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Just about everyone on the planet will feel lost and directionless at some point in their lives.
They might wake to the realization that they’re just maintaining the status quo rather than actually living.
Many people simply go through the motions they’re accustomed to, emotionally checked out so they don’t have to face the fact that they’re miserable in their current circumstances.
Others are fully aware that they need/want to do something different, but they don’t know what. There are so many options out there, so many paths to take, that they end up feeling overwhelmed and directionless.
If you’re experiencing something like this, that’s absolutely okay. We’re here to help.
What I’d like you to do right now is take a few deep, calming belly breaths. Then make yourself a cup of your favorite beverage, grab a notebook and a pen, and curl up somewhere comfortable.
We’re about to go on a journey of 8 steps that will help you find direction in your life.
1. Ask yourself some important questions.
Write this at the top of a fresh sheet of paper:
What would I do with my life if money, time, and resources were no object?
– What would you do for work/a career path?
– Where would you live?
– What would you do with your time?
– How would you dress?
– Would you look different than you do now?
– What would a perfect day be like for you?
– What kind of partner would you have?
– Which hobbies/pursuits would you enjoy?
Be extremely detailed about all of these answers, and take as much time with them as you like.
Once you’ve done that, flip to another fresh sheet in your journal and write down all the things in your life right now that make you feel happy and fulfilled.
After you’ve written those out, flip to yet another sheet of paper. Here, you’ll write down all the things in your life right now that make you frustrated, unhappy, and resentful. Be detailed about all of these list items as well. Write down how each one of them makes you feel, both right now and when you’re experiencing them.
The purpose of these lists is to figure out which aspects of life you’d like to change, which you’d like to keep, and which may or may not fit your ideal life depending on how your journey unfolds.
The idea is that finding direction in your life really means understanding how to get from your life today to your preferred life of the future. It’s about knowing what needs to change and then working out how to make those changes.
2. Be honest with yourself.
Once you’ve determined the changes that you want to make, be honest as to whether you are, in fact, prepared to make those changes.
You may be in a situation where you’re paralyzed with anxiety and depression because you feel trapped in a job you hate, working 80 hours a week to support a family you resent and a spouse you haven’t wanted to be around for years.
Whether you’ve written it out on paper, or just know it deep down, you don’t want to be in this situation anymore.
But are you willing to do what needs to be done to remove yourself from this misery?
Are you prepared to potentially hurt and disappoint other people in order to live a life that’s true to your own needs, wants, and dreams?
Listen, we know life is not always as simple as an internet article makes it out to be. If you’re not ready to make massive changes right now, you can sill try to find direction as far as pursuing some happiness goes. You can still make some smaller changes to move closer to your ideal life, even if it remains out of reach for the time being.
You might be ready to make big changes in the near future or even in the distant future. Obviously it’d be preferable to make them sooner rather than later, but perhaps making smaller changes now will be the catalyst that drives you to make those bigger changes later.
And if you can’t make the big changes now, it’s a good idea to work on identifying the various supports and coping mechanisms you will need to tolerate your current situation until you can.
Alternatively, if you’ve reached the point where you’re ready to find full, liberating direction that is free from the constraints of the status quo, you’ll need to create a plan.
3. Create a plan of action.
You may have some crossovers in those lists you wrote earlier. For example, if your dream of a perfect day would include some of your current daily activities, or time spent with your current partner, then those are some of the building blocks for the new life you’re aiming for.
In contrast, if there’s absolutely nothing on your list of current loves that you would take with you on your dream life, well… that’s a slate you’ll need to clear.
Determine a list of priorities as to things you need/want to change. List these in order of importance, going from what upsets and hurts you the most right now, to what you can tolerate for a little while longer.
For instance, if your relationship/marriage is excruciating but your job is only tedious, you know what needs to be sorted out immediately.
Alternatively, if your job is driving you to suicidal ideation but you’re okay with living in your current neighborhood a while longer, then it’s your job/career that should be top priority.
What actions can you take immediately?
If you like your career path but hate your current work circumstances, update your resume/CV as soon as you finish reading this article. Then start searching for a new job, possibly with the help of a recruiter.
Alternatively, if you’ve despised this career path for some time and want to do something completely different, look into what would be involved to pursue that new dream.
Sure, you might feel a great deal of trepidation at starting something anew, especially if you’ve been working where you are for some time. After all, changing careers may involve a loss of financial security or prestige. You may have a senior position where you are, and the income you’re getting may allow you a certain level of comfort, but what good are those if you cry in the bath every night?
