Your Step-by-Step Guide to Soul Searching For When Your Career and Life Just Aren't Feeling Great

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July 13, 2024 at 9:40PM UTC
While soul searching is often mocked as the perfect excuse for a vacation to the mountains or the best reason to buy a new journal, it's a practice with immense value. What does it mean to soul search, how do you do it and what should you expect at the end?

Doing some soul searching can often be very important of taking stock of whether you're in the right job or in a fulfilling profession. Given the number of hours we devote to our work and careers, soul searching can be very helpful when you're at a career inflection point and thinking about what career path to pursue. 

What does it mean to do soul searching?

Is this really what I want to be doing with my life? My career? Is this really how I should be living? If you've considered either of these questions at any length, you've already engaged in soul searching. Soul searching is an in-depth, honest evaluation or examination of your life's motivations, your values and your emotions regarding your life's path. It is often related to an internal search for deep meaning and moral contentment. Soul searching means diving into the deepest corners of your conscience and working to understand yourself at a profound level so that you can live with purpose.

What is the purpose of soul searching?

If you are feeling unmotivated, unsure if you're on the right path, discontent with your relationships or unsure if you're "living life right," it's probably time for you to do some soul searching. Soul searching is often an exercise people take to experience more contentment with their life. It is generally believed that once you've examined yourself and realized your core values and motivations, it is easier to live with purpose.

How to soul search.

Soul searching looks different for different people. The key to successful soul searching is spending time alone and cultivating the true nature of your heart. Here are some ways to effectively soul search. 

1. Spend time alone with your thoughts. 

Soul searching means evaluating how you are feeling and what is important to you. Deep thought is only possible by minimizing distractions and spending time with yourself. In order to soul search, find a time and place to be alone. Disconnect from social media, take a day off of socializing and relax with yourself. A quiet activity, like journaling or coloring, may help your thoughts flow. Begin to think about how you're feeling in your day-to-day, what parts of you feel satisfied and where you think you have room to grow. Consider your core values and how you're abiding by them. Consider what you'd like to achieve, and how you identify in the world. Once you've answered these questions with yourself, you're ready to take action. 

2. Reevaluate your life. 

Soul searching isn't just an evaluation of your internal self; it's an evaluation of how you are relating to the world. Consider how your everyday life is supporting or diminishing your values, motivations and authentic self. Are your relationships helping you grow into the person you want to be? Is your career fulfilling your life's motivations or passions? Do you dedicate time to your hobbies, personal pleasure or passions? How are you authentically representing yourself in the day-to-day? Once you've answered these questions about your life, consider how you can better align your practices to your soul's purpose. Perhaps outline a plan, make a resolution or talk through your realizations with a partner to realign your relationship. 

3. Build new relationships.

One of the surest ways to nurture your soul and get closer to living as your authentic self is by connecting with new people. New relationships can open your mind to life's diverse potential by opening your eyes to another's life experience, teaching you a lesson, improving your communication or reflecting something you didn't realize about yourself. Relationships — new or old — can also be a way to enrich your day to day and deepen your sense of human experience. 

4. Cultivate a passion. 

Another way to nurture your soul? If you haven't found passion in your work or career, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Taking up a hobby or everyday practice thats only purpose is passion. Taking up a new form of expression can help you deepen your experiences and communicate your authentic self with the world. Meanwhile, a practice you can improve at can add meaning and achievement to your everyday life. More than anything, doing something just for you is a way to let your soul breathe. 

5. Participate in a spiritual practice. 

Like a new hobby or passion project, engaging in a spiritual practice can awaken a part of yourself you didn't know existed. "Spiritual" means something different to everyone. For some it may be religion, for others it may be any experience that connects them to their higher self. Exploring your spirituality by engaging in different practices is the first step to finding a way to connect your soul to your act of living.  

How can I be happy on purpose?

Say that at the end of your soul searching, you've resolved to experience more happiness in life. How can you make that happen? Believe it or not, you can manifest happiness on purpose. Here's how: 

1. Know who you are. 

Doing some soul searching — as we've been talking about — and understanding who you are allows you to align your life with your deepest morals and desires. This will make your life feel more meaningful and bring about a sense of peace regarding your decisions. An elevated sense of meaning and peace allows more space for pure joy at your existence on Earth — something we should all strive for. 

2. Know who you want to be. 

Once you know who you are, understand who you want to be and start working towards that version of you. Whether it means working towards a specific job, establishing a specific family dynamic or achieving a certain goal, working towards your life's purpose will make everyday feel impactful and unique, increasing everyday feelings of excitement and inspiration

3. Experience the world authentically. 

Letting external factors — such as the opinions of others — control your decisions can result in deep-seated unhappiness. Focus on experiencing life authentically at the hands of your values and pleasure, rather than at the hands of others. This helps deepen relationships, increase depth of experience and minimize regret.  

4. Understand that you can only control yourself. 

Often, things that happen in life are outside of our control. Understanding that you cannot control everything — and alleviating the anxiety and the anger that comes with trying to control everything — provides more space to feel at peace with the world. Additionally, channeling your time and energy into building healthy habits for reacting to challenges helps you to preserve the happiness and peace you've built in the good times. This is a much more effective way to ensure general happiness than trying (and failing) to control the world. 

5. Work to achieve balance. 

While it is easy to romanticize pouring yourself into one aspect of life, happiness is achieved by finding balance between the many facets of life. Balance cuts down on burn out, increases novelty and keeps you from "putting all your eggs in one basket." Sometimes balance means looking outside your work and your family.

6. Focus on the positive. 

Happiness comes to those who practice happiness. Focus on the positive in your life, and try to save negative thoughts for established periods of reflection and understanding. 

7. Look for inspiration in everything. 

One of the surest ways to find happiness everyday is to look for inspiration everyday. Be deliberate about finding beauty in the world, letting experiences move you and understanding the awe-inspiring uniqueness of every moment. Then, each day will feel special, meaningful and joy-inspiring. 

8. Learn to let go. 

Negative emotions — especially intense ones like shame, grief and disappointment — can take up a lot of headspace. Learning to forgive others, forgive yourself and forgive the forces beyond your control will naturally carve out more space in your life for happiness. Learning to let go is easier said than done. Often, it requires long periods of reflection — sometimes with the help of a licensed counselor, support group or other intermediary. However, the time investment is often worth it. 

9. Build meaningful relationships. 

Humans are social by nature and tend to experience elevated moods (and health) when they have meaningful relationships with others. Relationships you care about with like-minded people will provide you a constant source of inspiration and exploration, a support system for when things get tough, and a more acute understanding of your impact on the world, increasing feelings of purpose. 

10. Never give up.

Understand that happiness is a journey, not a destination. No matter how difficult a chapter in your life is, happiness is always around the corner. Work to check off everything on this list even when it feels impossible and your life will feel more whole. 

How do you heal your soul? 

Has your soul been hurting? Do you have a deep understanding that you've been living against your life's purpose, or that you've kept your authentic self caged? The first step to healing your soul is to listen to it. Try soul searching, as described above, to understand what values, motivations, passions or emotions are missing from your life. Then, attempt to live in a way that exercises all of them them. Align some of your daily actions to your values — give back, express love, prioritize happiness or adventure. Deliberately explore your passions. Let go of the things you can't change, and work on things you can — such as reaching your goals. Feel experiences, then reflect on them. The best way to heal your soul is by understanding it and intentionally living with it in mind. 

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