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Last Updated on February 6, 2020

If You Don’t Know What to Do with Your Life, Read These 5 Strategies

If You Don’t Know What to Do with Your Life, Read These 5 Strategies

“I don’t know what to do with my life…”

There have been many times in my life where I have been stuck and not known what to do next. I have agonized over what I should do or not do and whether I was making the right choices.

“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 all of us, at any age and at different stages of our lives.

Whether we are heading off to university, graduating, choosing our career path, recovering from a heart break, being made redundant, or entering into retirement, we all have a point in our lives where we don’t 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 entering into retirement will ask the question in the hope of doing something that has value in their life; and 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 5 steps will help you to find out what to do with your life:

1. Put Your Running Shoes on 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.”

At one time in my life, that was very challenging and emotional; 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.

If you are in this situation, don’t panic. And you may want to learn about Nancy’s story, a story that resonates with a lot of people.

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For me, during this challenging time, exercise was the solution to helping me get through my day.

Every morning my alarm would go off at 6am. I would have my running gear ready by the bed, I would get dressed, walk out the door and start running for 45 minutes. I would come back from my run, have a shower and my protein shake, then wait for the kids to wake up and my day would begin.

For a long time, it was hard to get out of bed and go for my run because I just wanted to hide away.

After a few months, I began to realize that when I started my run, I would feel terrible and then when I got to the end of my street I would start feeling better and the sick feeling in my stomach would disappear.

Over time, I began to look forward to my morning run as I felt more energised and I was sleeping better.

Recently, I was talking to a healer about how I survived my life challenges. She said that exercise was one of the best ways to dissipate the emotional pain that we feel and hold in our bodies.

She said that I was lucky to have found a solution that worked well for me. It enabled me to manage my emotional pain, so that I could move to the next stage of sorting out what I wanted to do next with my life.

It took me 12 months to reach a point where I was ready to look at my future. It was then, that my next phase of my journey began. And I am happy to share with you how I discovered what I wanted to do with my life.

2. Take Action to Wake up Your Conscious Mind

“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. And you have to do it no matter what is true. No matter what is hard. No matter what is unjust, sad, sucky things befall you. 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 we have to work hard to define our life pathway.

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

For me, I had to deal with my limiting self beliefs which were very much a part of my conscious mind and my road blocks to moving forward.

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I couldn’t see a future for myself and I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted. Making a decision as to what to do with my life was impossible.

This was the hardest part for me, figuring out what I wanted, what I loved to do and how to be me or even believe in me.

I remember reading somewhere that if we have to make important decisions or choices in our lives, we can become overwhelmed. And so we choose to do nothing – it’s just too hard.

We become paralyzed rather than liberated by the power of choice. Because I didn’t know what I wanted, I couldn’t make a decision as to what direction I wanted my life to go. So for a long time, I did nothing and just drifted.

Eventually I became very dissatisfied with the direction my life was taking. I knew I had to take action and take it fast because I had very little faith in myself; my confidence was low and my vision for my future was bleak.

I was confused, conflicted and I had no hope.

My conscious mind was wanting solutions that were practical and safe, however my heart, well it wanted to follow my dreams.

It is hard to follow your heart, to overcome your limiting self beliefs and find your power. However, you can do it and it all comes down to taking action to change.

3. Embrace the Power of Taking Small Steps With a 30 Day Challenge

The first step I took to reprogram my conscious mind was I set myself 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.)

I wrote down 3 goals I wanted to achieve in 1 month, that would make my life better than it was now. The 3 goals were:

To lose 2 kg, to sign up and start training to run a marathon in 6 months time, and to spend one weekend by myself writing my Life Vision.

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The first two goals were easy to achieve. However, the third one took me a lot longer to do but I did get there in the end.

This 30 day challenge gave me the momentum to begin my journey of finding out what I wanted to do with my life. Baby steps do matter.

Achieving these 3 goals gave me the confidence and self belief to keep going. I knew that if I did nothing, then I would have to accept a life of disquiet, unhappiness, sadness and no hope. There was no way that was going to happen.

4. Seek the Wisdom and Knowledge of Others Who Have Been There Before

“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

I like to read other people’s stories about how they lived their lives, their life philosophies and how they overcame their challenges in life.

I find that their stories inspire and motivate me, especially when I am unsure about what to do next in my life. These stories helped me to build my knowledge base. Then I could sort out the confusion in my mind and in my heart, as to what I should do next.

I have read many books, however for me, the two most inspiring books that I have read that helped me gain clarity and purpose in my life are Nelson Mandela’s book The Long Walk to Freedom and Richard Branson’s book Screw It Lets Do It – Lessons in Life and Business.

These 2 books are very different but the life lessons that Nelson Mandela and Richard Branson shared are priceless.

5. Do Whatever It Takes to Get to Know YOU

“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. This strategy is closely aligned to Strategy 2, in that you have to know who you are in order to Wake Up Your Conscious Mind.

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 Vision, knowing your purpose and how you want to live your life are the foundations to building belief in yourself, your confidence, resilience, courage and accountability.

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There will be times in your life where you may not know what to do next, or you will make the wrong decision and that is okay.

With a purpose and a vision when these situations occur, 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 it doesn’t work out, that’s still okay because you will be empowered to make another choice.

My first step toward knowing what I wanted in life was to commit to my 30 day challenge — setting and achieving 3 goals in 1 month.

Once I did that, I started to organize my world and I researched for ways where I could get to know me, my purpose, my passions and how I wanted to live my life.

It took some time (2-3 years) but I did get there. I’ve read books, I’ve searched the web, I’ve talked to people and I’ve attended personal development workshops until I found a programme that I thought was right for me.

I didn’t have my Life Plan perfectly worked out. But when my next life challenge presented itself to me, I was far more prepared, informed and resilient to dealing with challenge.

It still hurt and it was very emotional but through it all I knew what I needed to do next to move forward in my life.

Final Thoughts

If you don’t know what to do with your life, consider these strategies I have shared.

It is a tough journey but it is also rewarding, in that 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!

But remember, it’s never too late to live the life you want. Here’s why: How to Start Living Your Life Above Limitations

More Tips to Help You Get on Track

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

More by this author

Kathryn Sandford

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

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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