Not knowing what to do with your life can be one of the most confusing, nerve-wracking, anxiety-inducing experiences.
This feeling is often deeply related to your career choice or what you do for a living, so in this article, I’m going to focus on that.
If you’ve ever told yourself, “I don’t know what to do with my life,” you probably feel that you’re wasting your life away.
Add the mistaken belief that you can be “too old” to change careers, and you have the perfect recipe for an existential crisis.
Sounds like you? Then keep reading.
I don’t know if what I’m about to say makes this whole thing better or worse, but… you’re not alone.
Many people, including successful adults you admire or people you work with who seem to have it all figured out, have felt like you at some point in their lives.
Or they could be feeling like that right now.
Take me, for example.
In 2019 I was miserable at my job, and I felt like a complete failure.
I didn’t know what my first step should be, if I wanted to change careers for good or if I was just going through a phase.
I couldn’t make sense of what I was feeling, kept comparing my progress with everybody else’s, and, long story short, felt like trash.
Now I run my own successful and soul-centered business, and I like what I do every day, but sometimes, I feel like I have no clue what I’m doing.
If you keep telling yourself you don’t know what to do with your life and you’re ready for a change, this article could change your life.
5 Philosophies to Embrace if You Don’t Know What to Do With Your Life
1. Know it’s okay to feel lost or confused
I want to start by saying that you’re not alone.
The vast majority of people, if not all, go through times like this at least once in their lifetime.
Knowing this is part of life and approaching this problem without feeling guilty will help you solve it faster and be more creative about it.
I know many people out there seem to have it all figured out.
Or they look like they love what they do and always know exactly what they want.
I’m not going to tell you they’re lying or that nothing’s what it seems.
For some periods of time, you can feel like you have it all figured out and you’re on the right path. That’s possible.
However, it doesn’t stay that way forever.
Life’s full of twists and turns, things going great one minute and then not so great the next.
And that’s okay.
2. This isn’t something you figure out inside your head
Ruminating about what you want and don’t won’t take you anywhere.
You have to get out, get busy and do something, which takes me to my next point.
3. Go after what you want now
You can start building your dream life without figuring out your “passions” first.
Stop trying to discover what you’ll want to do for the rest of your life and focus on what you want now.
Trying to figure out what you should do with your life forever is too much pressure, and it’ll take you nowhere because no one can predict the future.
We’re constantly evolving and growing.
Our interests and priorities change.
It’s part of being human.
What’s important for you now may not be important for you two or three years from now.
Plus, you’re not an island.
You’re deeply connected to everything that goes around you, and at the same time, you’re not in control of it.
Many things could happen in the world or your community that could make you change your priorities and what you want to do with your time.
So, stop trying to figure out what you want to do “with your life” (which feels like a very long time) and start focusing on what interests you right now.
Pursuing your current interests will open new doors for you and present you with opportunities you don’t even dream about now.
On top of that, it’ll help you understand yourself and what you want better.
4. You can be many things at once
When you were a kid, you were probably asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
And you probably narrowed the answer down to a specific profession (doctor, astronaut, vet, etc.).
That question and your answer probably conditioned you to think that’s how concrete your answer needs to be now that you’re older.
But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be that way.
You can have many interests and be many things at once.
Take me, for example.
If I felt lost in life and told you how much I love to write, you’d probably tell me I should be a journalist or a book author.
Or, if I told you how much I like helping people organize their lives and goals, you’d tell me I should become a coach.
But actually, here’s what my life looks like right now (and this doesn’t include accountant and product developer!):
I’m not just one thing; I’m many things.
And that’s what life may look like for you as well.
5. It’s okay to get it wrong
For example, you may have spent years being sure you wanted to be an actor.
But then, after spending only one year acting professionally, you realize you don’t like it at all.
Maybe you liked the idea of it (money, fame, creativity) and weren’t aware of the downsides (fierce competition, toxic media, etc.)
