What am I doing with my life? 4 Steps to clarity

When you find yourself asking the question: “What am I doing with my life?”, it’s a signal you’re not happy with what you’re doing. You’re not happy with the direction your life is headed.

If you were happy and fully aligned with your current path, you wouldn’t question it. What do you do about it? Start by noticing it, and take the hint. What you’re doing with your life is misaligned with what you authentically want.

And, when I say “what you authentically want”, I mean you should understand what you truly want for yourself, in your gut.

Get honest with yourself and start to pursue what you really want for yourself. Everyone knows what they really want deep down inside, but some are afraid to speak it out loud.

For example, someone may grow up being told they should study to become a lawyer. They pursue this career because they have been told that it’s the right thing for them by their parents and family. Even though inside they know would rather become an actor. Wanting to be an actor, but becoming a lawyer instead, is not following your heart. And so when that person becomes a lawyer, chances are it won’t make them happy, because it is not authentically who they really are.

Girl pondering "what am I doing with my life or "what should I do with my life"

Are you asking: “What am I doing with my life?” or “What should I do with my life?”

“What am I doing with my life?” 

When you question “what am I doing with my life?” you can be 100% sure that the answer is: Not what you want to be doing! You’re questioning your current life situation for one of two reasons:

  1. You don’t know how to get what you want so the path forward is unclear. This has you waffle about what to do. Quite often you’ll then question if you even want what you thought you wanted in the first place!
  2. You are in a career or relationship or environment that is authentically not connected to who you are and what you want to be and what to want to contribute to the world. The authentic you cries out.

Why the “What am I doing with my life” problem is a good one to have

Some people ask the question“What am I doing with my life?”

Other ask these variations: “What should I do with my life?”or even make the statement: “I don’t know what to do with my life.”

However you pose the question, if it keeps haunting over and over, it’s a signal that there is a major opportunity to change direction, to redesign your life, seek peace and happiness, and move closer to what you do want.

You have a set of beliefs and values. You have a mission to achieve in life. Whether you are confident about what that is or not. This questioning state you find yourself in is a signal to re-evaluate and make some small or big changes.

The best way to think of what’s going on is to consider that you have an internal elastic band built into you. When you get further away from what you want and value your elastic band stretches. This creates resistance. The “what am I doing with my life?” questioning is a sign resistance is occurring.

When you’re in line with what you deeply want your elastic band will move back into place and you’ll feel whole. You’ll feel at peace.

So, now is your time to take stock of where you are going and to listen to your internal barometer.

What to do to gain clarity to be confident about what to do next

Okay, so you’ve heard the signal, now what? You know you’re in an internal conflict and need to make some external changes. But what? But how? You’ll likely have a lot of these questions. And you’ll want someone else to answer them for you. It’s helpful to seek guidance from a life coach, therapist, friends or family, but here’s the thing: You’re the only that can figure it out!

This is your life and you are the only one who can make the decisions you need to make. So what you really need is clarity. And you can bet, you’ll struggle and look for it externally. But,what is more effective is doing some internal work.

Here is what to do. Take this to heart, get serious about it and you’ll gain clarity with velocity…

Step 1: Empty your head of all the noise

When you start to notice that you have a lot of “what am I doing with my life?” thoughts you will immediately start asking yourself WHY. People are inquisitive by nature. It’s part of being human and you will naturally go to a place of :”Why do I feel this way?”And then you’ll start to ask: “What should I do?”. 

Then, you’ll start entertaining a whole lot of thoughts about why and what. You’ll struggle with what to do next. And, you’ll look externally for answers to get clarity. This is a common trajectory. If you start doing this, you can bet you’ll get nowhere. You’ll find yourself going around in circles. At this point, some people start to make silly decisions, that don’t move them in the right direction.

When there is a lot of mental chatter in your head, the clarity you seek remains elusive. What you need is to get to place of nothing, so you can create something new. New ideas and new inspiration only emerges when you get your mind to a place of nothing. To have it be blank.

Really, take a moment to think about this. When you are feeling deep joy or happiness, what are you thinking about? Your mind is either blank or fixated on one object (like the blue sky outside). Mentally the space of your mind isn’t full, it’s empty. And in that space only then can new things show up.

Or think of it this way…An artist will have more ideas when confronted with a blank canvas versus looking at a painting they’ve been working with for months but haven’t gotten anywhere with. And sometimes just looking at a blank canvas will give them the inspiration of what they need to do with the old canvas. If they keep going back to the old canvas they will draw inspiration from what the filter in front of them without event noticing it.

How to get to nothing

So, when you are in a head space of “What should I do?“, just notice it, be aware of it, and then do whatever you need to do to stop thinking about anything. Do something fun. Or do something physical, like go for a run or a walk. Go be in nature. Talk to other people and get out of your own head. Focus on a work project. Listen to an audiobook. Do whatever you need to do to forget everything you’ve been thinking about. That’s when the ideas will pour in.

This isn’t some woo-woo advice, it’s backed by neuroscience. You’re brain is always running on two modes of activity. When you’re not focused on any task or problem your brain goes into a mode of thinking called your Default Mode Network (DMN). This is where important connections take place and inspiration pours in.

So Step 1 is to do what you need to forget everything your thinking about. This might take trying a number of things. Go get lost in something. Get your mind to a blank canvas, and ideas will start to pop up.

Step 2: Listen and evaluate 

Listen to the ideas that start to pop into your mind. Capture them by writing them down somewhere. Start to play with them. Consider them and evaluate them.

A great way to evaluate ideas you have is to imagine yourself in the near future doing what you think you might want to do. Mentally try on different things. When you visualize (daydream in other words) it activates the same circuits as if you were physically take those actions.. You can use visualization start to see what actions inspires you and excites you and lights you up.

Eventually you will have some clarity. There will be ideas that speak to you. Ideas that you get stuck on. Ideas that make you feel awesome just thinking about them. Those are the ideas to build on.

Step 3: Create a smart strategy

Once you have some ideas of where you might like to steer your life, the changes you need to make and the actions you need to take will show up. They’ll start to become obvious to you.  At this point play with your options. Share your ideas with other people. Crowdsource! Ask them for their thoughts and advice. Test the water some more around what you think you should do before you create a solid plan of action and start a To Do List.

Questions to consider when asking: What should I do with my life:

  • What’s the big picture outcome I have for my life? 
  • Why is this important to me?
  • What can I do now to fulfill on this plan?
  • What current needs do I need to meet? (For instance you might want to completely change careers but you have bills to pay so you need to be able to manage these two things)
  • What are the obvious things I can do right away?

Zoom in from your big picture of what you want to achieve 3 months and 6 months out. Consider the actions you need to take to accomplish what you want.

The “What am I doing with my life” transformation exercise

One of the best ways to do this is:

  1. Simply draw a horizontal line on a piece of paper.
  2. Write down what you want at the end of the line.
  3. At the start of the line, write down where you’re starting from now.
  4. Then, chart out the obvious actions you need to take.

Pick the pathway that inspires you, the one that makes you feel confident and satisfied immediately, because you’ll be moving in the right direction but also fulfilling on what you need to do now to make a shift.

The question: “What should I do with my life?” will start to become answered.

Step 4: Take action

Once you know what to do, take one small action. This will give you relief. You’ll start to move your life in a new direction. You’ll begin to make progress versus staying stuck and feeling lost or hopeless. Remember that action leads to progress and progress is good. Action will also create momentum. You’ll gain traction and keep moving forward.

As you progress remember that the thought “what am I do with my life?” is a signal. It’s a sign you need to stop, evaluate and gain clarity on what you need to do to proceed.

Related articles: