with my life!” If you find yourself saying this, you’re not alone. It’s common for people to get to a point where they feel stuck or directionless. It can result from poor decision making or an inability to make decisions at all. 

“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing. It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.” -Oriah Mountain Dreamer

This state of not knowing what to do next applies to a lot of people, at any age and at different times in your life.

Whether we are graduating high school, choosing our career path, recovering from a heartbreak, being made redundant, or entering retirement, we all have a point in our lives where we may not know what to do next.

The answers or solutions we seek vary according to where we are at in our lives.

A young graduate will focus on answering this question in relation to their future and choosing the right career. A person starting retirement will ask the question in the hope of doing something that has value in their life. A young mother recently divorced will be asking this question in the hope that she can find an answer that will enable her to survive another day.

Personally, I have discovered that following these 5 steps will help you to find out what to do with your life, feel good, and get unstuck.

1. Get Moving and Clear Your Mind

“Not knowing what you want is a lot better than knowing exactly what you want but not being able to get it, at least you have hope.”

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I once faced a very challenging and emotional time; all I could do was think about what I needed to do to get to the next day.

There were no thoughts of what I wanted to do in the future nor were there any thoughts of how I wanted my life to be. It was just a matter of surviving from one day to the next.

For me, during this challenging time, when I was telling myself, “I don’t know what to do with my life,” exercise was the solution to helping me get through my day.

Every morning my alarm would go off at 6 am. I would have my running gear ready by the bed. I would get dressed, walk out the door, and start running for 45 minutes. 

For a long time, it was hard to get out of bed and go for my run because I just wanted to hide away. Over time, I began to look forward to my morning run as I felt more energized, and I was sleeping better.

What should I do with my life? Get moving!

    It may not be a morning run, but finding a way to get moving can help you clear your thoughts and improve your overall attitude[1]. Numerous studies[2] have found that exercise reduces symptoms of depression, which can create the space in your mind you need to think through your next steps in life.

    Whether it’s running in the morning, yoga in the afternoon, or cycling on the weekends, find what works for you and your lifestyle.

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    2. Wake Your Conscious Mind and Limit Choices

    “Nobody is going to do your life for you. You have to do it yourself, whether you’re rich or poor, out of money or making it, the beneficiary of ridiculous fortune or terrible injustice…Self pity is a dead end road. You can make the choice to drive down it. It’s up to you to decide to stay parked there or to turn around and drive out.” -Cheryl Stryed.

    Life isn’t predictable, and the solutions we seek to answer our life questions don’t always come nicely wrapped. There are no rules to follow, and you have to work hard to define your life pathway when you don’t know what to do with your life.

    Waking our conscious minds to accept our reality and embrace change is one step toward finding out what we need to do next in our life.

    We become paralyzed rather than liberated by the power of choice. When we are presented with too many options, our brain doesn’t know what to do with it all. 

    Research has shown that there is a sweet spot when it comes to choices[3]. If we have too few, we feel limited. If we have too many, we feel overwhelmed. 

    How does this translate to your everyday life? If you’re changing career fields and aren’t sure what to switch over to, limit your options to five or six possible areas. Choose to mark one off the list every few days once you’ve sat with the choices a bit. As your brain focuses on fewer and fewer choices, it will become easier to see the direction you genuinely want to go in.

    3. Take Small Steps With a 30-Day Challenge

    In order to reprogram your conscious mind and stop saying “I don’t know what to do with my life,” set yourself a 30-day challenge.

    You may ask, why 30 days? Because this is how the small steps you take gradually become your powerful habits. (In fact, the power of these little habits are beyond your imagination! Here’s why.)

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    Setting a deadline has a powerful effect on motivation. Research has shown time and again that deadlines, even those that are self-imposed, can reduce procrastination and lead to better decision making[4]

    Try setting one to three goals to be achieved during your 30-day challenge. Maybe you want to learn to code. Set weekly goals related to free online courses, and by the end of the month you’ll have a good deal of knowledge under your belt.

    Or perhaps you want to spend more time with your kids. Make a goal to have one family night each week where you offer all of your attention to your kids. You can even let them help plan what you will do on that special night. 

    Achieving these goals after one month will give you the confidence and self belief to keep going. It also helps you avoid doing nothing while you’re feeling stuck. Once you know you can achieve one goal, you’ll go on to achieve more and more. 