Or maybe your interests changed, and you didn’t realize it.
No matter the reason why you’re no longer interested in it, the thing is you have to let it go.
Get honest about it, and if you no longer want to pursue it, don’t cling to a dream that doesn’t feel like you anymore.
You’re allowed to give up, and doing so doesn’t make you a coward or a quitter.
On the contrary, it makes you very smart because clinging to something that isn’t working for you will make you feel miserable and waste a lot of time.
Now let’s jump straight to action.
Don’t know what to do with your life? Here are 23 things to get you started
1. Look at it from a different perspective
Before you do anything else, I want you to stop thinking that feeling stuck is bad.
Because in reality, it’s the opposite.
Feeling stuck is a signal you’re alive and craving expansion.
You see, humans are meant to grow and evolve, and feeling stuck simply means you’re not growing.
Look at it this way: you feel hungry when you need food or thirsty when you’re dehydrated, so you feel stuck when you’re craving something new.
Your body, soul, heart, and mind are all coming together to tell you there are things you want and need that you’re not getting right now.
Maybe those things have something to do with your:
- love relationships
Or with all of them at once.
What matters here is that your body’s trying to tell you something, and you’ve listened because you’re here reading this.
So props to you for that!
2. Audit your life as a whole
When people feel stuck or directionless in life, they tend to blame it on their careers.
After contemplating this sad reality, it’s natural to think your only option is to change careers if you want to feel better about your life as a whole.
But because changing careers is a challenging goal that requires:
- and money,
some people think they’re doomed to feel stuck for years before they can make a change.
However, many things in your life may be making you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing.
If you don’t know how to get your life together, start by asking yourself: “What’s bothering me? What do I wish was different?” and don’t limit yourself to just one area of your life.
If the cause of your distress is really your career and not something else, a life audit can still help you realize what else you can do right now to start feeling better.
For some people, doing something as simple as decluttering a room in their house can help.
Before you choke on your frustration, take action in other areas of your life that may be keeping you stuck.
Feeling better about other areas of your life may be what you need to take action toward a career change or a new dream.
3. Be honest with yourself
Is it true you “don’t know,” or are you scared of pursuing what you really want to do?
It’s possible to have no clue what you want to do with your life.
Maybe you haven’t explored enough interests yet, or you haven’t found what puts you in your zone of genius.
Or perhaps you haven’t put all the pieces together to uncover what you love to do, what you’re good at, and what you can get paid for.
That can happen for sure.
But that’s not always the case for everybody.
You may know what you want but are too scared to admit it because you:
- don’t want to make a “fool” of yourself
- think your dream is “absurd,” “ridiculous,” or “silly”
- are afraid of what other people may think
- are afraid of failure or of not being able to make ends meet.
Telling yourself, “I don’t know what to do with my life” can be a façade for “I’m scared to go after what I want.”
So, be honest with yourself… what do you want to do with your life?
4. Reframe your old beliefs
Easier said than done, I know, but many mistaken beliefs are keeping you stuck.
Here are some I’ve heard from people in my audience and the answers I always give them:
a. “I’m too old to change careers or start something new.”
I always tell them: “Old for what and according to whom? What’s your definition of old?”
Are you too old to go back to pre-school to play with play-doh and sing songs all day?
You’d probably get bored pretty quickly unless you’re the teacher in the room and you love 4-year-olds.
But that’s pretty much the only thing you could be too old to do.
Are you too old to finish high school if you haven’t and if it’s important to you?
No, you’re not.
Are you too old to get a new degree?
No, you’re not. Who says you are, and are they right?
Listen, no matter how old you are, you have no idea how much time you have left.
If you’re 50, you probably have 20-30 years more to live, if not more.
That’s almost enough time for you to live your adult life all over again.
It’s enough time for you to go back to college and get a new degree if you want.
It’s also enough time to plan, start and grow a business from scratch.
