Let me guess, at some point in your life you’ve stopped and asked yourself, “What am I doing with my life?” I mean, haven’t we all? For you, it could’ve happened while you were out jogging, grabbing a drink on a Friday night, or even while you were stuck in traffic and trying your hardest not to form part of the road rage statistics.
For me, it happened a few years after I started working. Too soon? I think not.
According to society’s standards, I was pretty successful. I had a job, a house and had even gotten a promotion since graduating! Not to sound ungrateful or anything, but it was at that point that I stopped and asked myself a few questions, like “What does it all even mean?”, “Is this what it boils down to?” and of course, “What am I doing with my life?”
Now, there are only so many motivational talks and quotes you can turn to in the hopes of getting an answer to some of life’s deepest questions. After that, I’m afraid you’ll have to uncover the answers to these life-changing questions yourself and take the necessary steps to get out of the slump you’re in.
Generally, people reach this point after a failed marriage or going bankrupt because of a bad business decision (which is VERY possible to bounce back from). For others, it’s because of being stuck in a dead-end job with limited growth, a salary that sucks and Karen who micromanages you as if you haven’t been delivering amazing results for the past 10 years!
How to know if something is really wrong with your life
In the process of trying to answer the question, “What am I doing with my life?”, I needed to differentiate between having a bad month and being on a bad life’s path. I realized that for me, unfortunately, it was the latter. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my job. I just didn’t love how much of my time it was taking up. I basically lived to work, which wasn’t very exciting.
Think of it like being on a diet. If you happen to drop the ball on a particular day and indulge in some waffles and pancakes, that’s fixable. One bad day doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get back on track. That’s the same as having a bad month.
On the other hand, if you lie to yourself and say you’re on a diet but end up having a cheat meal every day, be honest, are you even really still on a diet? It’s the same with being on a bad life’s path – if every single day is starting to feel a bit like a long and dreaded journey to nowhere and all the days are just warping into one another – it’s time to reassess your life.
Some people call it finding your purpose, but I believe it’s about vision planning and setting goals. That’s essentially what will help you create a life that will make you want to get up in the morning. Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw’s quote, “Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself” is often shared in every other motivational talk.
This brings me back to my previous point, you’ve heard this quote a million times, but it hasn’t changed your reality if you haven’t physically started doing the work to see if where you are right now lines up with your path and goals.
11 tricks to find an answer to “What am I doing with my life?”
So, what are you doing with your life? You probably can’t give me a straight answer to that right now, which is why you’re reading this. I’m no life coach or guru, but these are just some of the things that make sense. Some tried and tested, others I’ve seen through other people’s lived experiences.
1 – Make sure you know your goals and yourself
When you know where you’re headed, mapping out the steps to get there becomes that much easier. Also, knowledge of self is SO important. The worst thing you could do is look at your colleague and the journey they are on and then try to follow suit. BIG MISTAKE! We’re all different, with different motivations and views on life.
There’s absolutely NO WAY that our trajectories could ever be the same. See, while my peers were celebrating the promotions and being one step closer to the coveted corner office, I was one foot out the door because I knew that my life at the time was just not cutting it. So I set some goals and smashed them!
2 – Know that you have time to sort it out
While you’re busy answering, “What am I doing with my life?”, understand that things happen at different times for all of us. I may have been able to attain financial freedom and the lifestyle I’ve always desired by 32, but that won’t be the case for everyone. And please, by all means, don’t make me the benchmark. That’s too much pressure.
Don’t focus too much on who did what and by what age, you’ll drive yourself crazy with that type of thinking! When you’ve painted a clear picture for yourself about what you’re working towards and continue to take those daily steps towards it, you’ll get there. Don’t rush the process – you have time to work on realizing the quality of life that you so badly want.
3 – Talk to your friends
If there’s one group of people that will surely ask what are you doing with your life, it has to be your friends. The great thing about friends that actually care enough to ask you this, is that they can be your accountability partners, keep you in check and become your daily cheerleaders (okay, maybe not pom-poms and all, but you get what I mean).
If you have friends that are on a similar journey and are also asking themselves, “What am I doing with my life?”, then you’re in good company. You can navigate the uncertainty together. I mean, everything is 100 times more fun when you do it with friends.