    4. Seek the Wisdom of Others Who Have Been There

    “The more extensive a man’s knowledge of what has been done, the greater will be his power of knowing what to do.” -Benjamin Disraeli

    Reading other people’s stories about how they lived their lives, their life philosophies, and how they overcame their challenges in life can be a good source of motivation and knowledge when you’re saying “I don’t know what to do with my life.”

    Their stories can inspire and motivate you, especially when you’re not sure of your next steps. Even better, find someone in your life who has been in a similar situation you now find yourself in. Ask how they got through it, the steps they took, and how they shifted their attitude. You don’t only have to learn from experience; you can also learn from others’ experiences. 

    Lifehack’s founder and CEO, Leon Ho, has experienced plenty of ups and downs in life and has come up with a framework that can help you get through your current challenges. He has everything written down in the book Full Life Essential Guide, get a copy of it to learn more!

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    5. Learn About Yourself

    “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” -Theodore Roosevelt.

    Find out who you are, what your passions are, and what you want to do with your life. If you’re feeling stuck, it may simply be because you’ve lost touch with your most authentic self. If you’ve become detached from your own goals and dreams, it will be incredibly difficult to get back on track. 

    To move forward, you have to let go of your past and embrace change. With change comes reinvention. If you don’t know who you are and what you want, it makes it a lot harder to move forward in your life.

    Having a life plan and vision and knowing your purpose and how you want to live your life are the foundations to building your confidence, resilience, courage, and accountability.

    With a purpose and a vision, you won’t be paralyzed by the fear of not knowing what to do; you will seize it as an opportunity to experience life.

    If you’re not sure where to start, make a list of your priorities. From there, you can identify where you really want to put your energy and which areas of life can use your attention. To get started, you may want to take this free Life Assessment and get a custom report to find out what aspects of life need more of your attention now first. 

    Final Thoughts

    If you’re saying “I don’t know what to do with my life,” consider these strategies I have shared to improve your life in the long term. Maybe you discover you love writing or want to start a business. You can build from these things and create a life you love living. 

    It is a tough journey, but it is also rewarding, as you will discover your life purpose and find your passion. You will know what you need to do in your life and the actions you need to take to get there!

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    More Tips to Help You Get on Track

    Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com

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    Kathryn Sandford

    Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

    Why Personal Branding Is Important to Your Career How to Stop Being Sad and Start Feeling Happy How to Persevere (and Get Ahead) When the Going Gets Tough How To Be an Optimistic Person When the Odds Are Against You 7 Things To Remember When You Feel Broken Inside

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    Last Updated on January 10, 2022

    How to Make Big Life Changes (Your Complete Guide)

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    How to Make Big Life Changes (Your Complete Guide)

    Overcoming fear and making life changes is hard. It’s even harder when it’s a big change—breaking up with someone you love, leaving your old job, starting your own business, or hundreds of other difficult choices.

    “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama

    Even if it’s obvious that making a big change will be beneficial, it can be tough. Our mind wants to stay where it’s comfortable, which means doing the same things we’ve always done[1].

    We worry: how do we know if we’re making the right decision? We wish we knew more. How do we make a decision without all of the necessary information?

    We feel stuck. How do we get past fear and move forward with that thing we want to do?

    Can a Person Really Change Life?

    Changing a life is dependent on your will and motivation to change. If you are up for it, then you can do it. It cannot be said simpler than this.

    Of course, exceptional cases where genetics or personality of an individual does play a part in determining if they can change or not. But for most of us, the power to change lives lies within ourselves.

    You just need to be patient and be prepared to go through some major life transformations.

    When you find your purpose and are entirely motivated to reach your goals, you can really change a life. Sure, it would take substantial efforts and a lot more than just being motivated. But it is possible!

    Well, we certainly don’t have all the answers, but here are 7 things to remember when you want to move forward and make positive life changes.

    What Are Some Big Changes in Life?

    A major change in life is an event that forces us to change the way we look at things and how we see the world. It can be anything from as simple as moving out of your parents’ house to having a child. The thing that makes them ‘major’ is how they influence you and change things in your life.

    Major changes often make you worry about what’s going to happen next in your life. They are a time of struggle and stress, that either result in a breakthrough or a life lesson. What’s important is to be prepared to take on life’s challenges by having a positive mindset towards change.