No matter if you have 1 or 20 years left to live, if you just sit down to pass the time, you’ll get bored.
And you’re going to feel very unhappy and stuck.
I don’t know about you, but to me, being unhappy for 20 years sounds like a prison sentence.
Don’t do that to yourself.
b. “It’ll take me YEARS to reach this goal.”
Your decision to not go back to school or to not start that business because it’ll take years won’t freeze time.
That time’s going to pass whether you make the decision or not.
So, would you rather spend that time doing something you enjoy or ruminating about the what-ifs?
c. “I don’t know what I want to do with my life.”
You know more about what you want than you realize.
In the rest of this article, I will teach you a lot of tricks you can use to start uncovering what you want to do next.
5. Take action now, even if you’re unsure
Yes, even if you’re unsure if you’ll be interested in the same thing forever.
From now on, forget about being “sure” about wanting to do this thing “forever.”
Take action by pursuing any of your interests right now, no matter how different they may seem to be.
Focus on the journey, not the destination.
6. Try that thing you always wanted to do
Is there something you have always wanted to try? Now’s the time to get started.
And before you start telling yourself, you’re “too old” or “too bad at x, y, z” to try it, stop.
First of all, there’s no such thing as being “too old” to try something new.
Go out, live, and get excited.
Who cares about how many birthdays you’ve had so far?
And second of all, it’s possible to have a mistaken assumption about certain activities because of things that happened when you were younger.
So, for example, let’s say you had a very mean math teacher who didn’t understand your learning style that once told you you suck at math.
This sort of experience can stick with you forever and make you believe that you’re helpless when it comes to math, that you shouldn’t even try again.
However, I want you to start challenging those old beliefs, especially if you are interested in that specific activity/topic.
I’m not telling you to go and try to become the best at it.
Just give it a try and enjoy it.
Like I’ve said before, it may become a new career for you. Who knows?
But that’s not the only option.
Trying new things doesn’t have to be this I-need-to-make-money-with-this thing.
It can just be something you like doing in your spare time. No pressure.
Also, it could be the perfect opportunity for you to:
- meet new people,
- challenge yourself,
- do something that excites you,
- and get unstuck.
7. Journal your way through it
As I said, this isn’t one of those things you can figure out inside your head by just journaling or meditating about it.
However, you can mix taking action with journaling to help you analyze the situation better and faster.
Every morning, before you do anything else, journal about how you really feel.
Just take a notebook and a pen and practice stream of consciousness; write anything and everything you have in mind.
Do this for 5 or 10 minutes every morning for seven days, and then go back and read everything you’ve written.
Or, right after taking a new class or reading about something new, grab a notebook and journal how you felt about it.
With time, you’ll start to identify patterns, and trusting your gut will be more intuitive for you.
You may start to notice common themes in your journal entries like:
- what you expect from the future
- what’s bothering you right now
- what interests you
- how you really feel and why
- how your dream life looks like
- what’s stopping you from taking action.
All of this and more will come out if you’re totally honest in your writing.
Also, one of the best things about journaling is that you don’t have to do it for months before you start seeing results.
If you start journaling with a specific goal in mind (in this case, figuring out what you want to do with your life), you’ll start to uncover the most important issues in just a matter of days.
One of my favorite ways to practice journaling when I’m unstuck is by using specific journaling prompts according to the situation.
That’s why I designed the Self-Discovery Bundle, a collection of journaling prompts that’ll help you:
- understand yourself better
- know what your dream life is
- silence your inner critic, so you stop sabotaging yourself
- and so much more.
This journaling tool is what I wish I’d found back in 2019 when I didn’t know what to do with my life.
I knew I had this fire in me to do something different and take action, but I had no clue where to put that energy.
With the help of these workbooks, you’ll uncover what’s making you unhappy and what you want to do about it.
So, give journaling a try.
Little by little, you’ll start to uncover more than you thought you knew about yourself.