4 – Talk to your parents
Have your parents ever straight out asked you, “What are you doing with your life?” If that’s the case, join the club. The funny thing is, I don’t think they expect the emotional rollercoaster and existential crisis that may follow when they ask you this.
The relationship dynamics with parents are never the same, so your response to being asked such a question will be determined by that. If you’re lucky enough to have supportive parents that think you’re the best thing since sliced bread, then they may just be able to provide further guidance and help you navigate this crazy thing called life.
Parents have way more years of experience than you do. They’ve seen and experienced way more than you have, so they should have some nuggets of wisdom to share. Sure, they may not fully understand the pressures of seemingly being behind because that’s all you ever see on social media – all your peers’ highlights, but tap into what they have to offer.
BUT, in some cases, talking to your parents may actually do more harm than good. If they make you feel like a loser or are constantly comparing you to the Jones’ kid next door, rather avoid them until you can confidently answer the dreaded “What are you doing with your life?” question.
5 – You are where you are
Yup! It all starts with being honest about your current situation and then figuring out what’s next. Personally, there’s nothing I hate more than people that don’t like where they are in life, and yet all they ever do is go on a pity party and whine fest. Who’s supposed to change your situation if not you, huh?
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being able to admit that you actually don’t like where you are, just don’t spend the rest of your life beating yourself up over it. It’s only downhill from there if that’s what you choose to do.
In sports, there’s always this concept of playing for the next point. If you think about how you should be up 10 points and you are now down, you’ll make stupid decisions when you need to make some pretty big decisions! So keep your eye on the prize and actively work towards it.
6 – You are responsible for where you are and how you feel
What’s the quickest way to disempower yourself while trying to find the answer to “What am I doing with my life?” Playing the blame game and putting the onus of your success of somebody else or blaming them for your situation. A LOT of people use excuses such as background, generational wealth, family setup, etc.
At some point, though, you need to understand and accept that your life is in YOUR hands. Your friends and family can only do so much. And you know what really sucks? You’re the one that has to endure it.
7 – Take some time off and do nothing
Sometimes, all you need to do is just stop and do nothing. When you’re caught up in all the noise and life’s demands, it can be difficult to actually do anything constructive. Think of it like giving your body and mind time to recharge. In fact, I’ve made doing nothing one of my goals! Believe it or not, daydreaming can be a good tool.
I’m at a point in my life where I know the answer to “What am I doing with my life?”, now it’s just a case of tweaking things here and there to truly enjoy my life. Even as a high performer and someone who used to feel the need to have a whole itinerary ready each weekend, I’ve stopped and opted to do nothing instead. And you know what? IT FEELS GREAT!
8 – Stop reading the news and cut off social media for a bit
When was the last time you read good news in the newspaper or online? My point exactly. You THINK you’re getting an update on what’s happening in the world, but what you’re actually consuming is useless noise that stops you from thinking properly. It’s the same thing with social media.
Trust me, no TikTok dance challenge is EVER going to help you find the answer to “What am I doing with my life?”
9 – Try journaling or meditating
Honestly, I’ve just put this here because apparently it works for some people. I’ve tried both. Didn’t work for me.
10 – Travel
It’s been said that people are most open-minded when they travel, and you know what? I can actually believe that. When you travel, you become open to different perspectives and ways of living, which essentially broadens your thinking and approach to life in general. It could help you develop a new plan to reach your goals.
11 – Read some books
This has to be one of my favorites, I highly recommend it! Not only do books have lots of information and can make you sound smart during small talk, but they have some pretty epic stories too. You can get insight into some of the greatest minds and top earners in the world, which could bring you a step closer to answering, “What am I doing with my life?”
Much like traveling, reading relevant books really does expand your view and broadens your understanding of life.
So, what am I doing with my life? Well, I’ve done a lot of introspecting and implementing in the past couple of years to get to where I am. Right now, I’m really content and satisfied with where I am and the decisions I’ve taken to get here.
TL;DR – What am I doing with my life?
While there’s no universal answer to, “What am I doing with my life?”, it’s safe to say that it’s a question that we’re all faced with at some point in our lives. To find a way forward that works for you, you need to be brutally honest about the gap between where you are and where you want to be, and then take the necessary steps to get to your goals.