What To Do When You Feel Lost In Life
Have you found yourself thinking, “Life should be more than this?”
If so, maybe you're feeling lost and depressed about the difference between your current life and what you hoped your life would be.
Author and creativity coach Eric Maisel coined the term “existential intelligence” to describe the weight carried by those with a high sensitivity to the inherent meaning in everything they do.
If you don’t see your daily activities as a meaningful contribution to your life’s purpose, the discord can make you feel anxious and depressed.
If your job makes you feel dead inside, if your love relationship is stuck in a negative spiral, or if you look in the mirror and want to cry at your reflection, you’re probably feeling lost and wondering how to get to the life you wanted.
Or maybe you’ve already told yourself, “I feel lost in life. But there’s nothing I can do to change that.”
The good news is you’re wrong. There’s always something you can do.
Whether that something will change your life overnight isn’t for me or anyone else to say, but everything you do matters.
Before we address what to do when you feel lost, you need to know why you’re feeling this way.
And that starts with asking a few questions.
Why do I feel lost and empty?
If you look at your life and think, “I’m lost,” you might try to avoid the emotional pain through addictive behavior or by taking unnecessary risks.
If you think, “There’s nothing I can do to change my life for the better,” no drug on earth can fix that.
To borrow some questions from Tony Robbins, we’ll start by asking the following:
- Think about an area of your life you’re really happy with.
- Ask why you’re so happy with it right now.
- Now, think of an area of your life you’re not happy with. What specific area would you like to improve? Where are the gaps between where you are and where you want to be?
- And why specifically are you not happy about this area right now?
Write your answers down (or type them), if you can. Forcing yourself to articulate your answers to these questions will help you identify where the real pain points are.
What To Do When You Feel Lost In Life: 10 Simple Actions For A Reset
When your life doesn’t match your idea of how it should be, you have three choices:
- Blame something or someone.
- Change your life to match that idea (your blueprint).
- Change the blueprint.
You can do both #2 and #3, but if you choose either of them, there should be no room left for #1.
The following actions can help you move forward to either change your life or change your idea of how it should be.
So, the next time you catch yourself thinking, “Life should be more than this,” remember your options and the questions you should ask yourself. And then take appropriate action.
1. Be quiet, and listen.
You need time each day to reflect on the day’s words and actions and on how they align with your idea of how your life should be.
If you don’t consciously do this, your subconscious will find ways to let you know when your life and your ideals don’t agree.
It’s better when you’re consciously aware of those conflicts. And you can do any or all of the following to satisfy your need for quiet listening time:
- Practice meditation every day (even if only for five minutes).
- Spend some time alone with yourself, and ask for help in understanding why you feel lost.
- Pay attention to your self-talk, and replace negative, self-defeating thoughts with truthful affirmations.
The more aware you are of the real reasons for your discontent, the more easily you can identify the appropriate actions to take.
2. Get clear on what you want and why.
Take the time each day to write down (or type) what you truly want from that day, what you’re grateful for, and what you intend to do to get closer to the life you would love.
Daily journaling is a powerful way to get clarity on what you want out of life and why you want it.
In your journal, you can take stock of your life — what you love about it, what you want to change, and why — and plan more intentionally for the day ahead.
Write also about the things you can’t control and whether you can meet your core needs without changing those things.
What isn’t disclosed by their book titles (but what both authors surely know) is that you need both.
3. Find meaning in what you do.
If you look at your life and see only a series of meaningless tasks, take a closer look.
There’s a reason you settled into that comfortable (if somewhat depressing) routine. There’s something in it that gives you a sense of security or belonging.
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Even when it comes to habits worth keeping, the actions you take might seem, on the surface, to be pointless — possibly because you’ve been doing them without thinking.
Or you’ve been rushing through them to just “get it done” so you can move on to the next thing.
The solution is to identify those actions that align with your ideals and practice them more mindfully.
Take the time to do them well and to savor them; look for the beauty you miss when you’re on autopilot. And take the time to feel and express your gratitude for it.
The more you feel connected to the beauty around you and to the deeper meaning behind your daily actions, the more that beauty will pervade your being and lift you up.
4. Do more of what you find meaningful.
In other words, do more of what you love. A meaningful life comes from continued growth and giving, so find ways to do more of both.
Ask yourself when you feel happiest and why you feel that way.
Ask yourself what kind of person you want to be and what that person would do on a regular basis, if not every day.