8. Follow the self-determination theory and add your own factors to it
According to the Self-Determination Theory, developed by psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, human beings have three basic needs when it comes to finding different areas of life, including work, motivating:
- autonomy; you need to have a sense of control over your actions, behaviors, and goals,
- competence; you need to feel competent and gain mastery of skills,
- and relatedness; you need to feel a sense of belonging.
Research like this can offer you science-backed guidance and a solid foundation you can base your decisions on.
So, if this theory makes sense to you, you can keep these factors in mind from now on when looking for a new job or considering a career change.
And on top of the three factors listed above, you can add your own.
In your opinion, what makes work fulfilling, meaningful, fun, and worth pursuing?
Think about it and identify the factors you want to look for in a new passion or job.
You could add things like:
- creativity; if letting your imagination run free and creating is important to you,
- learning; if you’re a life-long learner and feel stuck if you’re not learning new things constantly,
- level of sociability; decide how much sociability would be ideal for you and which type of work relationship you’d like to have with others,
- work-life balance; depending on how many hours a day you’d like to spend working and how much time you need for yourself to unwind and prevent burnout.
9. Explore old hobbies
Is there a hobby you gave up a while ago? It’s time to pick it up again.
Spare 20 or 30 minutes of your time to take classes and improve your skills.
If you don’t find meaning in your job right now, dedicate 20-30 minutes to something entirely different from what you do.
Now, I’m not saying you should turn your hobbies into a career.
Many people don’t like the idea of putting that type of pressure on something they love and enjoy.
However, exploring a hobby can be a great starting point if you don’t know what you want to do with your life.
Go online and sign up for an online class.
Reconnect with old friends who share your passions.
Find a local event related to your hobby you can join.
Give it a shot.
Exploring a forgotten hobby could be the start of a new life for you.
10. Go on a weekly or monthly passion hunt
Make a list of all the things you’re interested in and devote one week or month to learning everything you can about those interests:
- research how it’s like to have that interest as a profession
- watch videos about it
- take courses
- read books.
Interested in pursuing photography as a career?
Check out videos on what it’s like to be a professional photographer:
- how’s their lifestyle?
- how’s the pay?
- what do you need to do to get to the level you want to reach? are you willing to do that?
- what are the sacrifices involved? are they worth it?
Or join workshops where you can meet other photographers and see if you vibe with them or if you like the environment and the culture.
Approach all your interests with curiosity and keep an open mind so you can learn as much from this “hunt” as possible.
11. Cross out what you don’t want
For some reason, when you’re stuck, it’s easier to realize what you don’t want to do than what you want.
Create a list of all the things you don’t want to do.
Journal about why you don’t like your job, home, or relationships.
What’s left if you get rid of everything that isn’t meaningful to you?
Focus on that and see where it leads you.
12. Never stop setting goals for yourself
“But I don’t know what my life goals are!” I hear you say.
I’m not talking about “life goals,” which can be intimidating in the beginning if you’re not used to setting goals.
Instead, you can start off by setting small, short-term goals.
These goals can be things like:
- complete a course in one month
- sign up for a fun class a attend 2x a week for two months
- read a book about [insert any of your interests here]
Setting small goals like these will:
- keep you motivated and inspired
- teach you what’s the perfect goal-setting system for you
- apply what you learn to set more ambitious, long-term goals.
If you’re unsure which goals to set, this journaling workbook can help.
Goals will keep you inspired and give you something to look forward to, and that’s probably something you need right now.
13. Follow what pisses you off
What change would you like to see in the world?
Fulfillment is more than doing something you enjoy; it extends to those around you.
Living a fulfilled life means feeling you’re part of the change you want to see in the world.
Maybe you’ll find your answer not by asking yourself what you like to do but by spending your time fighting what you don’t.
Make a list of all the injustice, abuse, or suffering you want to help eradicate.
We all have causes that we care about, whether we realize it or not.
