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You’re here because you can’t stop thinking, “Is this all there is to life?”
This article will try to help you answer that question.
You see, as much as we might wish that life was engaging and fulfilling all the time, this just isn’t the case. So many factors contribute to how our lives unfold, and they can throw us into situations that range from incredibly stressful to achingly tedious.
If you’ve been trapped in difficult circumstances for some time, you might feel like you’re stuck in a rut that you’ll never be able to get out of. You may worry that this is all there is, and you’ll be plodding forward like a pack mule indefinitely, without hopeful change in sight.
Please know that this isn’t the case. What’s needed in situations like these are a change of perspective followed by action.
Here are some things you can do.
1. Ask your soul (or higher self) what it wants to be doing right now.
In the same way that a sore knee will tell you that there’s an injury that needs to be tended to, emotional or mental pain might be telling us that there are injuries present there as well.
Take a moment to ask yourself what you would prefer to be doing right now if life circumstances and financial limitations weren’t an issue. For example, if you were suddenly given $10 million, what would you do?
Would you continue to live your current life where you are now? Or would you go somewhere else? What would you change? Where would you go?
The first things that come to mind are going to be aspects of your authentic truth, so pay attention to them. Once you’ve determined what they are, you’ll be able to make some plans to move forward.
Some of these might not be an option due to current circumstances that are beyond your control, of course. For instance, if you’ve always wanted to visit a country that’s full of armed conflict right now, it’s best not to venture there just yet. Still, keep it on the list: no turmoil has lasted forever, and the opportunity to fulfil that dream may be on the horizon sooner than expected.
2. Once you’ve figured out what isn’t working in your life, try out aspects of “the unlived life.”
This expands upon the previous tip, but is action-oriented rather than merely introspective.
You might keep saying to others that you “just don’t know” why you’ve been feeling despondent with your life as it is, but that’s rarely the truth.
Most people know exactly what is and isn’t working, they simply choose to lie to themselves (and others) about it. By maintaining the status quo, they manage to maintain a facade of fulfilment and joy… even though they might feel like they’re dying inside.
When people aren’t living their truth, they end up feeling an incredible sense of loss and depression. Furthermore, the truth will make itself known one way or another. Someone who’s unhappy in their marriage is likely to have affairs to fulfil what’s missing in their world. Similarly, someone who hates their job might self-sabotage (even subconsciously) in order to get fired.
Once you’ve determined what it is that’s making you unhappy, that you want to do differently, consider trying that out.
“Grass is always greener” syndrome is a common theme in people who feel like there’s more to their life. One great book that touches upon this is The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out.
It’s the story of a young man who journeys thousands of miles to seek his fortune. He assumes that he’ll find what’s missing in his life somewhere else, but… well, you’ll have to read the book to find out, but you can probably guess how his tale plays out.
You don’t have to throw yourself into the deep end here, but rather dip your toe in the shallows to see how it feels.
For example, if you’ve been doing office work for years but would rather live your life as a musician, get a band together. Rather than quitting your job outright, craft a few songs with some great bandmates. Book some gigs. See how doing that makes you feel, and then decide on your path accordingly.
You may discover that you’re more comfortable in your current circumstances than you thought and will keep music-making as a hobby. In contrast, you might fall head over heels in love with musician life and decide to devote all your time and energy to touring and recording.
Both of these choices are valid, as is the entire spectrum in between.
Furthermore, this method can work with anything you want to change. For instance, if you’re coming to terms with the fact that you may be transgender, or same-sex attracted, talk to your partner about what you’re going through. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover that they’re supportive, and they might encourage you to explore a bit to see what works for you.
Alternatively, if they aren’t supportive and want to end the relationship, that might be a blessing in disguise. In fact, having them initiate the breakup might help to allay guilt on your end, while also offering you the freedom of authentic self-expression.
3. Understand that nothing is permanent.
If you’re familiar with the Tarot cards, then you might know the story that the Wheel of Fortune card tells us.
A wheel is always in motion, and what is upright one moment will be turned downward the next. And then it’ll change again, over and over. Point being that you have undoubtedly experienced great highs as well as lows in your life thus far. As such, you’ll recognize that all things change; nothing ever remains the same for long.
Periods of tedium and suffering are often precursors to great change. After all, very few things can grow or change without periods of difficulty. Even pain.
Consider how a caterpillar essentially dissolves into goo in the chrysalis, and then reforms into its butterfly self. I can’t imagine that’s a comfortable thing to experience. Furthermore, did you know that if anyone helps to free one from its chrysalis, it won’t be able to fly?
This is because the act of crawling free from that enclosure squeezes the excess moisture from its newly formed wings, and also helps to develop the muscles inside them. Without the panic and discomfort involved in that process, the wings won’t fully develop, nor will they be able to dry out enough for flight.
Point being that although you might feel trapped or stagnant in your current situation, change will be inevitable. Nothing ever lasts forever, and changes can come either slowly or swiftly, depending on a number of different factors.
One of those factors, of course, is taking the initiative to make change happen.
