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Last Updated on May 14, 2019

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.

Small steps at a time create the momentum for change. These 7 Cornerstone Skills will help you take these small steps and lead you closer to where you desire to be.

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:

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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.

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.

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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.

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. Don’t believe me? Here’s why:

How to Start Living Your Life Above Limitations

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Kathryn Sandford

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

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Last Updated on August 19, 2019

How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

We live in a world that constantly tells us what to do, how to act, what to be. Knowing how to be true to yourself and live the life you want can be a challenge.

When someone asks how we are, we assume that the person does not mean the question sincerely, for it would lead to an in depth conversation. So telling them that you are good or fine, even if you’re not, is the usual answer.

In an ideal world, we would stop and truly listen. We wouldn’t be afraid to be ourselves. Instead, when we answer about how we are doing, our mask, the persona we show the world, tightens. Sometimes even more so than it might have been before. Eventually, it becomes hard to take off, even when you’re alone.

Imagine a world where we asked how someone was doing and they really told us. Imagine a world where there were no masks, only transparency when we talked to one another.

If you want to live in a world that celebrates who you are, mistakes and all, take off the mask. It doesn’t mean you have to be positive or fine all the time.

According to a Danish psychologist, Svend Brinkman, we expect each other to be happy and fine every second, and we expect it of ourselves. And that “has a dark side.”[1] Positive psychology can have its perks but not at the expense at hiding how you truly feel in order to remain seemingly positive to others.

No one can feel positive all the time and yet, that is what our culture teaches us to embrace. We have to unlearn this. That said, telling others you are ‘“fine”’ all the time is actually detrimental to your wellbeing, because it stops you from being assertive, from being authentic or your truest self.

When you acknowledge a feeling, it leads you to the problem that’s causing that feeling; and once you identify the problem, you can find a solution to it. When you hide that feeling, you stuff it way down so no one can help you.You can’t even help yourself.

Feelings are there for one reason: to be felt. That doesn’t mean you have to act on that feeling. It just means that you start the process of problem solving so you can live the life you want.

1. Embrace Your Vulnerability

When you are your true self, you can better self-advocate or stand up for what you need. Your self-expression matters, and you should value your voice. It’s okay to need things, it’s okay to speak up, and it’s okay not to be okay.

Telling someone you are simply “fine” when you are not, does your story and your journey a great disservice. Being true to yourself entails embracing all aspects of your existence.

When you bring your whole self to the table, there is nothing that you can’t beat. Here’re 7 benefits of being vulnerable you should learn.

Can you take off the mask? This is the toughest thing anyone can do. We have learned to wait until we are safe before we start to be authentic.

In relationships especially, this can be hard. Some people avoid vulnerability at any cost. And in our relationship with ourselves, we can look in the mirror and immediately put on the mask.

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It all starts with your story. You have been on your own unique journey. That journey has led you here, to the person you are today. You have to be unafraid, and embrace all aspects of that journey.

You should seek to thrive, not just survive. That means you do not have to compete or compare yourself with anyone.

Authenticity means you are enough. It’s enough to be who you are to get what you want.

What if for the first time ever, you were real? What if you said what you wanted to say, did what you wanted to do, and didn’t apologize for it?

You were assertive, forthcoming in your opinions or actions to stand for what is right for you, (rather than being passive or aggressive) in doing so. You didn’t let things get to you. You knew you had something special to offer.

That’s where we all should be.

So, answer me this:

How are you, really?

And know that no matter the answer, you should still be accepted.

Bravery is in the understanding that you still may not be accepted for your truth.

Bravery is knowing you matter even when others say that you do not.

Bravery is believing in yourself when all evidence counters doing so (i.e. past failures or losses)

Bravery is in being vulnerable while knowing vulnerability is a sign of strength.

It’s taking control.

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2. Choose Your Attitude in Adversity

You can take control of your destiny and live the life you want by being true to yourself. You can start anytime. You can start today.

You can start with one day at a time, just facing what happens that day. Most of us get overwhelmed when faced with the prospect of a big change. Even if the only thing we change is our attitude.

In one instant, you can become a different person with a change of attitude. When you take control of your attitude, you become able to better understand what is around you. This allows you to move forward.

Originally, you may have had a life plan. It could have started when you were little; you were hoping to become a mermaid, doctor, astronaut or all three when you grew up. You were hoping to be someone. You were hoping to be remembered.