    How the Major Changes in Life Affect Us

    Major changes have big effects on our life. They essentially stir the core of our existence and make us start from scratch. One of the most important characteristics of a major life change is that we are traveling unchartered waters.

    It is very easy to feel done with life and not want to take care of yourself, your responsibilities, or those around you. However, the goal of existence is to struggle and constantly change our environment till it suits us.

    To understand how we can combat major changes in life, we must first understand the effect they have on us. Some of the most prominent impacts are:

    1. Difficulty in Adjusting

    Many people going through a major change in life will feel difficulty adjusting. Regardless of whether that life change is a positive life change or a negative one, it will have its apprehensions. People may feel like they don’t fit into the new setting they find themselves in.

    2. Feeling of Hopelessness

    Change can bring with it feelings of hopelessness and depression that can cause you to feel overwhelmed. This is because, with major changes in life, you are bound to face setbacks and failures as well. Without having the comfort of parents, friends, or even financial security to cushion that fall, reality often hits hard and leaves an impact.

    3. Mental and Physical Fatigue

    Studies show that with major changes in your life, you are bound to be more mentally and physically exhausted. This is because changes require extra effort which takes up most of your energy.

    You may find yourself in a situation where you work so hard you cannot go to the gym anymore because you are tired. It can also be a mental reluctance to do things like hobbies because rest is so hard to come by.

    4. Agitation and Irritation

    A person can become more agitated with themselves and those around them when they go through major changes in life. There are a lot of other factors that contribute to this, such as being short-tempered, exhausted, past your limit, and in need of rest which can cause people to lash out. Similarly in the event of a positive change, people may feel agitated if they aren’t being given enough attention or appreciation.

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    5. Struggling with Financials

    Financial changes impact your economic life and spending habits. It may come in the form of bankruptcy or hitting the jackpot. You may need to set aside money for college or rent. It would put you through a process of having to give up expenses that are not essential to you.

    6. Distancing of Relationships

    Distancing relationships is quite common when someone is faced with a major change in their life. Priorities are readjusted and bonds between people get weaker with distance and lack of quality time. In the event of good changes, people’s victories can often uncover hidden jealousy or lead to a conflict of interest between friends.

    When Is the Right Time to Start Changing Life?

    You can indeed start changing your life any moment you decide, but how would one decide when to start changing life? Various tell-tale signs indicate it’s time for a change.

    1. When Your Current Life Shakes Your Physical and Mental Health

    While you might do your best to live your life to the fullest by fulfilling your duties and responsibilities, it does not always mean that your life is ideal. In the quest to live a life of our dreams, we sometimes break ourselves by putting too much pressure on our physical selves. We don’t even bother if it starts affecting us mentally during such times.

    When you start observing that your routine life is negatively affecting your physical and mental health, then take it as a sign that you need to start changing your life.

    2. You Can’t Maintain Work-Life Balance

    Overcompensating on only specific facets of life leads to a disturbed work-life balance. While occasional instances when you are required to focus on a particular role more than other aspects are unavoidable, you need to be watchful when this becomes a habit.

    Failure to maintain a harmonious balance between work and life is a clear indication that you are overstressed and leading in the wrong direction.

    Do you really want to keep focusing on a particular facet, or do you want to have a tuneful life balance? Ask yourself these questions when you observe deviation in your work-life balance, and then make efforts to start changing your life.

    3. You Feel Stuck

    Several circumstances lead us to a mental state where we lose confidence in ourselves and create a mental block. Situations like the death of a loved one, getting fired from a job, losing child custody battle, getting a divorce, etc., might bring about numerous negative emotions.

    “I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.” – Georg C. Lichtenberg

    Some of these traits tend to push people into a dark ditch where they feel stuck till they recognize it.

    It is okay to experience a negative thought every once in a while when you are going through completely horrid. However, it should never let your get stuck in life. Failure to step out of your comfort zone is a sign that you need to make drastic changes in life.

    4. You Start Forming Negative Habits

    As a spiral effect of feeling stuck, people tend to take support of negative habits. Forming bad habits like drinking, smoking, overeating, etc., is an indication that you are not taking this well. Many are inclined to overdo the habits they already have and deliberately start hurting themselves.

    Remember that inflicting pain on yourself is never helpful in resolving the issues, and neither would it help you heal from the pain and mental torment. Adapting habits that you consciously realize are bad for you is a shout-out that you need to start changing your life.

