“What exactly am I doing with my life?” ” As a life coach and business consultant, I am frequently asked this question – or a variation on it. Those who ask the question are most likely dealing with one of two scenarios.
One, you wake up one day in a job you despise, a relationship you don't want to be in, or a life that bears little resemblance to the one you imagined. You may be feeling down, frustrated, ashamed, or remorseful. This is not where you wanted to be at this point in your life…this is not the life you wanted to lead.
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Maybe you're not unhappy or lost, but one day you wake up and realize you want something more, new, or different. You may have accomplished many of your life's goals, and you're now trying to figure out what to do next.
As a coach and consultant, my job is to help my clients be happier, more successful, and fulfilled. To assist them in getting from where they are to where they want to go, identifying and removing roadblocks along the way. This usually entails going through a process and asking powerful questions in order to find answers to their most pressing questions, including this one.
What Is the Problem With Your Life?
One of the first things I tell my clients is that they don't have to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives!
You don't have to figure out what you want to be when you “grow up” or figure out what your entire life's purpose is. You are not required to commit to a job for the next 20 years. I see so many people paralyzed by the belief that they must figure everything out for the rest of their lives. Naturally, they are stressed and overwhelmed!
Instead, concentrate on determining what comes next. At this age and stage, you are confronted with your current circumstances and ideas for personal development. I'm not saying this won't be linked to a larger vision, but it doesn't mean you have to have the entire plan in place right now.
The same is true for determining what you want to do with your life.
How to Respond to the Question, “What Am I Doing With My Life?”
Returning to the original question. Let's take a look at some of my recent clients.
Sabine* was a brilliant, successful, and energetic woman. She had already had several successful jobs throughout her career, had traveled the world, had a family, and was relocating to a new city. While she initially called to discuss taking her business to the next level, we quickly realized that was not what she truly required or desired.
She was attempting to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. This meant realizing she had lost her sense of self for her. While no one could tell, she was feeling overwhelmed, lost, and unsure of herself. She was doing everything “right” for everyone else, but she wasn't doing everything “right” for herself.
We were able to assist Sabine in gaining a clear picture of what she desired for the next stage of her life by working together.
- Align her actions and life with her values and priorities.
- She remembered herself and felt more like herself than she had in years.
- Regain her confidence and take action on the things she had been putting off.
- Increase her motivation, self-confidence, and sense of security in her decisions.
And then there's Max*. Max had successfully climbed his career ladder and was happily married with his first child. He was incredibly smart, fun, and motivated. Life was good at the time.
He came to me because he was in the second scenario; Max was trying to decide what to do next. Despite having a great job, he was looking for something more – something new, different, challenging, and interesting.
Max was able to identify his priorities and what was important in this next stage of his life (and what wasn't) during our time together.
- Identify several new career paths.
- Identify and work through limiting beliefs and thought patterns.
- Begin looking into potential new careers.
Here's the process I went through with Sabine and Max, as well as the questions I asked. Following these steps will also assist you in determining what you want to do with your life: Step 1: What Do You Want?
Whenever you wonder, “What am I doing with my life?”
”, it is critical to take a step back, look at the big picture, and figure out what you want. To be honest, how can you expect to get what you want if you don't know what you want?
This appears simple, but it is frequently difficult to address. When I ask this question, people frequently tell me what they don't want or what isn't working for them. They've developed the habit of making decisions based on what's best for their career, friends and family, or others, and have forgotten to consider what they want for themselves.
Sabine initially thought she wanted to “take her business to the next level,” but after digging deeper, she realized there was much more to it. She eventually realized that she needed to feel like herself again; she needed to feel safe, trust and assert herself, and regain her sense of self.
Max desired to enjoy what he was doing. He desired to be in a career (or role) that energized and “jazzed” him.
Now it's your turn: what do you want? Make your point.
Is it a new job that has you excited and energized? A relationship in which you feel respected and loved? To be self-assured and content with oneself? To live in one place or to travel the world?
Perhaps, like Sabine, when you think you have an answer, you should ask yourself, “what else?” and see what happens. When you've decided what you want, you can move on to the next question.
Step 2: What Is Your Name?
Self-awareness and soul searching are essential for success, especially when trying to figure out what you want to do with your life.
Understanding yourself on a deeper level and making decisions based on those insights will ensure that whatever you do next will make you happier, more successful, and more fulfilled. It ensures that your next step is a step in the right direction rather than just another step.
While I ask many questions to my clients, here are a few of my favorites: What is most important to you right now?
What are your guiding principles? What are the beliefs, guiding principles, or ideas that you hold
- dear? Which ones have you strayed from?
- What are your interests? What keeps you interested, motivated, and excited?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses? Which would you prefer to use in the future?
What items are on your wish list? What do you want and require in your life, career, and relationships? This could include the type of environment in which you thrive, the people you want to surround yourself with, or something you want in a role.
What impact or difference do you hope to make? How would you like to be of service, contribute, or add value?
What don't you want? While you don't want to spend too much time in this area, it's just as important to be aware of what you don't want as it is to be aware of what you do!