You can still dream those dreams, but eventually reality sets in. Obstacles and struggles arise. You set on a different path when the last one didn’t work out. You think of all the “shoulds” in your life in living the life you want. You should be doing this…should be doing that…

Clayton Barbeau, psychologist, coined the term “shoulding yourself.’[2] When we are set on one path and find ourselves doing something different. It becomes all the things you should be doing rather than seeing the opportunities right in front of you.

But in all this disarray, did you lose sight of the real you?

It may be in our perceived failures and blunders that we lose sight of who we are, because we try to maintain position and status.

In being who we really are and achieving what we really want, we need to be resilient: How to Build Resilience to Face What Life Throws at You

It means that we do not see all possibilities of what might happen, but must trust ourselves to begin again, and continue to build the life we want. In the face of adversity, you must choose your attitude.

Can attitude overcome adversity? It certainly helps. While seeking to be true to yourself and live the life you want, you will have to face a fact:

Change will happen.

Whether that change is good or bad is unique to each person and their perspective.

You might have to start over, once, twice, a few times. It doesn’t mean that everything will be okay, but that you will be okay. What remains or should remain is the true you. When you’ve lost sight of that, you’ve lost sight of everything.

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And then, you rebuild. Moment after moment, day after day. We all have a choice, and in this moment, that matters.

You can choose to have a positive attitude, seeing the silver lining in each situation and, where there is none, the potential for one. Maybe that silver lining is you and what you will do with the situation. How will you use it for something good?

That’s how you can tap into yourself and your power. Sometimes it happens by accident, sometimes on purpose. It can happen when we aren’t even looking for it, or it can be your only focus. Everyone gets there differently.

You can rise, or you can remain. Your choice.

When the worst happens, you can rely on your authenticity to pull you through. That’s because Self Advocacy, speaking up to let others know what you need, is part of finding the real you.

There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Or sometimes, helping others can help us deal with the pain of a hurtful situation. You decide how you’re going to help others, and suddenly, you become your best self.

3. Do What Makes You Happy When No One’s Looking

Being the best version of you has nothing to do with your success or your status. It has everything to do with your Character, what you do when no one’s looking.

In order to create the life you want, you have to be the person you want to be. Faking it till you make it is just a way to white knuckle it through your journey. You have the fire inside of you to make things right, to put the pieces together, to live authentically. And Character is how you get there.

If you fall down and you help another up while you’re down there, it’s like you rise twice.

Along with attitude, your character is about the choices you make rather than what happens to you.

Yes, it’s about doing the right thing even when obstacles seem insurmountable.  It’s about using that mountain you’ve been given to show others it can be moved.  It’s about being unapologetically you, taking control, choosing your attitude in adversity and being the best version of you to create the life you want.

How do you know what you really want? Is it truly status or success?

Unfortunately, these things do not always bring happiness. And aspects of our image or “performance driven existence” may not achieve satisfaction. Materialism is part of our refusal to accept ourselves as enough. All the things we use to repress our true selves are about being enough.

“Enoughness” is what we truly seek, but ego gets in the way.

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Ego is the perception of self as outer worth. It’s not REAL self worth.

Ego represses our true self with a new self— the self of chasing ‘“Am I ever enough?”’ questions. And instead of filling our true selves with self-love and acceptance, when we “should ourselves” and chase “enoughness,” we feed the ego or our image.

It’s important to realize YOU ARE ENOUGH, without all the material trappings.

Stanford psychologist Meagan O’Reilly describes the damage of not thinking we are enough. One of her tactics for combating this is to complete the sentence,[3]

“If I believed I were already enough, I’d ____”

What would you do if you felt you were enough?

By believing you are enough, you can live the life you want.

So many fake it to try to get there, and they end up losing themselves when they lose more and more touch with their Authenticity.

Final Thoughts

By being yourself, you are being brave. By acknowledging all you can be, you tell the universe that you can until you believe it too. The steps are easy, and you are worth it. All of it is about the purpose you are leading and the passion that is your fuel.

Being true to yourself is all about mastering how to live life authentically rather than faking or forcing it. Having the life you want (and deserve) is about being trusting in yourself and the purpose you are living for. Both need passion behind it, fueling it each second, or you will experience burn out.

When you are authentic, you can call the road you walk your own. When you live your life for you and not just the results of all your actions (faking it till you make it), you can let go of what you don’t need. This clarifies and pushes purpose to you, living for something that is greater than you.

You will find that making decisions based on what will actually achieve your goals, will help you attain the life you want, and your success with each step, will allow you to enjoy the process. Good luck!

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Featured photo credit: Ariana Prestes via unsplash.com

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