If you’re one of those so-called lost souls that seem to be spending hours seeking purpose and saying things like “I don’t know what to do with my life,” that’s quite normal. At some point in our lives, we all reach what appears to be a dead-end, crossroads or a series of challenges that lead to us questioning life and pursuing contentment.
It was Mark Twain who said that the two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you discover why – and boy, was he right! When you discover your purpose, you start to live a more meaningful life and you focus on what REALLY matters. Some even say that knowing your purpose helps you live longer.
The author of The Happiness Equation has this thing where he writes his Ikigai – his purpose – on a card to get motivated by it every morning. That’s all good, but if you don’t know what to do with your life, you’re probably not so clear on your purpose either.
The “I don’t know what to do with my life” frustration is something I’ve also felt before. I wasn’t totally happy with my life until I took it by the reins – because nobody can live your life for you. So what did I do? I went part-time, started this site and ultimately had more freedom and ownership of my time to do what truly makes me happy!
The decision wasn’t as simple as “maybe I should work part-time.” I felt really excited that my saving and investing schemes were so successful, and I wanted to help others see how simple building wealth is. But I could only talk to so many randos at parties, so I started jotting things down and posting it online.
That evolved to my mission to help 6000 people become millionaires. Right now, I feel invigorated and am actively planning bigger and better moves! BUT, not too fast, I’m trying to enjoy the journey and “live in the moment” as they say.
See, you don’t necessarily need to make MASSIVE changes in your life to have a perfect one. Not to say that mine is perfect, but I feel like it’s definitely a billion times better than it was because of how I’ve intentionally planned it. A lot of people think you need to take life-changing steps overnight – which is absolutely absurd and unrealistic.
Perhaps this is because of what we see in newspapers and in the media. It seems like people with “perfect” lives made unimaginable sacrifices and changes to get to where they are, which is only partially true. But then again, that’s what makes a good story, it gets the people talking. So, if you don’t know what to do with your life right now, you’re not alone.
While finding your purpose and some sort of direction can feel like you’ve hit the jackpot, it can sometimes also be difficult to integrate it into your way of life. Fear not, as someone who’s gone through the “I don’t know what to do with my life” saga, here are 10 ways to integrate some new direction and purpose into your life.
11 ways to get over the “I don’t know what to do with my life” hump
I’d be lying if I said I have all the answers to some of life’s most pressing questions, but I may have a better understanding of life and finding meaning than most young adults. So, because I’m not one to keep all this wisdom and knowledge to myself, I’ve jotted these down for you. You’re welcome. ;P
1 – Make sure you know your path and know yourself
I can’t stress this enough – you NEED to know what you are working towards as a starting point. Imagine leaving your house without a set destination, you’ll land up anywhere! Once you know your target, it becomes easier to map out the steps you need to take to get there, and it’ll help you wrap your head around some of the big changes to be made.
The first thing I did when I was faced with this predicament was look at my situation and then look at the life I desired, BINGO! Therein lied the gap that I needed to address. I knew that I was on the right path in terms of my job, but I needed to make a few changes to make it more suitable for me and the life I aspired to live, which brings me to my next point.
2 – Change your job
I know that not everybody has the liberty to just spontaneously change jobs, and it is one of the more extreme things on this list, but it may just be the answer if you don’t know what to do with your life. If I were you, I’d consider all the other options before this one.
As competitive and limited as things may be, you also have to be honest with yourself and how your job is affecting your wellbeing. Take my wife, for example, she retired before I did. Basically, she despised her work and didn’t know what other job to pursue, but she’s definitely a whole lot happier now. We both are.
3 – Change your industry
Nowadays, it’s possible to have a similar job but in a different industry. What do I mean by this? Well, if you’ve dedicated your life to number-crunching and want to continue in finance, you could make the switch from working on Wall Street to a charity or something quite different. It can be quite refreshing – like moving to a new place.
Just because you have years of experience in a certain industry, it doesn’t mean that that’s where it ends. Some skills and expertise are transferable across industries. So you could quite easily find work in a field that matches your goals without ditching everything and letting all that experience go to waste.
4 – Volunteer
If you decide to commit yourself to a passion – money aside – volunteering is a great way to add more meaning if you don’t know what to do with your life. While determining whether or not your 9-5 still makes you happy, you could always volunteer and derive some sort of joy and sense of purpose from helping others.
Again, you can find a way to volunteer in an area that you enjoy. If you’re not particularly good with kids, it doesn’t make sense to volunteer at a children’s home, you’ll most likely derive very little value from it. On the other hand, if sports is your thing, then you could dedicate your time and expertise to training the local football team and developing legends!
I remember this teen who used to work out at my gym. He was nice, but not particularly ambitious and I never thought he’d take his love for the gym to the next level. Then he started a club for teens with special needs at my gym and a few months later got into an elite sports coaching program abroad.
If you don’t know what to do with your life, volunteering can open your eyes to your purpose like nothing else.
5 – Take up a new hobby that matches your goals
Even if you don’t know what to do with your life, perhaps you have some sort of idea of where you’re headed (which is why setting goals is KEY). So, you can use those goals to find hobbies that align with them. Even if it means setting some time out each day just to try and figure out what you enjoy and try out new things until you find something that sticks.
Sure, you can go for a few years telling people that you don’t know what to do with your life, but at some point, you need to stop singing the same old song and start actively working towards making a change. Even if you have the weirdest goals ever, there are bound to be hobbies that align with them.