4. Decide on what you want to change, and then work toward it.
As long as you are alive, you have the capacity to grow and change. This may be in different directions as you move through life, but you’re constantly evolving—even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment.
If you’ve done some of the aforementioned soul searching and determined what it is you want to change, then sit down and figure out how to make that change happen.
Of course, this can be a bit more difficult if the change(s) you want to make in your life will affect others. Many people choose to remain in uncomfortable (even stifling) circumstances because they don’t want to hurt those around them by living their truth.
These people often end up incredibly depressed and anxious because they feel like slaves to their circumstances. One might be stuck in a groundhog-day-like cycle in which they get up, commute to work, do eight hours of drudgery to make someone else rich, then come home, eat, try to sleep, and repeat the same damned thing for years. They’re miserable, but they feel that they have to do this in order to keep their family housed and fed.
When you feel as though your soul is being sucked out because all you have is responsibility, it’s completely normal to feel despondent. You’ll ask yourself, “Is this all there is to life?” It may leave you feeling like you’re stuck on a hamster wheel that you can’t step free from.
You can, of course, but that’s going to take effort. It’s also going to require some hard choices as well as support from those around you. Furthermore, if you don’t receive support from your immediate circle, you may have to make some difficult choices.
Let’s say you absolutely despise the city you’re living in and want a fresh start elsewhere. Maybe the vibrancy you fell in love with there years ago has faded out, or you’ve been working an awful job for a decade and just want something completely new. It’s even possible that the climate you once loved is now insufferable, making every day a fresh new hell for you.
If you’re single and have no dependents, you can simply find work in another locale, and pick up and move there whenever you want to.
This generally isn’t an option when you have a family, however. Your partner might have a social circle that they don’t want to leave, and your kids may be horrified at the thought of leaving their friends behind. In a case like this, you’ll have four options:
- Negotiate with them to find a middle ground that everyone can be happy with
- Keep things as they are, and be miserable
- Insist that you all move, and risk making everyone else miserable
- Go your separate ways: they stay, and you follow your heart
Each of these has its challenges as well as its benefits, but there’s always a solution on the horizon. It might not make everyone happy in the short term, but you might all discover greater fulfillment in the long run.
5. Keep in mind that whatever you’re not changing, you’re choosing.
This might be a difficult thing to accept, especially if you feel trapped by responsibility and obligation, but it’s the truth.
If you’re lamenting your current circumstances, wondering if this is all there is to existence, but not actually doing anything to get out of your rut, then it’s your choice to stay there.
As such, it’s up to you whether you choose to change or choose to remain as you are. If you’re unhappy with how things are, then determine what will be needed to bring about change and move in that direction.
In fact, sometimes even having a strong intention to make change happen will be the catalyst for things to start moving in that direction.
For instance, back in 2011/2012, I kept feeling this intense need to move out of the city. I’d been in downtown Toronto for over 20 years and felt stifled and trapped there, despite having a great job, wonderful apartment, and so on. So I waffled on whether to leave or not, weighing my options accordingly. And once I made the firm decision that yes, I would leave the city for greener pastures, doors suddenly opened for me.
I received a job offer for remote writing work with a company dedicated to eco-friendly living. Then a family member in rural Quebec told me about a house near her that was in my price range.
So, I packed up my apartment and moved to the mountains, and life has only evolved for the better since then. No more depression and exhaustion from the tedium of daily commutes and office drama.
What was most startling to me was seeing how my mental health improved after making that leap. I had been terrified to do so, since I was leaving behind my entire social safety net. I had a solid job and a great circle of friends, and I had never spent time anywhere rural other than the occasional apple-picking sojourn.
And here I was, about to move to a village with just a couple hundred people in it, in a place where English is only spoken by 1% of the population!
If I had let fears and insecurities hold me back, I would likely still be wracked with depression and anguish from the supposedly “great” life I had back then. This experience showed me just how much our circumstances affect every aspect of our overall health.
When you can free yourself from the (often self-imposed) chains that are binding you, you may discover just how amazing you’re capable of feeling.
6. Ask yourself whether you’re brave enough to hurt others in order to live authentically.
Yes, the changes you’re going to make have the potential to hurt others. This is where you’ll need to determine whether you have enough mental and emotional fortitude to let others down in order to live a life that’s true to you.
Many people hold themselves back from living their own lives because they feel an obligation to live for others. This is common with people who spend their days taking care of infirm elderly parents or children with extreme special needs.
When they spend all their time changing diapers and dealing with meltdowns and violence, it’s often difficult for them to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Wondering if this is all there is to life is a common theme for them, since many of them feel that they are sacrificing their own lives for the sake of others.
While this kind of self-sacrifice is often seen as noble by others, it can also be an unhealthy form of self-martyrdom. Essentially, one is setting themselves on fire to keep others warm.
If you feel that you’re at your wit’s end, and you know there’s more to life than what you’re dealing with on a daily basis, find out what options are available to you.
For example, many places offer respite care through special needs or elder care groups. This could allow you to have more time to yourself, so you can put that toward goals you’d like to achieve or simply for some quiet alone time to ground and regroup.
