The good news is, you're not the first person to ask yourself this question and you definitely won't be the last. Though this question's a common one, it sometimes sprouts unpredictably — when you wake up and remember you have to show up to the job you hate, when you find yourself back at square one after changing careers, even when everything's "fine," but you just feel like something's missing.
Only you have the answer to this question, but we're here to help guide you through the process. We've provided some reflective exercises to help you discover your 'why' and determine your next steps. We also have advice for helping you focus, using what's available to you and supporting your best self once you know who you want her to be.
Discover your ‘why?’
You're probably asking yourself, "What am I doing with my life?" because you're out of alignment with your why — your purpose for doing anything at all. Finding your why involves identifying your unique place in the world and reflecting on the legacy you want to leave. This self-discovery can be approached through multiple strategies and involves patience, regardless of the strategy you choose.
You can begin this process by journaling. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit and reflect on some of the following questions:
- What comes easily to you? What are you the most skilled at?
- How would your loved ones or colleagues describe you?
- What excites you, energizes you or makes you come alive?
- When do you feel your most productive or accomplished?
- What are some of the most rewarding things you've ever done?
- What pattern do you notice in your past professional experiences?
- What do you want others to say about you when you're gone?
- When you look back on your life, what do you want to remember?
- Where do you see yourself in five years? How about ten?
- If you weren't incentivized by money, what would you do with the rest of your life?
Your purpose is not a job title (as those change all the time with career pivots or promotions). Your purpose is a personal mission. Once you identify your mission, you can welcome the highest professional and personal good into your life. Discovering your why also alleviates the false belief that you must employ your talent’s in one way, and helps you adopt the mindset of using your purpose in any way.
Determine what's next.
Finding your purpose could be helpful in answering the "What am I doing with my life?" question, but it isn't totally necessary for figuring out what's next. You can take a micro approach, instead, by facing your current circumstances and determining your next step. Try reflecting on some of the following questions to get a sense your relationships — with yourself, with others and with the world — and your intrapersonal communication style.
- Do you make time for yourself throughout the day?
- How do you strike a balance between pleasing yourself and others?
- How do the people in your daily life make you feel?
- Do you spend enough time enjoying the natural world?
- Are you over- or under-extending yourself at home or at work?
- How do you reward yourself for achieving big and small wins?
- Are you making room in your schedule for fun activities?
- How do you speak to yourself when you experience failure?
- Think about how you spend your 24-hour day. What areas deserve more or less of your attention on a daily basis?
Be honest with yourself as you jot down your answers. If you respond to a question with a yes or no, explain why. By clarifying and recording how you spend your time, you're able to better visualize the flux of your daily life.
Your answers may potentially reveal imbalances that deserve to be tended to, which allows you to create a plan to address them. How can you escalate your concerns in a polite way — and to whom? Are you occupying your time with thoughts and activities that no longer serve you? Are you surrounding yourself with the energy you want to feel?
When you focus on your why or commit to exigent change, you lean into the power and positivity at its root. This makes you more passionate and enthusiastic to complete aligning tasks. But if your focus is not driven by a reason why at all, you're probably having doubts because you can't envision what you want for yourself or have wandered off track.
You can correct course by evaluating how you spend your time and setting intentions. Consider your priorities, then decide what you need from them. What do you value and prioritize on a daily basis and in general? How does your job or career align with those priorities? Are your actions in alignment with your values? Think of how you can maximize the positive impact of what's important to you and cookie-cut the rest.
Leverage your resources.
Look at what's available to you at the moment — relationships, environment, platforms, supplies, etc. Think about how you can leverage these resources for personal and professional gain. Is there someone you could reach out to for an informational interview? Do you have some PTO you could use to take your mind off of things? Have you tried using your social media as a promotional tool?
Along the same vein, consider what you want more or less of. Some influences may not be serving you, and could be responsible for your existential crisis. That could be anything from a supervisor whose management style makes you feel incapable, to personal issues that make it difficult to complete a task at work. In cases such as these, it's important to escalate your concerns to leadership. With them, you can accommodate your responsibilities to support your work ethic and provoke a healthier state of mind.
So, what's stopping you?
Getting clear about who you want to be involves a level of honesty that could be quite uncomfortable. Your limitations could be the result of a number of things: maybe you could benefit from a more conducive work environment, maybe there are skills you still need to acquire to maximize your full potential or maybe you're limiting yourself with fear-based thoughts and beliefs. Identify those limitations and make a plan to resolve them. We've attached some actionable resources to get you started below.
Unfortunately, we can't stop the world and get off when the going gets tough. But we can realign ourselves with the present moment and our highest good with the right support. Take a look at these resources and see which of them you can incorporate into your daily life.
Due for self-care? Read this: "How To Practice Self-Care: A Checklist"
Can't find your passion? Check out: "5 Questions To Ask Yourself When Searching For Your Passions"
Want to care less? Start here: "For Me, Caring Less is the Best Form of Self Care — Here's Why"
Lost after a lay-off? Read More: "5 Ways I Practiced Self-Care After I Was Laid Off"
Work taking over? Take: "5 Women Share The Self-Care Routine That Helps Them Forget About Work Stress"
Family in the way? Click here: "I’m Done Being Invisible To My Family Until They Need Something From Me"
Want to hear it from someone else? Try these: "15 Self-Help Podcasts for Motivation and Positive Thinking"
For what it's worth, you don't need to know what you want to do for the rest of your life right now. You just need to show up to your life in the present moment. Lean into your purpose, live in every moment and your best life will come true as it's meant to.