Feeling lost in life is an experience that no one is immune to.
Everyone reaches a point where things aren’t going the way that we’d hoped. Every one of us will go through periods of life where we’re constantly wondering, “what’s it all for?”
It can be painful when you’re struggling to find meaning. It’s even more painful when you have ambitious goals but can’t seem to navigate your way around the obstacles in front of you.
The beauty of life is that there’s always a way forward. There’s always something that you can do to make things better, and that’s what this article will focus on.
Today, we’re going to talk about eight actionable improvements you can make when you’re feeling lost in life.
Why Are You Feeling Lost In Life?
There are many different factors that can cause us to start feeling lost in life.
Given that we all have different shortcomings and self-defined goals, there’s no one-size fits all approach to reinventing yourself and flipping the script on your life.
However, the way you’re feeling right now is typically due to one of the following factors or a combination of them:
#1: Lack of Direction
If you don’t know exactly where you’re going, you’re never going to get there. Many people start feeling lost in life when they don’t have clearly defined goals that give them something to aim at.
You might have a general idea of what you want out of life – more money, more friends, a fulfilling career, etc.
But ask yourself the question, “Do I have a clear 3, 6, or 12 month target that I’m aiming at? Have I created a system of daily actions that will help me achieve that goal?”
If the answer is no, then you don’t really have a clear direction for your life. Personally, I don’t feel good about myself if I don’t have something to work towards and a clear plan for achieving it.
We’re species that evolved to have clear aims. We all feel our best when we are making daily progress towards a goal that excites us.
#2: You’re Trying To Do Too Much
Conventional wisdom tells us that having ambition is important. Most of the successful people we admire got to where they are at least in part because they had a strong innate desire to get there.
However, having a ton of ambition doesn’t come without its flaws. Too much of it can actually sabotage your ability to change your life.
Ambition carries a cost – and that cost is that it can motivate us to do too much, too soon.
We make a vow to become more productive, develop better relationships, and improve our careers all at once – only to realize a few months later that we overestimated our willpower and haven’t made significant progress in any of these areas.
Repeating this cycle keeps you stuck on the self-improvement hamster wheel.
You can change everything about your life, you can’t just do it all at once. Getting humble about what you’re realistically capable of and narrowing your focus is crucial for seeing progress.
#3: Your Life Has Become Predictable and Comfortable
It’s important to have a sense of routine in your life.
- Following a sleep schedule is important for our health
- Showing up to work on time shows discipline
- Positive behaviors repeated daily create unbelievable results
However, one of the main reasons why people feel lost in life is because the routine they’ve built is comfortable and safe. Any deviation from this routine brings about stress and anxiety, which causes a retreat into familiar behavioral patterns.
Getting out of your comfort zone is just as important as establishing routines.
Most of what we desire lies outside our comfort zone. So if each day feels like the same as the one before it, that’s a clear sign that you’re living in a bubble that needs to be expanded.
What’s life without facing your fears and daring to stretch the limits of your capability? Forcing yourself to make decisions in the face of uncertainty and fear is crucial for injecting more excitement into your life.
How To Become Yourself Again: 8 Action Steps For Improvement
Now that we’ve discussed some of the reasons for why you may be feeling lost in life, it’s time for you to start taking action.
You can’t simply think your way out of your current situation. Getting from where you are to where you want to be requires determined, focused action.
Here are 8 practical strategies that you can use to get unstuck and put yourself on the path of improvement.
#1: First Off, Realize That It’s Normal To Feel Lost In Life
When we’re struggling in life, it’s easy to think that our challenges are unique. It’s easy to focus inwards and wonder why everyone else seems to have it better than us.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
All people, rich or poor, happy or unhappy, fulfilled or unfulfilled, all have periods in their life where they’re depressed and trying to find meaning.
We wouldn’t understand what it means to live a fulfilling life if we didn’t experience sadness or despair. We wouldn’t understand love if we didn’t understand what it means to hate. We wouldn’t understand success without experiencing the pain of failure.
The hardships you experience are not meant to break you, it’s simply life throwing you a challenge and saying, “Can you endure this?”
If you can, the life you want is waiting for you. But it all starts with taking steps in the right direction instead of continuing to drown in self-pity.
#2: Perform The Two Futures Exercise
As mentioned earlier, one of the main reasons that we start feeling lost in life is because there’s an exciting future out there that we haven’t yet defined.