Alternatively, if you’re feeling so overwhelmed that you can’t or don’t want to go on with things as they are, it may be time to find greater support. This might include getting your family member into a care facility where they can be tended to by a team of well-trained professionals.
While this is often an ideal option for everyone involved, those who choose to place their children or elders in care are often condemned as selfish or abusive by their social circle. In cases like that, what’s ideal is to recommend that those who are doing the condemning switch roles with you for a week and see how they fare. They’ll change their minds after a day or two.
Ultimately, this is your life, and you’ll need to decide how to live it. Once you know deep down what it is you want (or even need) to do in order to lead a happy and fulfilling life, you’ll need to Do What Must Be Done. That will be difficult, but every single journey that’s worth taking involves difficulty and risk.
It’s far better to risk failure for the sake of great achievement than to refrain from risking and spend decades in regret, wondering what might have been.
“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 dreams, for the adventure
of being alive.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.”
– From The Invitation, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer
7. Remember that although change can be scary, stagnation is scarier.
The best time to start making change happen was years ago. But since we can’t go back in time, we can choose this moment to get the ball rolling instead.
This is when you’ll need to venture into the dark part of the forest that scares you. Just bring supplies you think you’ll need while you’re at it.
Many people hold back from following their soul’s longing out of fear. Sure, there’s the fear of disappointing others, but there’s also the fear of potential failure. This is the whole “devil you know” scenario: that the misery you’re currently in might be a lot better than what might ensue if you change it.
A little fear is good, as it’s generally beneficial to look before you leap, but holding back or sabotaging yourself due to fear of failure would be the worst thing ever. This is a cage of your own making.
Yes, to risk anything is to risk potential failure, but we also learn lessons in times of defeat. Furthermore, you may discover that what you thought you wanted isn’t the case at all, but you wouldn’t have known that had you not tried and fallen short.
Challenge yourself, and allow yourself some personal development through adversity. Alternatively, you can decide to stay in your “safe space” and stagnate there.
Which will you choose?
8. If you’re struggling to find your own purpose, focus your energy outward.
It’s very easy to fall down depression spirals when life changes hit you hard. This can be especially true for people who have been very capable, active, or mentally acute and then suffered a health setback that dampened their efforts.
They might find themselves struggling to do basic tasks that they used to leap through, and every day feels like a repetitive slog rather than something to celebrate.
I came across this situation when I was teaching art classes while in college. One of my jobs was doing art projects with seniors at an elder care facility, and while some of the elders were enthusiastic about them, others put in half-hearted attempts because they had, as they put it, nothing better to do anymore.
Many of these seniors had been forces to be reckoned with when they were younger. One had been a prima ballerina, another was a WWII navy veteran, and so on. These people had been strong and vibrant in their youth and now considered every aching day to be an exercise in tedium.
So, we mixed things up and combined children’s and elders’ art classes, explaining that the little ones needed the seniors’ help for their projects. You wouldn’t believe how much the energy changed after that happened. The elders were completely engaged in teaching them how to do things.
That WWII veteran came back to life when he started showing the kids how to tie different knots, for example. In fact, he had so much fun working with the kids that he got involved in his local Legion, teaching young people classic survival skills. He changed completely now that he had a sense of purpose again; the light came back into his eyes, and he looked and behaved years younger than his actual age.
Sometimes, if the purpose we’re seeking hides away from us, it can be brought to light by simply doing something else for other people. It’s a case of “the truth will out,” and what’s buried in the psyche might simply need things to be jostled around a bit so it can rise to the surface.
It’s amazing to see how personal epiphanies can come about when you least expect them, very often in service to others.
9. Ask for help when it’s needed.
You may be feeling completely overwhelmed and despondent right now and can’t seem to see a light at the end of the tunnel. If you feel like you’re in the throes of an existential crisis, or that you’ll never be able to free yourself from the perceived misery you feel caged by, then please reach out and ask for help.
Call an emergency hotline if you’re feeling like harming yourself, and/or find a good therapist who can help you through this.
It’s difficult to be able to see clearly when you feel like you’re drowning in muck, so another perspective from someone who’s trained to help people through tough times may be exactly what you need to free yourself.
Life is full of beautiful experiences, and you are absolutely capable of experiencing them. What you’re going through right now isn’t “all there is,” and it can get a lot better from here on out.
Sometimes, a helping hand and a bit of honesty with yourself are all that’s needed to get the ball rolling in a different direction.
Still not sure how to get over your nagging doubts that this is all there is? Talking to someone can really help you to handle whatever life throws at you. It’s a great way to get your thoughts and your worries out of your head so you can work through them.
We really recommend you speak to a therapist rather than a friend or family member. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can help you to challenge your current mindset and feel more positively about your present and your future.
A good place to get professional help is the website BetterHelp.com – here, you’ll be able to connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.
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- How To Change Your Outlook On Life: 7 No Bullsh*t Tips!
- 10 Things You Should Do When You’re Tired Of Life