    5. Your Lifestyles Fail to Lead You to Your Goals

    We are adaptable beings, so we try to accommodate ourselves to fit the situation. Many times, we start forming habits because of circumstances without thinking if it is in sync with our life goals. This is where the negativity starts amplifying to other life aspects.

    Therefore, it is important to reflect on your life every once in a while. It helps you regain your focus and realize if you are moving in the proper direction towards achieving your goals.

    4 Steps to Dealing with Big Life Changes

    We can’t control every aspect of our lives, and we can’t stop change from happening. However, how we respond to change will greatly affect our overall life experience.

    Here are 4 ways you can approach life changes in a positive way.

    1. Don’t Fight It

    I once heard one of my favorite yoga instructors say “Suffering is what occurs when we resist what is already happening.” The lesson has stuck with me ever since.

    Life changes are usually out of our control. Rather than trying to manipulate the situation and wishing things were different, try flowing with it instead.

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    Of course, some initial resistance is natural if we’re going into survival mode. Just make sure you are conscious of when this resistance is no longer serving you.

    If you’re feeling anxious about impending life changes, it’s time to practice some techniques to address the anxiety directly. These can include meditation, exercise, talking with friends about how you’re feeling, or journaling.

    If you’re worried about a big life change, such as starting a new job [2] or moving in with your partner, do your best to control your expectations. It may help you to talk with people you know about their experiences going through similar changes. This will help you form a realistic picture in your mind of what things will look like post-change.

    2. Find Healthy Ways to Deal With Feelings

    Whenever we’re in transitional periods, it can be easy to lose track of ourselves. Sometimes we feel like we’re being tossed about by life and like we’ve lost our footing, causing some very uncomfortable feelings to arise.

    One way we can channel these feelings is by finding healthy ways to release them. For instance, whenever I find myself in a difficult transitional phase, I end up in a mixed martial arts studio.

    The physical activity helps me channel my emotions and release endorphins. It also helps me get in shape, which generally increases my mood and energy levels.

    Exercise is important in cultivating positive emotions, but if you’re struggling with anxiety in particular, it’s important to cultivate a regular exercise routine as opposed to a one-off workout. One study found that “Aerobic exercise can promote increase in anxiety acutely and regular aerobic exercise promotes reduction in anxiety levels” [3].

    If exercise isn’t your thing, there are other, less intense ways of cultivating positive emotions and reducing anxiety around life changes. You can try stretching, meditating, reading in nature, spending time with family and friends, or cooking a healthy meal.

    Find what makes you feel good and helps you ground yourself in the present moment.

    3. Reframe Your Perspective

    Reframing perspectives is a very powerful tool used in life coaching. It helps clients take a situation they are struggling with, such as a major life change, and find some sort of empowerment in it.

    Some examples of disempowered thinking during life changes include casting blame, focusing on negative details, or victimizing [4]. These perspectives can make awkward transitional phases much worse than they have to be.

    Meanwhile, if we utilize a more positive perspective, such as finding a lesson in the situation, realizing that there may be an opportunity for something, or that everything passes, we can come from a greater place of ease.

    4. Find Time for Self-Reflection

    Having time to reflect is important at any stage in your life, but it’s especially important during transitional periods. It’s quite simple really: we need our time to step back and get centered when things get a little crazy.

    As a result, big life changes are perfect for doing some self-reflection. They are opportunities to check in with ourselves and practice getting grounded for a few minutes.

    Take a look at this reflective cycle adapted from Glibb’s Self-reflection guide (1988): [5]

      Source: Reserachgate

      Self-reflective exercises include meditating, yoga or journaling, [6] all of which require some quiet time to get yourself together.

      One study found that journal improves “self-efficacy, locus of control, and learning” [7]. A healthy sense of self-control can make the process of change easier to bear, so that in itself is a great reason to try self-reflection through journaling.

      To learn how to start journaling, you can check out this article.

      7 Reminders When You’re About to Give Up Changing

      When you feel your lifestyle (attitude towards the job, work, marriage, friends, etc.) will never help you achieve your goal, it is time to press a little reset button and start changing lives.

      1. You’ll Never Have All the Information

      We often avoid making important decisions because we want more information before we make a tough call.

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      Yes, it’s certainly true that you need to do your research, but if you’re waiting for the crystal clear answer to come to you, then you’re going to be waiting a long time. As humans, we are curious creatures, and our need for information can be paralyzing.