Comfort zones are where dreams go to die.
4. Determine what you love.
Now, one reason why some people have difficulty finding direction in life is that they’ve forgotten (or never really realized) what it is they love the most.
They might have fallen into certain careers because they were good at doing something, but that doesn’t mean that they enjoy it.
So, what do you love to do?
Do you have a particular hobby or personal pursuit that brings you a great deal of joy? Why do you love it so much? Would you keep loving it if you did it full time?
Is it possible to support yourself (and those who are dependent upon you) if you were to pursue this as a career?
Direction flows from passion and dedication. When you do what you love, you have a strong sense of purpose and fulfillment.
Even if you’re not making as much money as you might have before, that’s absolutely okay. So much emphasis is placed on financial wealth these days that people forget that emotional and spiritual fulfillment are even more important.
Again, life is not as simple as this article or anything else you might read makes out – we get that. We’re not saying that everyone can do what they love as a career because that’s just not realistic.
But some people find working an unfulfilling job more soul-destroying than others. And if you have found your way to this article, you are one of those people.
So, if there is any way that you can make a living from something you do actually enjoy, you should put all the effort you possibly can into making that a reality.
5. Stop doing things that you hate.
How much anxiety and depression do you experience because you’re doing things that you can’t stand?
What would your state of mind be like if you were engrossed with what you’d rather be doing instead?
You might feel trapped right now because you’re doing things you despise in order to keep yourself (and possibly your family) housed and fed. If this is the case, talk to your partner/spouse/family members openly and honestly about how you’re feeling. There’s no shame in asking for help to set yourself free from an excruciating situation.
For example, if you want to pursue a new career, you may have to spend some time (and money) getting educated in this new path. Do some research to find out what grants and programs are available for second career education. You may be eligible for financial assistance – not just for your education, but for your expenses while you’re being re-trained.
Your social circle (family, friends, spiritual community) may be able to assist you as well. You’d step up and help those around you get out of a situation that was hurting them, right? Well, there’s a very good chance that your loved ones would be delighted to help you in turn.
Beyond work, are there other things in your life that you keep doing even though they bring you the opposite of enjoyment? Are there friends you no longer enjoy spending time with? Are there activities that you’d prefer you didn’t have to do? You should have these on the lists you made earlier.
How can you remove these things from your life? What would it take?
6. Determine which approach works best for you.
Are you the kind of person who works best with attainable goals and structure? Or do you prefer a more free-form approach?
Similarly, do you like to work on a number of different projects at once? Or do you like to tackle things one at a time?
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach for finding (and pursuing) new directions. Instead, each person needs to sort out what will keep them encouraged and motivated as they move forward.
Some people might thrive with SMART goals, while others are more spontaneous with changes.
If you’re cool with quitting your job, packing your stuff, and moving across the country, then go for it! Alternatively, if you’re more comfortable creating attainable milestones and a work-back calendar, then aim for that instead.
7. Mix up big and small changes.
While you’re working on some of the big issues in your life, take care of some of the easily attainable/achievable ones too.
These provide near-instant gratification, which will encourage you as you move forward with the more drastic changes.
For example, let’s say that two of the things on your path of changes are getting in shape, and changing your home’s decor. The former will take time for real change to happen, but keeping a logbook where you note your progress can help you monitor your progress on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
While that’s taking time to pursue, you can choose a room in your house to change. Let’s say your bedroom is a top priority. Set aside a weekend to paint it, go get yourself some new bedding, maybe some plants. Discard whatever no longer suits you, rearrange the furniture, maybe diffuse some new scents in there.
That will create a massive difference, and will reinforce the fact that you are in the process of changing all the other aspects you’ve written down as well.
8. Be brave.
Countless people hold back from pursuing the things they actually love because they’re afraid of risking (and potentially losing) what they have.
They’ll stay in careers, relationships, even cities they despise for much longer than they should, simply because they’re afraid that changing their circumstances might result in greater pain than they’re already experiencing.
That said, to live is to risk. There can’t be any fulfillment or reward if there isn’t some degree of things not working out as you’d like. Of course, the only way to ensure a life of disappointment and regret is to stagnate where you are.
Still not sure how to find the right direction in your life? Speak to a life coach today who can walk you through the process. Simply click here to connect with one.
To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk being called sentimental.
To reach out to another is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas, your dreams before the crowd is to risk being called naive.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair,
and to try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing, and becomes nothing.
He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live. Chained by his certitudes, he is a slave, he’s forfeited his freedom.
Only the person who risks is truly free.
– Leo Buscaglia
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