Everyone of us has had the experience or feeling of not knowing what they want to do in one area of their life, or even with the rest of their life. Young people start by trying to figure out their place in the world; but adults experience this too. We usually call this a “mid-life crisis”, or an “existential crisis”, or even an “identity crisis”. Indeed, not knowing what you want or suddenly not knowing what to do with the rest of your life is a scary experience. So, what to do when you don’t know what you want?
For young and old alike, not knowing what you want is usually due to being overwhelmed by the number of things to choose from or from a feeling of having no choice at all. In both cases, you are scared, confused and undecided. You feel helpless and uncertain about the future because you lack direction. Unfortunately, not many people will have someone beside them to point them in the right direction or to tell them what steps they should take next.
If you are in this situation, don’t lose hope. Pluck up your courage instead and do something about it. Trying to know what you want is a big, life challenge. Here are some things you can do to clear the confusion in your head and heart and reset your life.
Focus on The Now
The future is uncertain so don’t let your fears of the “what ifs” scare you. Instead, focus on what you want right now. Take a deep breath and ask yourself: “If money and time are not an issue, what do I want to do?”
There is no right or wrong answer to this question and there might not even be just one answer. So write your answers on paper and list them down as they come to you. You are creating your bucket list of goals and dreams. By creating this list, you are focusing on getting to know what you want. You are starting to clear out the uncertainty in your life and focusing on the things that you are certain about. This is your vision for your future.
For example, you might put down on your list the places you want to travel to, a business you want to start, your desire to be fit and healthy, a wish to learn to sing, your goal of financial freedom, etc. Your answers may seem broad and general, but this puts your goals in focus and they will serve as the direction to help you figure out what to do next. You might want to find a hobby or rekindle a long-forgotten passion that you had as a child thru this list. Already, you are prioritizing things in the order that you list them down but you can always order them as you want once you have your list. Consider this your fresh start.
Plan Out Your Next Steps
Once you’ve written down your list, work on the most important items first. This can be the easiest ones to accomplish or the ones that you need to work on right away. Make a plan on how you can start pursuing that goal. The plan doesn’t need to be detailed; it is just a sketch that will guide you as you go through your journey. It will help you know what you want and need to do and keep you on track with your goals.
You may have more than one thing you want to do for different aspects of your life and that’s quite normal. Your first step is important. Make sure you start small and don’t take on too much at once. Sketching out a plan on how to work on each goal in your daily life is a good start. Start with baby steps. Think of small things you can do each day to move you forward towards your goals. This will help you develop the mindset and the habits you need to succeed. You can worry about the details when you need to later on. The important thing at the moment is to have a plan to reach your goals. This is YOUR LIFE SKETCH which you will flesh out as you figure out the next steps along the way.
Act On Your Next Steps Immediately
Now that you know what you want and need to do; you can work on your first steps right away. Your plan serves as an outline or road map to reach your goals. If you need to ask help from friends or family members, colleagues or other professionals, do it. Don’t hesitate at the start of your journey. This is the time to be decisive. Yes, the future is still uncertain but you are certain of what you want right now and what you can do right now; ACT ON IT.
Once you’ve taken the first steps, the feedback you get from the people around you and from your own feelings should guide you to your next course of action. Remember that working on yourself is not an easy process. Take it one step at a time. Don’t worry too much about the future; the important thing is to start and to START RIGHT NOW.
One more important thing to keep in mind in this journey to self-discovery is to believe in yourself, keep an open mind, and an attitude of gratitude. Even when you don’t feel like it; challenge yourself to show up everyday for your goals. Even if you’re just sitting in front of your desk unable to do the work; you can still use the time to visualize your goals. Trust that things will fall into place as you keep doing your best to pursue your dreams.
Whether young and confused, or in a “mid-life crisis”, or experiencing an “existential crisis”, or going through an “identity crisis”; don’t panic. Take a deep breath, get pen and paper and start writing your “What I Want to Do” list or your Bucket List. This may seem silly at first, but it will help you know what you want and you can gain a deeper understanding about yourself. More importantly, it will serve as a light to the path you should take when you feel like you’re in a dark place in your life.