Sabine discovered that she needed to find and surround herself with her “people,” that she needed to feel safe and secure, that she needed to delegate more, and that her direct approach was getting in her way during her soul searching.
Max recognized what was most important to him at this point in his life, identified the limiting beliefs that were impeding his progress, learned to stop comparing himself to others, and realized how important it was to infuse humor and joy into his daily life.
Now it's your turn to pick up a journal. Ask yourself these questions and give yourself the time and space to find the answers.
Make a list of everything. Then, go back over what you wrote and highlight or circle anything that stands out or resonates with you the most. These are the things you should focus on as you move forward and consider what you want to do with your life.
Then, with a little soul-searching under your belt, proceed to step 3.
Step 3: What Are Your Alternatives?
If you are wondering, “What am I doing with my life?”
” You're obviously dissatisfied with your current situation. You know you want something different. But what exactly is that “something”? This question allows you to consider your options.
It's not about deciding on one thing or making the right choice at this point; it's about allowing your creative mind to expand and see all the possibilities.
What new potential careers come to mind if you despise your current job? What can you do if you're unhappy in your relationship? What could you do if you feel like you need a change or an adventure?
Consider ALL of your options without regard to whether they are feasible or not (just yet). Make a list and keep asking yourself, “Is there anything else?” This allows you to delve deeper and discover opportunities that you might not have discovered otherwise.
Your Turn: What are all of your available options at this time? Don't limit them if you don't see how it's possible; simply write down all of your ideas.
You can proceed to the next step once you have a list of options.
Step 4: Which Options Are Right Now the Best Fit?
So you've compiled a list of options and possibilities. Now it's time to narrow it down and dig deeper into those options.
Once Max had compiled a comprehensive list of potential career paths (including advancement in his current position), he narrowed the list down to the most interesting and compelling opportunities. We then went over each of those in greater detail.
A wonderful way to do this is to imagine your life “as if” you were in that new role/situation/relationship.
Max pictured himself living his new career options. First, he imagined himself as an employee of REI. He did, in fact, have a beard and was drinking from a metal mug.
The next question, however, was far more crucial. I inquired as to how he was feeling. While he was excited to spend more time outside, he realized he wouldn't be fulfilled in that role. We went through all of his options, imagining what life would be like in each role, until he found the one with which he felt the most connected. We both noticed an immediate shift in his energy…he was on to something.
Return to your options list and circle the 1-3 that make you feel the most connected, energized, or engaged. You'll want to make certain that those options correspond to what you want (question 1) and who you are (question 2).
Once you've narrowed it down, imagine your life as if you took that next step. What would you feel, think, hear, and see? Does it make you happy? At this point, you can also conduct some research to learn more about each of your options.
Then, armed with information and an idea of the next best option for you, proceed to the next question.
Step 5: What's Holding You Back?
This is a significant one. As you investigate your options, you are likely to encounter some roadblocks.
Perhaps you have fears or limiting beliefs about what you can or cannot do, or about what someone told you you were capable of. Perhaps it's a lack of self-esteem or confidence.
When you see these, it doesn't mean the option is incorrect; it just means you need to dig a little deeper to figure out what's going on. It is critical to investigate what is impeding your progress.
Max was stymied by a deep, long-held belief that he wasn't good enough – that he wasn't capable of taking on a higher level, higher risk role. We collaborated until he was able to move past this perception and on to his next step.
Your Turn Consider what is impeding or preventing you from moving forward. Again, don't stop with your first response. “What else?” you might ask. ” until you figure out what's impeding you.
Then it's time to move on to the final question.
Step 6: What Can You Do to Advance?
You've narrowed and explored your options, and now it's time to take action and stop wondering, “What am I doing with my life?”
” I know this is a difficult part.
What if it's not correct? What if something else is out there? What if it turns out to be the worst decision I ever make?
These are all valid and worthwhile questions, but only if they prevent you from progressing toward a more fulfilling life. If you're unsure about taking the next step, let me give you a different perspective.
If you're unhappy where you are now, which is the greater risk: staying put out of fear of doing the wrong thing, or moving forward and seeing where it takes you? Isn't it better to rock the boat than to drown in it?
- Once you've made your decision, it's time to take action. What's the first step you're going to take? Accept it.
- Set a deadline, a timeline, or a goal for yourself to make it happen so that you can move from ideas to reality.
It's now your turn to decide which option will allow you to live the life you want. Then, take the first step in that direction. Then came the next one, and the one after that.
Take a look at these 10 Ways to Stay Moving When You're Stuck.
Finally, what are YOU doing with your life?
The fact that you're questioning what you're doing with your life is a step in the right direction. My mentor always said that 90 percent of solving a problem is simply being aware that it exists. You're well aware that you must act.
Now is the time to take the time, put in the effort, and answer the questions above if you're serious about moving forward. Then, like Sabine and Max, be willing to take action even if you're not sure how it'll turn out.
It's your life, and it can be everything you've dreamed of.
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