If you do, you probably also ask yourself, “What am I supposed to do with my life?”
Those shoulds have a way of creeping in when we're feeling lost.
But what is the reason of asking, “What am I doing with my life?” if not to examine things more closely?
And when we do that, assumptions fall away, taking most of the shoulds with them.
If we do it right, all that remains is the truth.
- What Am I Supposed to Be Doing?
- What Am I Doing with My Life?
- How to Figure Out What You Want to Do in Life
What Am I Supposed to Be Doing?
This is the question that pops into your head — maybe because someone else told you what they think you should do. But ask yourself . . .
- Have you lost sight of your “why”?
- Are you just going through the motions?
- Are you living the expectations of others?
- Does the thought of doing the same thing for another 10, 20, or even 30 years fill you with dread or emptiness?
If so, you need to reacquaint yourself with the things that give you energy.
Because right now, your life probably revolves around the things that take that away.
I'm not asking you to abandon the people who depend on you — at home, at your job, or anywhere else.
I'm asking you to touch base with your inner wisdom.
That's the voice inside you that is currently stifled by all the things you think you should be doing or that seem easiest to do under the circumstances.
When you take the time to look within, you connect with something more powerful than all the clutter and noise in your life. And the better your connection, the more clearly you see the way forward.
You see those time and space occupiers for what they are. Only then can you weed out the things you don't need in your life to make more room for the things you do.
And before you answer the question, “What should I be doing with my life?” you need to have a clear understanding of what you're doing with it now.
What Am I Doing with My Life?
When your attention is taken up with things that drain you of energy, it's no wonder you feel unhappy, empty, or stuck. No one is born to live like that.
Another trap is focusing on the things you want but don't have, rather than on the actions needed to make your life more meaningful.
To avoid these traps, it helps to break down the bigger questions of what you're doing with your life into smaller ones like the following:
- What gives you energy?
- What are you focusing on?
- What good things do you have in your life right now?
What gives you energy?
Think of all the things that make you feel more energetic and alive. Maybe you light up inside when you're helping a friend with a home-renovation project.
Or maybe what comes to mind is the way your dog reacts when you come home after work.
Whatever wakes you up, makes you smile, and reminds you of the good things in your life will make the day better — usually because it connects to your “why.”
It connects to the greater purpose behind your goals, desires, and intentions and resonates with your core values. So, what in your life does that for you?
What are you focusing on?
What do you focus on in the first hour of your day? How about the last?
Maybe you don't have much of a choice regarding your life responsibilities and obligations, but you do have control over the way you react to them.
If your last hour is taken up with getting the dog outside to do his thing before bedtime, and your mind is occupied with things you'd rather be doing, you might resent the dog and feel agitated.
Or you might see it as a chance to enjoy the relative quiet of the outdoors with your dog and appreciate how much joy this animal brings to your life.
What do you normally focus on during these pivotal hours of the day?
- Can you take a moment to change your mindset?
- Can you be more present and engaged?
- Can you experience more gratitude?
What do you have in your life right now?
What do you have in your life right now that you're grateful for? Maybe you want more of that. Make a list of those things and consider what life would be like without them.
There's a good chance, though, that there are some things you want less of, too.
Who wouldn't want less reason to worry about money, for example, or about what your kids are up to when you can't be there?
What in your life would you like to change? And what are you willing to do to change it?
How to Figure Out What You Want to Do in Life
Now that you have a better idea of what you're doing with your life now, what do you see in it that you'd like to change?
How do you figure out what you want to do in life if you still react to what other people expect you to do (or what you think they expect)?
After all, sometimes what other people want becomes something you want too — maybe for the same reasons or maybe for your own. And that's fine.
The danger lies in just accepting someone else's expectations of you as what you should want to do with your life.
You're allowed to make choices that bless you as well as others in your life. Every choice that neglects your needs and your inner voice drains you of energy.
And no one has an infinite supply of that.
In order to know what you want to do with your life, try breaking it down into smaller questions (like we did earlier):
- What do you want more or less of in your life?
- How do you want your life to look three years from now?
- What are you willing to do to bring that vision to life?
What do you want more or less of in your life?
The best way to tackle this question is to write a list for each category, starting with the things you want more of in your life:
- More time with family (spouse/partner, children, parents, siblings, etc.)
- More time with friends (outside the family)
- Regular self-care
- More meals that meet your nutritional needs
- More fun / travel / adventure
- More joy, peace, and gratitude
- More money to pay bills, pay down debt, buy a bigger place, etc.
It's also important to list the things you want less of in your life:
- Less time spent around people who drain you
- Less money spent on unhealthy snack options
- Less stress over money (bills, debt, etc.)
- Less clutter in your living and working spaces
- Less anxiety over work or relationships
- Less pressure to sacrifice your well-being to please others
Once you complete your list, write down action steps you can take to bring you closer to those goals.
For example, if you want more time with your family, you might:
- Come home from work an hour earlier a few days a week.
- Set up a regular date night with your spouse.
- Make sure you have a family dinner several times a week.
If you want less stress about money, you might:
- Create a budget for yourself.
- Look for a side gig on weekends.
- Meet with a financial advisor.
Be completely honest about what you want in your life and what you'd rather have as little of as possible. The fact that you've gotten accustomed to accepting things you don't like doesn't obligate you to continue accepting them.
So, how do you decide what to do about it?
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How do you want your life to look in three years' time?
You may have heard from self-improvement experts that we often overestimate what we can accomplish in one year — but we underestimate what we can accomplish in three.
So, let's focus on the more optimistic half of that statement. What do you want your life to look like three years from now? What do you see when you visualize it?
- Do you have more of the things you want?
- Do you have less of the things you don't?
- How are you spending your time and energy?
- And how are you replenishing your energy?
Free-write your answers or say them out loud — whatever works best for you. How do you want your life to change over the next three years?
What would happen if you changed everything? What could happen if you changed the one thing that bothers you most?
Maybe you worry that someone in your life will be angry or impacted if you make a change. But if you burn out from spending more energy than you're restoring, they won't benefit for much longer, anyway.
Who stands to gain or lose the most by your changing things and making your life better?
The next question is probably the hardest. Because once you face up to the actions you need to take to make things happen, you're left with two choices:
- Do the thing to make the change, or
- Make an excuse to not do the thing.
What are you willing to do to bring your vision to life?
Think of what you could do to change the thing you most want to change. Make a list of actions you could take every day to make the change happen, even if it happens slowly.
Then make a commitment to doing something. And do it every day.
When you ask yourself, “What am I going to do with my life?” it's too easy to focus on how your whole life looks to you now. And if you're looking through dark or muddied lenses, you won't see much to like.
You won't see it clearly enough to notice the little ways you can change it for the better. It doesn't always take a wrecking ball to lay a better foundation for the rest of your life.
It does take will and courage to do little things well and to do them consistently.
What you're doing with your life is what you're doing one day at a time and hour by hour.
It's also in how you treat others, one interaction at a time. And few of those (if any) will be perfect. Each one should balance compassion and generosity toward others with self-compassion and respect for your own boundaries.
Aim for growth in both areas. A better life is impossible without them.
Are you ready for change?
Once you realize that the way you want to spend your life doesn't have to match what other people want you to do, you can decide what you truly want and what you're willing to do to get it.
Then the question about what you want in life no longer depends on what others think. Nor does it mean you have to change everything to make your life worth living.
Some big changes might be necessary. Or you might just need to do a few smaller things differently. Your path is your own.
Think about how you want your life to look in three years. Then ask yourself what actions you can take every day to get closer to that. Pick at least one action today and start making it a habit.
Then build on it as you go.