I’m not the only twenty something who feels like they just need to ‘figure it out’.
I’m not the only twenty something who feels like the path they’re on isn’t it but still has no idea what the hell it is.
The truth is I don’t know how to ‘figure it out’. I haven’t done it for myself so I certainly can’t tell you how to do it. But what I can tell you how I’m dealing with my own struggle and hope that you might find some comfort in it too.
I’m in my 11th semester of uni and in two short semesters I will finally have the dual degree in law and finance that I’ve been working so hard towards. I know what I want to do after I graduate – I want to do work that lights me up and makes me come alive. But I don’t know what that is just yet.
So here I am – trying to ‘figure it out’. Trying to find it (and pursuing a career in finance until I do).
You might be working full-time with that same sneaking suspicion – that you’re capable of more, that you’d have more of an impact doing something else. Your work doesn’t give you energy. You count down the hours to Friday afternoon.
Maybe you just feel like a little lost sheep.
Or you could just be sick of having nothing to say when your friends and family ask you what the hell you’re going to do with your life. Telling you that you need to ‘figure it out’, ‘get your shit sorted’ or that you should just be grateful for the job you have (and yes, you should be grateful but that doesn’t mean you should settle).
So as I said, I don’t have “the answer” – for me or for you. But here’s how I’ve been dealing with that overwhelming feeling that I need to ‘figure it out’.
You are not alone, you are not weird
Don’t be fooled – you are not the only one struggling with this, no matter what Facebook or Instagram would have you believe. So many people struggle with this – even the ones that make you so jealous you want to poke your eyes out. You just don’t see it.
So every time I find myself in despair I try to remind myself that I’m not the only one who missed the memo. For me, knowing that I’m not alone and that I’m not some kind of freak (at least when it comes to this) helps take the pressure off. I find it comforting thinking that I’m not the only one who has no fucking idea. Maybe you will too.
It’s not a bad thing
Society might have you believe that it’s bad to be lost but I don’t really think it is. Here’s why:
- It means you’re refusing to settle. And that is amazing.
- It means you’re refusing to take the easy, comfortable path to mediocrity. That too is amazing.
- It means you’re prepared to do something for yourself even though your friends and family might not ‘get’ why you’re doing it. And that is truly amazing.
So while I can feel the glare of society telling me not to ‘waste’ my education and get my shit together I remind myself that I’m not crazy for wanting to find whatever it is that lights me up. Why shouldn’t I find the work that I love? Why should I believe that dreading Monday is just “the way it is” and work is only for paying the bills.
How depressing. How unhelpful. How untrue.
Keep moving forward
Refusing to settle doesn’t mean that you don’t do anything else until you “figure it out” – please don’t think I am saying that. I’m not even saying that you’ll definitely figure it all out either. You may never have that aha moment that you’re desperately praying for (but I hope you do!)
But you can’t steer a parked car.
So I keep putting one foot in front of the other – you never know where life might take you but it certainly won’t take you anywhere worthwhile if you stand still. Until you find it, whatever it is, keep doing stuff. You’re getting one step closer every time you do and even if you don’t figure it out – you’re doing stuff and stuff can be cool to do.
Have an open mind and believe in yourself
As obnoxious as it may sound, I tell myself that I’m capable of achieving anything I want to. I tell it to myself over and over and over again.
It may be true that I wouldn’t be capable of achieving anything I want to tomorrow but I’m not going to let that become an excuse for completely ruling that out.
I tell myself I am capable of achieving anything I want – I can do it. I tell myself that those people out their who have found their work, who have ‘figured it out’, aren’t smarter than me and they don’t have anything I can’t have.
This may sound really naive or whatever but to be honest I don’t really care what it sounds like and whether it is true or it isn’t. The whole point is that if I tell myself this enough times it will change my thoughts.
And if I change my thoughts it will change my reality. So everyday, in my gratitude journal, I write down that I am grateful that I know I will be successful and that I know I can achieve anything with hard work, focus, persistence and consistency. I don’t always believe it, but I still write it down. And slowly but surely, there are starting to be more days where I believe it than days that I don’t.
Never say never.
Don’t forget that this is your life
It’s amazingly easy to lose perspective that this is it. This is your life.
I think what I’m trying to say has already been said perfectly by Steve Jobs:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.
Almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is how it should be because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new”.
It’s often not until people have had a near-death experience or are diagnosed with life-threatening disease that they have that clarifying moment we’re all desperately searching for.
It’s so easy to think that we have all the time in the world. But we don’t. And I’m not saying that to put the pressure on or to get you down, I’m saying that because it’s the reason you should keep looking. It’s the reason you should fight for it.
So don’t let anyone else make this decision for you. That doesn’t mean you should do the opposite of what everyone else wants for you but you have to want it too. This is your decision, your life. People will come in and out of your life all the time but you will always be in your life. You are the one who will live by this decision, so why shouldn’t you make it for you?
It might be hard for others to accept at first but if they love you and they really want you to be happy – they will come around. And if they don’t want you to be the best version of yourself they simply aren’t worth keeping around.
Treat your life like a story
Reading Donald Miller’s Book ‘A Million Miles In A Thousand Years‘ has completely changed the way I look at my life.
Life is a story and you are the main character.
If your life was a movie – would you want to watch it? Would you cry at the end? Would you even care?
The best stories have ups and downs. Challenges overcome. Sacrifices made.
Just think what Harry Potter would have been like if Harry just spent the whole time hiding out in Hogwarts because he was too scared to face Voldemort. Pretty bloody boring.
I’m sure at least once in your life you’ve told someone that something you did was incredibly hard or challenging or disappointing but that “it makes a good story”. Do more of that stuff. Take opportunities you’re normally too scared to take.
So that’s how I’m dealing with this overwhelming feeling of being lost and I hope that if nothing else you will at least find comfort in the fact that someone (who is probably on the other side of the world) is struggling with exactly the same thing as you.
No idea what to do with your life?
As Oprah has said, if you feel lost the most important and powerful thing you can do is to figure out your next right move. And then after that you figure out your next right move and then your next right move.
It’s easy to feel completely overwhelmed by the task of figuring out what the hell to do with our lives, but we don’t need to know where we’re going to end up – we just need to know what we’re going to do next.
So, since originally publishing this blog post in 2014, I’ve created a FREE guide to help you figure out exactly what to do next!
There are 3 simple (but not easy) steps to figure out your next right move – just click the button below to get your free copy of the guide!
What do you think?
Are you in the same position as me? Are you scared you’ll never ‘figured it out’?
Don’t forget that comments are always always always appreciated – I’d LOVE to hear from you!