At some point in your life, you may experience doubt about which way you are headed. In fact, you might have a downright breakdown. This is not an uncommon phenomenon in our society. You’ve likely heard of the mid-life crisis, or the quarter-life crisis. There is a reason these terms have been coined. At key moments of transition in our lives, often our mid 20s or mid-40s, we suddenly freak out and think:
‘What am I doing with my life?!?!?!’
If this is you, never fear. You are certainly not alone.
These kinds of crises can be scary, but it is just this type of event that can be the catalyst toward something great. Look how many travelers decided in young adulthood to buck the 9-5, ditch their desk, and head out on the road? Those moments of questioning your path often lead you to find the thing you’re meant to be doing; to discover what will fulfill you and propel you towards the life you’ve always desired.
If you’re questioning your path, it can be easy to feel completely immobilized. Lack of direction or confusion about which step to take can be paralyzing. If you’ve ever found yourself knee deep in cheese puffs and Gossip Girl reruns, you might know what I’m talking about. When the future seems scary, sometimes we would rather overload ourselves with sensory data than face things. Junk food. A Netflix Marathon. Candy Crush. These mindless pursuits give us immediate satisfaction, but they don’t fill the hole that is widening deeper inside us. If you find yourself in this position, consider if you are using these activities to avoid making decisions about your life path. Recognizing these barriers is the first step.
Sometimes, even when we feel uncertain about what to do next, it can be easier to stay in ambivalence then move forward to something that is totally unknown. This is why people stay in jobs they hate, or relationships that aren’t serving them, or why they never leave their small towns. What is outside your comfort zone can be scary as hell, and sometimes, fear keeps us choosing the devil we know.
I think there is beauty in the unknown. When anything can happen, life has that pulse of excitement. So moving forward on your path, or onto a new path, might invoke the unknown. Your brave step forward might be fraught with challenges and even some hard times. But isn’t the price of discomfort and trepidation worth it when you have invaluable experiences and make lasting memories? As they say, “adventure will hurt you, but monotony will kill you.” So don’t be put off by the fact that your path may be veering into the unknown. Grab your friends, read a massive list of motivational quotes, do whatever you have to do, but don’t let yourself be lulled into the security of a life you aren’t passionate about.
The First Steps
When you are questioning your path, it’s time to take stock. Spend time alone, journaling, meditating, or simply dreaming about what you’d like to be doing. Where do you see yourself? What would make you happy, right now? Even if your vision is something that initially seems impossible or even ridiculous, think about how you might put some of what you desire into practice.
Let’s use travel as the example, although there are endless things you could pursue to fulfill you and help you find meaning in life. Perhaps deep in your bones you feel a stirring to journey to distant lands, to set eyes on the world’s wonders, to mingle with cultures vastly different from your own and anything you’ve known. These dreams can seem overwhelming or impossible. Me? Travel? Many people have a myriad of excuses at the ready as to why they can’t travel. Money. Time. No one to go with. Or maybe you’ve got doubts about taking the leap.
So start small. Take a weekend trip to a nearby town. Begin with a week-long road trip in your own country. Build up your courage and your confidence bit by bit until you feel closer to approaching the bigger hurdle. Every small step forward brings you closer and closer to your dream.
I Have No Idea What to Do With My Life
When you’re really questioning your path, it may not even be a matter of pursuing what you want, it might mean discovering what it is you truly want to do. There are a lot of buzzwords that can strike anxiety into the hearts of even the most self-aware among us.
“What I am meant to do.”
“Why I am here on earth.”
Destiny. Life path. Sole purpose.
Forget about “finding your passion.” I don’t not think there is only one thing we are all put on this earth to do. I don’t know if a calling or a passion is a real thing. I don’t believe you have to devote your existence to only one pursuit. Life is multi-faceted and ever-changing, and it’s rare to absolutely love your work. (PS: Your work and what you’re “passionate about” absolutely do NOT have to be the same thing.)
I do, however, believe we were all placed here to love one another and to build a community that supports one another and celebrates creation. I also think we are supposed to evolve into the best, highest versions of ourselves.
You should try all different things. Sample the variety that life has to offer. If you have no idea what to do with your life, that is totally, completely, okay. It’s your opportunity to explore.
So, for now, stop assuming that you have to figure out some precise path you are “meant to” be on. Life is not predestined for you. It’s not about fate, it’s about choices. And it’s about finding work, creativity, and other pursuits that are meaningful to you and/or to others.
That’s what it boils down to. If something makes you happy, makes others happy, or helps create a better world, it’s a valuable stop on your path.
Which brings me to my final point:
It’s a Journey, Not a Path
If you’re questioning your path in life, remember that it is not a path, but a journey that you are on. You can veer off your current course at any time, or even turn around and walk backwards from the direction you came. Your path can split off into new routes, and you can create avenues that didn’t exist before.
What I’m babbling about like a incense-wielding new-ager is simply this: you are questioning something that doesn’t exist. Your “path” does not have a beginning or an end. If you are uncertain about where you’re going, remember every choice you make is just a stop along the journey. There is no pressure, no right or wrong. Just you, seeking to find ways of serving yourself and serving others.
So, if you are questioning your path, just take baby steps in whatever direction feels right.
And I’m always here to help you talk out and sort through your dreams.