I’m not talking about the general things you say to yourself on a daily basis:
- I wish that I could make more money
- I wish that I could find a loving husband/partner
- I wish I was more productive
- I wish I could start following my passion
These are just hopes and wishes. They represent vague notions of what we want our future to look like.
But these kinds of thoughts are usually short-lived. You might get a nice boost of motivation while you day-dream about an alternate future, but most of the time you’re going to go right back to the same self-destructive behaviors that put that future out of reach.
People who get the life they want live intentionally. They don’t just say to themselves, “Life would be so much better if I had more money in the bank account.”
They paint a clear, vivid picture of their future and work every day towards it daily. Perhaps even more importantly, they’re hypervigilant about the long-term costs associated with inaction and stagnation.
That sentence is the thing that most people overlook. We all have the capability to imagine the best-case scenario, but most of us don’t like imagining what life would look like should things keep going downhill.
No matter how bad things seem right now, there’s always something stupid that you can do to make it even worse.
The two futures exercise brings the future consequences of your present actions into the here and now. You’re forced to imagine a scenario where you continue to self-sabotage for the next five years, and the unbearable pain that would bring.
When you truly think about what would happen if you really let yourself go, you’ll do anything to avoid that future state.
I highly encourage you to take 30 minutes to an hour out of your day to complete this exercise, which contains two parts.
The first part of the exercise will involve you imagining the best-case scenario for your future. Get really specific with each aspect of your life and describe exactly what you want it to look like.
Break your life down into these four domains – Work, Financial, Relationships/Social Life, and Family
For each category, write down what you want your life to look like in five years. Describe your future in as much detail as possible.
Now comes the second part. For the same five categories, write down what your life would look like if things continued down your current trajectory.
- How would you feel about yourself when you’re alone?
- What impact would these feelings have on your daily actions?
- How would not living up to your potential in one of these areas affect the others?
- What would you look like at your worst? (regretful and bitter)
The second part of this exercise should scare the hell out of you. If it doesn’t scare you, you probably weren’t being honest with yourself.
If you really get real and raw with yourself about how far things could spiral out of control if you don’t change things up, you’ll quickly realize that it’s not worth continuing with the decisions you’re making.
Not only will you have a clear, exciting future to aim at, you’ll also have a miserable one to avoid at all costs.
#3: Narrow Your Focus To One Thing
Let me ask you a question – If you chase two rabbits, how many will you catch?
The answer is neither. You won’t catch either one.
Your time and energy will be so focused on trying to keep up with the two rabbits that you will end up wandering around aimlessly and not succeed at grasping either one.
The same metaphor applies to life. It’s not that we have too little time to do the things that we want to do, it’s that we feel the need to do too many things in the time that we have.
If you’re feeling lost in life, there’s a good chance that it’s because you’re trying to chase too many rabbits. You likely have so many different goals and desires that you want to turn into a reality, but you haven’t yet decided which is the most important.
Want to know the quickest way to burn out and feel overwhelmed? Commit to changing three of four aspects of your life at once.
It sounds good in theory, but never works in practice. You’ll almost always end up right back where you started, only this time with fresh evidence that your goals are out of reach.
The One Thing strategy is a time-tested strategy popularized by Gary Keller that aims to help people achieve extraordinary success by focusing on their most important work.
The principle theory at work here is this:
When you focus on one thing, and make it the biggest priority in your life, many other aspects of your life seem to fall into place naturally.
Stop letting ambition cloud your thinking – get humble and go narrow. Go all-in on fixing the area of your life that will contribute the most to your overall fulfillment and watch your results explode.
Think about your life and identify your biggest source of pain. Is it work? Family life? Lack of social connection? Financial struggles?
Whatever it is, identify it and make it the top priority in your life. Put the rest of your goals on the back-burner. It doesn’t mean you can’t work towards them at all, they’re just not a part of your priority list.
Then, identify one daily habit that will add the most value to that particular area of your life. Focus on showing up every day and doing that thing, even if it’s the only thing you do.
#4: Start Breaking Bad Habits (The Right Way)
Falling victim bad habits is another reason why many of us begin to start feeling lost in life. It’s not that we don’t want to change, it’s that the chains of habit keep us stuck where we don’t belong.
Habits are the single-biggest factor that determine the trajectory of your life. Things can get pretty dangerous when negative choices lead to positive rewards.
