It’s one in the morning. You’re in the middle of a mindless Instagram scroll session when that dangerous existential crisis question rears its ugly head again. What am I doing with my life?
This is a BIG question. And as someone who has wrestled with this question on and off throughout her life, I can relate to how hard this question can be to answer. But sometimes all it takes to find a little direction in your life is mixing it up and exploring the world outside of your current bubble.
Let’s explore how you can start to find a greater sense of purpose in life and answer that big question without having a full-on existential crisis.
Why you can’t live life on autopilot
I know it can sound appealing to just wake up and repeat the same actions as the day before without a sense of direction. But this is the easy way out.
The research demonstrates that across the lifespan your sense of life purpose and the meaning you assign to your future may predict your psychological and physical well-being. If you avoid finding direction and a sense of meaning in life, you may be forfeiting your own wellness.
Even more importantly, studies show that those who have found a sense of purpose in life have a reduced risk of mortality. If that doesn’t convince you that you can’t just keep getting by without a sense of purpose, then I’m not sure what will.
What happens when you find direction in life
I think we assume that once we find a direction for our lives there will be this magical “aha” moment where the clouds part and everything suddenly makes sense. While that may or may not happen, there are some pretty incredible side effects when you do find your purpose in life.
A study in 2012 indicates that part of what happens when you find purpose in life is you are better able to form your own identity. Once you have developed your identity, you are able to make decisions and take actions that align with that identity and guide your life.
Finding purpose and direction in life has also been shown in the research to be protective against negative life events. If you know your “why”, you will be more resilient in the face of challenges and setbacks. And let’s be honest, we could all use a little more resiliency when it comes to life’s hardships.
5 tips for finding direction in your life
So where is the magic compass that tells you exactly where to go in life? I haven’t quite found that yet myself. If you do, please give me a call because I will buy five of them. What I do have are some ways that you can start to discover what your next step looks like.
1. Explore an interest you have been putting off
We all have that one thing that makes us say, “I’d love to try that someday.” Well, someday is today.
Whether it’s underwater basket weaving or sky diving, now is the time to give it a go. Exploring an interest of yours may shift your perspective and open up your eyes to the possibilities all around you.
Sometimes all we need to find direction is to get out of our normal routine. While the activity itself may not be the direction you need to go, it usually gives your brain a refresh that will guide you towards feeling more fulfilled and finding your why.
2. Model people who you admire
A great way to start to figure out what you should be doing in life is to model people who are doing what it is that you want to be doing. It’s like having a human blueprint.
When I was first starting to figure out what I wanted to do for a career, I remember feeling more lost than my dad trying to follow the printed copy of directions on our family trip to Yellowstone. Fortunately, I shadowed a physical therapist who was living my dream life.
Following this PT around and asking her all kinds of personal questions helped me formulate a plan to get to where I wanted to be. It also gave me faith that if she could do it, so could I.
3. Take a trip
Traveling to a new location can be one of the best ways to get out of your own head and rediscover what matters most to you. There is something about getting as far away from home that allows you to see things you may have been missing all along.
I traveled to Turkey in my early twenties and this trip had a massive impact on shaping my purpose. Ever since then, I knew I was designed to sip tea and eat Turkish delight all day.
On a serious note, this trip helped me realize that I have a deep-rooted desire to interact with people from all different backgrounds. Learning about Islam and Turkish culture withdrew me from my own individualistic culture and opened my eyes to the concept of wanting to help the collective. This motive that I developed during this trip still guides me to this day.
4. Try this unique journaling activity
I was taught a unique journaling technique for when you feel stuck. In this journaling activity, you get to be an alien. Does it get any cooler than that?
What I want you to do is picture that you are an alien who has come down to inhabit planet earth in your town. As this alien, what things do you notice about your home? What sorts of activities are you drawn to as this alien in your home and who do you want to be around?
When you take time to view your situation as a “new” person with no preconceived notions, you can find fresh insight that you might not be able to see otherwise. Taking on a perspective that is not your own can be a powerful tool for helping us navigate our current situation.
5. Take advantage of all the free resources available to you
We live in a world where you can literally say, “Hey Siri! Help me find a direction in life”.
She will probably say, “Sorry, I can’t find that location.” But what Siri can help you find is a plethora of resources from individuals of all different backgrounds that can teach you how to find direction in life.
From YouTube videos to podcasts, you can find quick inspiring speeches or two-hour long conversations that explore how you can find your purpose. I personally like to listen to these sorts of things while commuting or walking my pup. All you have to do is literally type “life purpose” into any search bar and you will have a gold mine of information that can give you the direction you are seeking.
So when you find yourself wide awake in the middle of the night asking, “What am I doing with my life?” Take a deep breath. While there is no magic compass, there are a few road signs that can get you started down the right path. You may not find a direct answer to that question, but what you will find along the way may be worth far more.
Are you finding it hard to find direction in your life? Or do you want to share your own tip on finding direction in your life? Let me know in the comments below!