      Life is a series of guesses, mistakes, and revisions. Make the best decision you can at the time and continue to move forward. This also means learning to listen to and trust your intuition. Here’s how.

      2. Have the Courage to Trust Yourself

      We make all sorts of excuses for not making important life changes, but the limiting belief that often underlies many of them is that we don’t trust ourselves to do the right thing.

      We think that if we get into a new situation, we won’t know what to do or how to react. We’re worried that the uncharted territory of the future will be too much for us to handle.

      Give yourself more credit than that.

      You’ve dealt with unexpected changes before, right? And when your car got a flat tire on the way to work, how did that end up? Or when you were unexpectedly dumped?

      In the end, you were fine.

      Humans are amazingly adaptable, and your whole life has been helping you develop skills to face unexpected challenges.

      Have enough courage to trust yourself. No matter what happens, you’ll figure out a way to make it work.

      3. What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

      Like jealousy, most of your fears are created in your own head.

      When you actually sit down and think about the worst case scenario, you’ll realize that there are actually very few risks that you can’t recover from.

      “He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.” – Harold Wilson

      Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Once you realize the worst isn’t that bad, you’ll be ready to crush it.

      When you’re preparing to make a big life change, write down all of the things you’re afraid of. Are you afraid of failing? Of looking silly? Of losing money? Of being unhappy?

      Then, address each fear by writing down ways you can overcome them. For example, if you’re afraid of losing money, can you take a few months to save up a safety net?

      4. It’s as Much About the Process as It Is About the Result

      We’re so wrapped up in results when we think about major life changes. We worry that if we start out towards a big goal, then we might not make it to the finish line.

      However, you’re allowed to change your mind. And failing will only help you learn what not to do next time.

      Furthermore, just because you don’t reach the final goal doesn’t mean you failed. You chose the goal in the first place, but you’re allowed to alter it if you find that the goal isn’t working out the way you hoped. Failure is not a destination, and neither is success.

      Enjoy the process of moving forward[8].

      5. Continue to Pursue Opportunity

      If you’re on the fence about a big decision, then you might be worried about getting locked into a position that you can’t escape from.

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      Think about it a different way. New choices rarely limit your options.

      In fact, new pursuits often open up even more opportunities. One of the best things about going after important goals with passion is that they open up chances and options that you never could have expected in the beginning.

      If you pursue the interesting opportunities that arise along the path to your goal, then you can be sure that you’ll always have choices.

      6. Effort Matters, So Use It

      It sounds simple, but one of the big reasons we don’t make life changes is because we don’t try. And we don’t try because then it’s easy to make excuses for why we don’t get what we want.

      Flunked that test? Are you stupid? “Of course I’m not stupid. I just didn’t study. I would have gotten an A if I actually studied.”

      Stuck in a job you hate? Why haven’t you found a new job yet? “Well, I haven’t really tried to get a new job. I could totally ace that interview if I wanted.”

      Why do we make excuses like these to ourselves? It’s because if we try and fail, then we just failed. But if we don’t try, we can chalk it up to laziness.

      Get over it. Failure happens to everyone.

      And the funny thing is, if you actually try—because it’s pretty clear that most people aren’t trying—then you’ll win a lot more than you think.

      7. Start With Something Manageable

      You can’t climb Everest if you don’t try hiking beforehand.

      Maybe applying for your dream job seems intimidating right now. What can you start with today?

      Can you talk to someone who already has that position and see what they think makes them successful? Can you improve your skills so you meet one of the qualifications? Can you take a free online course to expand your resume?

      Maybe you’re not quite ready for a long-term relationship, but you know you want to start dating. Could you try asking out a mutual friend? Can you go out more with friends to practice your communication skills and meet new people?

      You don’t need to be a world changer today; you just need to make small life changes in your own world.

      Final Thoughts

      Changing a life is not a one-day job. It requires consistent efforts and dog determination to bring drastic life transformation.

      You can start by making small changes and setting achievable goals. And in no time, you would see yourself in a transformed personality.

      Changing a life is difficult but possible. You can have a life-changing experience only if you sign up for it with persistence. If your will is strong enough to support your decision, any life changes are possible!

      More Tips to Help You Make Life Changes

      Featured photo credit: Victor Rodriguez via unsplash.com

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