The problem with life? Almost all bad habits deliver immediate reward
Think about it:
- You don’t really want to smoke a cigarette, you just want to reduce stress
- You don’t really want to procrastinate, you just don’t want to do the boring task that lays ahead of you
- You don’t really want to skip the workout, you just want to avoid pain.
Bad habits put a temporary band-aid on our emotions. They feel good in the moment but deliver a massive blow later on. The nasty side of bad habits is that we don’t receive that massive blow until months or years later.
Choosing a burger over a salad today doesn’t make you fat. Choosing to watch Netflix instead of getting to work doesn’t make you a procrastinator. It’s when these choices compound over time that we find out just how important those moment to moment decisions were.
Once a lapse in willpower becomes rewarding, it’s hard to close Pandora’s box and forget it.
Taking control of your life starts with taking control of your habits. Breaking bad habits deserves a blog post of its own – there’s simply too much information and it isn’t necessarily the focus of this article.
Here’s an article that will break down how to break bad habits in much more detail if that’s something you’re interested in learning more about
Related Article – How To Break Bad Habits And Stop-Self Sabotage
#5: Take Baby Steps Outside Of Your Comfort Zone
Here’s a question for you if you’re feeling lost in life – Are you voluntarily forcing yourself into uncomfortable situations on a daily basis?
If the answer is no, then it shouldn’t be a surprise that your life lacks meaning. As Helen Keller said, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of the unknown. These are the emotions that make us come alive, pushing through these emotions signals to us that what we’re doing is meaningful.
You don’t experience these emotions when you’re on the couch watching Netflix, or playing video games with your friends.
They only reveal themselves in the moments that matter.
It’s supposed to feel scary to start a business. It’s supposed to feel scary to put yourself out there and meet new people. It’s supposed to feel scary to take on a challenging task at work that you’re not sure if you can handle.
That doesn’t change the fact that these decisions represent the right path forward.
Start making a list of comfort zone challenges that you can attempt on a daily basis. The goal of these challenges is simple – get comfortable being uncomfortable.
The possibilities for your life will expand greatly when realize that you can face your fears and come out alive.
#6: Focus More On The Process, Not The Outcome
We live in a society that emphasizes the outcome and not the process. Michael Phelps winning gold medal after gold medal is sexy and exciting, and makes for great television.
You know what’s not sexy and exciting?
The thousands of hours Phelps spent perfecting his stroke and building his stamina. The early mornings that were spent in the weight room. The visualization exercises he routinely performed with his coach.
Legends are created behind the scenes. Public admiration is simply a byproduct of a perfected process that’s designed to deliver extraordinary results.
Our tendency to focus on outcomes is a big reason why some of us feel so lost in life. When you set a goal that you want to achieve, you’re essentially attaching your self-worth to that outcome.
Goals create an all-or-nothing scenario that can prevent us from putting our best foot forward.
- We either get the promotion or we don’t
- We either lose 50 pounds or we don’t
- We either hit a certain revenue target for our business or we miss it
- We either complete the marathon or we don’t
There’s no in-between. We either win or we lose. Here’s the problem with this kind of thinking – you can do everything right and still not achieve your goals.
Placing too much emphasis on outcomes creates a standard where results, not effort, is the measure by which you judge yourself. It becomes de-motivating when each day serves as a reminder that you haven’t yet reached your goals.
If you find yourself stuck in any area of your life, try setting a goal and then putting it on the shelf for a while. Just focus on the process – the system of daily actions that lead to progress towards that goal.
The process itself will become more rewarding because your sense of self-worth is dependent on the level of effort you put in. That doesn’t mean you lose the desire to achieve your goals, it just means you’ll be less attached to the outcome because you’re moving forward.
Here’s how to shift your mindset surrounding goal-setting and achievement:
- Look at a goal that you want to achieve in the next 6-12 months
- Think of one daily habit you can perform that represents forward momentum towards that goal
- Once you’ve got the habit, put your ambitious goal on the shelf for a little while
- Keep it written down to maintain perspective on the vision you’re working towards.
- From now on, define success on any given day by one question – “Did I perform my daily habit or not?”