For you, it could be fighting:
- animal abuse
- human trafficking
- drug/alcohol abuse
- climate change
- water pollution
- child abuse
- domestic violence
- human rights violations.
Just to name a few causes you could want to take part in.
Volunteering or getting involved in a cause you care about could be the start of your self-discovery journey.
Give volunteering a try.
These types of experiences are great for:
- meeting new people you have things in common with,
- making a difference in the world and finding meaning in what you do,
- getting to know yourself better and what you genuinely care about.
14. Know that “passion” manifests differently in everybody
If you’re not even sure which passions to start exploring, check out this comprehensive guide on discovering your passions.
But there’s a thing about “passions,” though, and it’s that it looks and feels different for everybody.
Some people are very passionate about music, for example, who live and breathe music.
All day. Every day.
Or people who are so passionate about cooking or painting that there’s nothing else in the world they want to do than to be doing their thing 24/7.
Some people are so passionate about what they do that they’re willing to sacrifice things like financial stability, starting a family, or having a home (which are things many people deem important) to go after their passion.
However, don’t be fooled.
Those aren’t the only ways in which you can show passion for something.
You can be very passionate about something but still want to make time for yourself and your family.
Or you can be very passionate about many things at once.
We’re all different, and we’re allowed to show our feelings in many different ways.
Don’t sit and wait until you find a “passion” you’d give your life for because maybe that’s not how you work.
Stop thinking that making all types of sacrifices or being obsessed is the only way to be “passionate enough” about something.
15. Learn from people you admire
Whether it’s by reading autobiographies or watching documentaries, find ways to learn about the lives of people who’ve made a difference.
When learning about them, pay attention to things like:
- how did they find out what they wanted to do?
- how’s their attitude towards their goals?
- how much did they work to get where they are?
- what types of goals do they set for themselves?
You can also listen to interview podcasts like:
Or watch Ted Talks.
Many (if not most) of these people have gone through hardship and have faced challenges to get where they are.
Learning about how they think, solve problems, and stay on track can give you new ideas and keep you inspired.
And if you’re looking for ideas, here are some of my favorite autobiographies:
16. Read non-fiction books
Depending on what you want to change about your life, you can start reading books about:
- and any other topic you want to improve on.
Building your dream life is a process that never ends because we never stop evolving.
The information’s there for you, and books are an excellent way to learn.
You just have to incorporate reading into your routine.
Some of my favorite non-fiction books:
- Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike – a fascinating and hilarious book about the ups and downs of starting a successful business.
- Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear – all about inspiration and creativity. If you feel stuck in a creative rut, this may be the right book for you right now.
- The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment – feel like something’s missing even though your life’s great? Mindfulness might be the perfect starting point for you to start uncovering what’s hiding behind your dissatisfaction. I loved this book, and I even wrote a summary of the top lessons I learned from it.
- The High 5 Habit: Take Control of Your Life with One Simple Habit – the most important relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself. This book helps you improve it with one simple, proven habit that won’t take you more than two seconds a day.
- The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage – you’re one decision away from changing your whole life; you just have to make the choice, get up, and take action. In this book, Mel Robbins explains the science behind the five-second habit that’ll transform your life.
17. Read books about career development or career change
If you want to change careers, here are some books that’ll help you find your way and make the shift:
- Designing Your Life: Build a Life that Works for You, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
- Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers – And Seize Success, by Dawn Graham
- What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers, by Richard Nelson Bolles
18. Meet new people
Get out of your comfort zone and sign up for dance, art, public speaking, or any other class that gets your attention, and be social.
You don’t have to befriend everybody right away, but making contact with different people can inspire you and give you ideas about new things to do.
Keep an open mind when meeting them and show genuine interest in what they do.
Approach conversations with curiosity to learn how they:
- got where they are
- discovered what they wanted to do.