Ask yourself why you’re not doing those things now.
Maybe the things that used to make you feel happiest have lost their shine, and you now do them just to earn a paycheck or to make someone else happy.
Ask yourself what made those actions so meaningful and satisfying before and what has changed.
If it makes sense for you to continue doing those things, what can you change about them to make them better reflect the reason why you do them?
And what else can you do to add more meaning to your daily routine?
5. Reconnect with people you care about.
Everyone wants to be loved unconditionally.
Sometimes, we tell ourselves we need a certain kind of relationship in order to have that, but at our core, we just want to know that the people we love most will be there for us when we need them.
What can you do today to reach out to someone you love and remind them of their importance to you?
If the bridge between you is unstable, make gentle but meaningful overtures, apologizing if you’ve caused pain and asking if they’d be open to meeting you for lunch or a coffee.
If it’s just a matter of spending more time together and reminding each other of everything you love about your relationship, make time for regular one-on-one chats, dinner dates, picnic lunches, or whatever you enjoy doing together.
6. Reconnect with nature.
The more you connect with the natural world beyond your human concerns, the more alive, refreshed, and human you feel.
There’s real power in learning to live in the present moment.
The more aware you become of your connectedness to the natural world, the more you see how your own daily actions affect it – and how it affects you.
If you’re wondering what to do, exactly, consider the following examples:
- Take daily nature walks.
- Walk barefoot in the grass (grounding / earthing).
- Spend time with a pet.
Take the time to mindfully enjoy the sights and sounds of swirling leaves, wind in the trees, the rippling on the surface of a lake, ocean waves, the sound of rain, etc.
7. Expand your comfort zone.
You do this by stepping out of it and finding that those things that scared you before aren’t as scary as you thought.
And they no longer have the power to cheat you of new, exciting opportunities.
Maybe you’ll decide to conquer one of the following:
- Fear of public speaking
- Fear of being rejected (by a publisher, love interest, etc.)
- Fear of failing to reach a publicized goal
- Fear of being judged for not meeting someone else’s expectations
The more you expand your comfort zone, the more room you have in your life for new experiences and new opportunities to contribute in a meaningful way.
8. Upgrade your habits.
Does your morning ritual consists of pounding the snooze button more than once, then racing through a bare minimum routine before bolting out the door to work?
If so, the rest of the day will no doubt reflect the same feeling of dread, resentment, and frantic hurrying from one thing to the next.
Just by changing your morning routine to make room for meditation, journaling, exercise, etc., you can transform your perspective on life, as well as your health and energy levels.
If a moment’s thought about your life makes you feel depressed or anxious, consider what habits might be contributing to that, and how you can upgrade them to make your life closer to what you feel it should be.
9. Give your body what it needs.
It’s harder to have perspective when you’re running on empty.
If you haven’t been sleeping enough, or you’ve been showering less frequently because you fear falling behind in your work, or you’ve been taking fewer (if any) mental health breaks, you’re risking burn-out — or you may already be experiencing it.
A lack of reasonable self-care will also affect your emotional health and creative ability.
If you can no longer do what people expect of you, you’re more likely to feel as though you’ve overestimated your ability and you’re not cut out for creative work after all.
And then what?
Take the time to give your body what it needs before it goes on strike and leaves you with a host of other problems you have no time for.
10. Ask for help.
If you’re having trouble identifying exactly what makes you happy or unhappy in your life, find a coach, a counselor, or a spiritual director who can help you identify the causes for your emotional pain and self-sabotaging behaviors.
Have you invested in books, programs, or courses to help you identify the problems and take action to improve your life?
If so, it makes even more sense to invest in one-on-one help from someone whose experience, intuition, and understanding can meet you where you are and help you get to where you want to be.
Don’t make the mistake of expecting to get through it all alone — as if only weak people get help or support from others.
We’re connected for a reason.
Are you feeling lost?
I hope you now have a better understanding of why you’re feeling hollow and burned out.
You don’t have to feel lost and depressed for the rest of your life.
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There are things you can do to make your life more meaningful and to grow into the person you were made to be – even if your current situation is anything but ideal.
Whatever challenges you face, you can adjust the blueprint to account for the things you can’t change and take decisive action to change the things you can.
It’s up to you. But you don’t have to do it alone.
There are people out there who’ve found their purpose in helping others live more meaningful lives.
You might even be one of them.