- If you find yourself struggling to meet the daily target, scale it down a little until you’re able to maintain consistency
#7: Learn To Calm The Monkey Mind
Poor mindset can be the result of a lot of unnecessary suffering in life. This quote from Mark Twain sums things up perfectly:
“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
Our thoughts are essentially just suggestions and predictions about who we are and what could happen to us.
We have thousands of these thoughts on a daily basis. Sadly, there’s no magic eraser that can remove these unwanted thoughts completely. However, we can control how we respond to our thoughts, and that’s enough to minimize their impact.
If you’re feeling lost in life, there’s a good chance you’re in the habit of latching onto your thoughts and going down a rabbit hole.
Does this story sound familiar?
- You start thinking about the future and get a little anxious.
- You start pondering why you’re feeling anxious.
- All of your shortcomings move to the forefront of your mind
- You start to feel anxiety about your shortcomings
- You start to feel anxious about your anxiety
- And the cherry on top – you start to feel anxious about the fact that you’re so anxious about the fact that you’re feeling anxiety
That’s how easy it is to let one thought send us down a mental rabbit hole of negativity, insecurity, and shame.
Want some good news? You have a say in the matter. When feelings of self-doubt or negativity make their way into your conscious mind, you have two choices:
- Latch onto these thoughts and accept them as fact. This gives your thoughts power and sends you on an unpleasant carousel ride that’s difficult to jump off of.
- See your thoughts for what they are and defuse yourself from them. Accept that they’re suggestions and ideas, not facts.
Most of your thoughts are bullshit, all you have to do is treat them as such.
Here’s how to practice defusion, which is a simple technique that will reduce power that your thoughts have over your emotional state:
- Whenever you’re experiencing unwanted thoughts, consciously notice and name them.
- If you’re feeling anxious about a presentation you have to give at work, say to yourself: “I’m noticing that I’m having the thought that I’m anxious.”
- Then, thank your mind for the thought and move on
- “I’m noticing that I’m having the thought that I’m anxious. Thanks mind!”
- The more you practice this, the better control you’ll have over your mental state.
#8: Figure Out What Sets You On Fire
Does your career really energize you? Is it work that makes you excited to roll out of bed every day?
We spend almot 50% of the time that we’re awake doing our jobs. It’s far more difficult to find meaning when half of your time is spent at a job that you’re mentally checked out of.
Finding work that excites you is a big lever that you can pull in your favor to inject passion and purpose into your life.
For too long, our culture has been fed the lie that we simply need to work our way up the corporate ladder until it’s “our time.” We’re conditioned to believe that work is not meant to be meaningful or satisfying, simply a means to an end.
Twenty years ago, this was pretty much true. But with the rise of social media and the internet, the same standard no longer applies.
The world we live in today means that it’s possible to be passionate about the work you do. It is possible to live a life where you don’t dread Monday mornings.
Now look, I know that quitting your corporate job to chase a career that sets you on fire isn’t always practical. Responsibilities and obligations sometimes necessitate that we stay put because we need to put food on the table, pay the mortgage, put kids through school, etc.
With that being said, there’s nothing stopping you from putting in a little extra work. There’s nothing stopping you from spending an extra 1-2 hours daily building something that can become your 9-5 escape plan. The only thing stopping you is the person you see in the mirror.
When you do something for money, you quit and burn out. When you do something because it energizes you, you do it forever.
Figure out the kind of work that excites you. Typically, this is the kind of work where:
- You can work for hours without breaks
- Time seems to fly by as you’re fully engaged in the task
- You have a natural curiosity around the subject matter – you’re motivated to continually search for answers and increase your knowledge
- You’re devoted to it even on the days where your motivation is low
If you can pinpoint a career field or subject matter that satisfies all or most of these criteria, then it’s likely that’s the thing you need to start chasing.
Final Thoughts On Feeling Lost In Life
There’s nothing wrong with feeling lost in life. It’s simply a transition period where you’re trying to navigate your way towards meaning and purpose.
The only wrong move is not taking any action to improve your situation. You’ve gotta be the first domino to fall.
Small progress is a million times better than no progress. Use these tips to your advantage and do something to put yourself back in the driver’s seat of your life.
Maybe it’s considering a new career, maybe it’s finding the one thing, maybe it’s tackling some of your bad habits. Whichever one of these strategies resonates with you, pick one and don’t look back.
Identify the biggest source of your pain and start taking small steps daily to address it. If you commit to showing up every day, even in small ways, you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve with 6-12 months of consistent action.