19. Get to know and understand yourself better
Instead of judging yourself, analyze why you like the things you like or why you want what you want.
Practice journaling every day and try to recognize patterns.
The most important relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself.
To get unstuck, you have to know yourself better.
20. Say “yes” more often
Have you ever watched Yes Man?
That fantastic movie starring Jim Carrey where Carl, the main character, to bring more excitement into his life, starts saying yes to absolutely everything?
Well, that’s the far-fetched version of what I’m asking you to do here.
If you’re the type of person who rarely says yes to invitations, I want you to start getting out of your comfort zone a little bit.
When someone invites you to do something, before saying no, think twice.
Ask yourself: what do I have to lose if I go just for a little while and see how I feel?
You could learn something new about yourself and what you want just by attending.
Let me tell you a little story…
I’ve always known I like making people laugh.
So, a long time ago, I signed up for a very popular (waiting lists are years long!) hospital clown workshop in my city.
Time passed by (like five years went by, no joke), and I forgot about it until I got an email from them telling me it was my turn and asking if I wanted to take it.
I said yes, but deep down, I didn’t feel like it.
It was a time when I didn’t feel like doing anything, let alone meeting new people and trying to be funny.
Little did I know that this workshop and volunteer work would save me from depression and introduce me to the love of my life, my husband.
I got to meet new people, and, more importantly, I learned a lot about myself.
Saying yes was a turning point in my life, and it can work like that for you as well.
Tapping into new opportunities will lead you down paths you never imagined.
21. Copy people you like
I know it sounds politically incorrect, but bear with me for a second…
Copying people is a great way to figure out what you want.
And by copying, I mean following the same steps they took to get where they are.
Yes, you’re a different person, and you’ll eventually find your own unique way to do the things you want to do.
But while you’re still trying to figure out what you want, get inspired by roads that have already been traveled.
For example, if you’re interested in gardening, ask someone who’s been at it for a while what was the first thing they did to start learning.
Then go and try that.
You’ll either like it or not, and that experience will teach you a lot about yourself and what to do next.
22. Enroll in an online course
Online learning isn’t for everyone, and it might not be exactly what you need or want right now.
But the truth is that online learning (especially affordable online courses) is an excellent way for you to find out:
- what you want to do next,
- what you like,
- and what you don’t.
Udemy and Skillshare have a vast catalog of affordable online courses that could spark your curiosity.
Make a list of all the things you might be interested in doing with your life, add different courses to your wishlist, and prioritize the ones that get your attention the most.
Then get one and start learning.
Two things can happen:
- you’ll either discover you aren’t that interested in that topic and move on to the next thing,
- you’ll stumble upon what you’re looking for.
23. Take responsibility
Don’t expect this to solve on its own.
You have to take matters into your own hands here and start figuring this out yourself.
Start focusing more on making progress than being perfect or finding THE thing at the first try.
5 Specific Questions That’ll Help You Know What to Do With Your Life
Use these five prompts to guide a couple of your journaling sessions and see where that leads you:
- What would I do if I were 100% sure I won’t fail?
- What would I be doing right now if money wasn’t an issue?
- In my opinion, what makes work satisfying and meaningful?
- Am I afraid of saying what I want out loud? Why?
- Do I believe it’s too late for me to start something new? Is that objectively true?
The Bottom Line
Congrats on finishing this long article!
Now close this page and take action on what you learned.
Chances are that while reading this article, you already thought about something you’d like to try.
And if you’re scared, do it anyway.
As you can see, there are many ways to dip your toes in the water before going all-in with something.
I know it’s scary to feel confused and spend years wondering how to do something with your life.
But remember, this is one of those things in life that you solve by taking action, not by thinking about it.
Feeling confused is a natural part of being human.
And finding out what you want to do with your life is a process that’s all about the journey, not the destination.
What you end up learning from exploring different paths will make your life richer than trying to get there as fast as possible.
Now go out and get busy.
Take that very first step today.