Not only will this give you a sense of purpose and meaning – which is a lot like what volunteering does – but it will also sharpen some of the skills and abilities that you may need to fulfill your goals.
Years ago, my wife started taking French classes after work. It lined up with her ambitions to learn new things and to travel. But actually, by focusing on something other than her work, she realized just how miserable her job was making her. Enter her decision to retire early – and the rest is history!
6 – Start a company
Okay, I’ll admit, this one isn’t everyone’s calling. Of course a lot of people like saying that they want to take control of their time and life and not have someone telling them what to do blah blah blah, BUT, let’s be honest, not everybody is destined to start their own company.
Just the complexities of it alone can scare you away immediately if you don’t know what to do with your life but decide to do it because it seems like the cool thing to try because of some youtube ad! This one is for people who are SUPER MOTIVATED!
I know I’m not the only one who’s heard that you should find a way to make money from your hobby if you want to be truly happy. Uhm, EXCUSE ME?! On the contrary. Once you start labeling anything as work, that’s the quickest way to make it unfun and for you to stop enjoying it as much as you did before.
This is why I kept my job and merely tweaked it a bit to suit my lifestyle. That way, my job remains my job and my hobbies remain my hobbies.
The way I see it, making money from your hobbies can be a temporary thing if you desperately need the money to live. But you HAVE TO find another way to make an income quickly before you start hating everything you used to love.
7 – Read about people who’ve done it
Admit it, everybody loves a good success story – especially if you don’t know what to do with your life. Once you start reading about people who were once in your situation and who openly admitted that they too were faced with the “I don’t know what to do with my life” saga, you could draw inspiration from their journey.
Notice I said draw inspiration, NOT COPY WHAT THEY DID, because everybody’s journey is different. You’ll never find answers to your personal questions by copying someone else’s journey. That’s a bit like trying to fit into your baby clothes as a teen – whether or not I’ve actually tried it is a story for another day – but it’s definitely a misfit.
I recommend Sabbaticals 101 because it’s from the point of view of an entrepreneur who made a habit of taking a year off every once in a while. I’ll admit, this is perhaps a luxury that not everybody can afford to take, especially if you’re stuck in one of those disgustingly low-paying jobs that force you to live from hand to mouth.
If you’re able to effectively plan and budget for this though, the benefits can be endless! A bit of R&R never hurt anybody, in fact, it gives you the opportunity to do some self-introspection and rediscover your purpose, regroup, all those good things.
We all draw inspiration from different people because certain aspects about their journeys resonate with us differently, so pinpoint a few people that may help you address the “I don’t know what to do with my life” saga. Basically, read what makes sense to you and learn from those who speak to you and your goals. Simple but not-so-simple at the same time.
8 – Consider early retirement or reduced work
I definitely vouch for this one. It works. Well, at least it worked for me. I did both. Retired early and reduced my work hours. Why, you may ask? Well, I didn’t necessarily loathe my job, I just wanted to do less of it. While I wasn’t the type to go around moping and telling people that I don’t know what to do with my life, I sure felt it and had to take action FAST!
If you scoff at the idea of working less because you have bills to pay and can’t take the pay cut, challenge yourself to live on less. Bet you can do it and see how far you could go. Who knows, you might decide to give up your pricey apartment, move to Peru, and become a tour guide. (Not that it’s a fantasy of mine or anything.)
Luckily, the things that have always intrigued me and my curiosity paved the way for me, which meant I was able to eventually figure things out. The great thing about going for reduced hours is that it means that you can still have an income and enjoy the perks – or in some cases, get away from your family for a bit if they’re starting to drive you crazy.
On the other hand, you also have time to do the things that you really enjoy so you can stop saying things like “I don’t know what to do with my life” because you’ll probably have a better sense of purpose and meaning.
9 – Become closer with those that matter
This may sound a bit like an airy-fairy type of approach, but hear me out. Some people’s sole purpose and life goal is to have a full table and be surrounded by those they love. This is the case in many cultures and close-knit communities across the globe. Yup! For some, that’s all it takes to address the “I don’t know what to do with my life” situation.
10 – Don’t be afraid to try and fail – then try again
Even the best laid-out plans won’t guarantee that you’ll achieve what you want according to some SMART-goals timeline. I hate to break it to you, but failure is inevitable. Once you become comfortable with that and accept it, the hard knocks won’t get you down.
On your journey to solving the “I don’t know what to do with my life” saga, be prepared to try and fail. Success and reaching your purpose is equal parts figuring out what you don’t want and what you do.
How do you know your toddler doesn’t like pasta? Well, because you’ve probably tried feeding them before and they practically threw it back it your face (I know, they do that a lot!), but they eventually settled on a fruit. Moral of the story: try and try again until something sticks.
11 – Embrace change and uncertainty
This is an uncomfortable thing for many, but change and uncertainty are what birth really great comebacks and results. There’s that saying about how nothing good ever comes from being stuck in your comfort zone or whatever, which is entirely true. High risk, high reward… and an equally high level of change and uncertainty.
While the journey to figuring out what to do with your life can be tricky, it’s worth taking. Everyone’s story is different, so you need to find an approach that works for you and will be most satisfying FOR YOU! I may have cut down on my work hours, discovered my purpose, and I no longer wonder what to do with my life, but for you, it may require doing away with your job entirely. To each his own.