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9 Reasons Why You Feel Lost in Life (And What to Do About It)

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why we feel lostIn this post, you’ll learn nine possible reasons why we feel lost in life and what to do about it.

I know how it feels like to feel lost in life. To be honest, I think everybody feels that sooner or later.

In my humble opinion, I don’t think it’s possible to avoid it altogether. But I do believe we can learn how to get out of it sooner than we usually do.

I spent four full years of my life feeling lost, and I had no idea why, so let me tell you the story (real quick, I promise) of how my life went from success to mess in a single second a few years ago.

It all started when I was preparing to study for a Masters’s Degree in Germany. I was in Berlin at the moment, and the second I step foot in that city, I realized I didn’t want to spend years living there.

I decided I didn’t want to do it (the Master’s Degree thing) and then suddenly realized that if I didn’t enroll in this program, I had no idea what to do next.

Is this isn’t it, then what is it? If I’m not studying, then what am I supposed to do besides working???

At that exact moment, I felt like an alien on a foreign planet.

Nothing made sense anymore.

It’s a feeling that lasted for a fraction of a second but that I’ll never forget.

That instant marked the beginning of my drifting years.

But, as weird as it may sound, I didn’t become fully aware of the fact that I didn’t know what I was doing with my life. I simply started going to parties and getting drunk almost every day, then came back home and kept working as a freelancer in projects that were far from exciting.

Then I finally decided I’d had enough.

I started watching personal development videos, reading books, and keeping a journal. Looking back, I understand why this happened, and I want to share with you what I’ve learned so far.

9 reasons why we feel lost in life

1. You haven’t taken the time to get to know yourself

Knowing yourself isn’t something that comes implied the moment you’re born. It takes time and conscious effort to know who you are, your values, and what you want.

If you haven’t made that effort, chances are you have no idea what you want.

What to do about it

  • Start by being honest about what you really think and feel.

If you don’t feel comfortable enough to share that much with someone, the best thing you can do is write it down.

No matter if nobody will listen and respond, writing down your honest thoughts and feelings will take you a step further in life. Write what you really think about your life, your family, your friends, your colleagues.

  • Pay attention to how you respond to events and people.

Try to understand why you respond the way you do. This may take years to master, so don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time. While you’re at it, always remember this word: Honesty.

Don’t make up lame excuses. Be honest.

2. You lack self-awareness

If you feel lost, chances are you’re too distracted to see what’s right inside of you.

You can’t identify what’s going on or why you feel the way you do because you’re too distracted by the outside world.

Some people who feel terrible and lack self-awareness love to keep themselves busy working, studying, hanging out with others, watching TV.

The noise on the outside somehow keeps “under control” what’s happening on the inside. Years of therapy taught me that lesson.

What to do about it

  • Keep a journal, keep a journal, keep a journal. Did I already say you should keep a journal?

If you have no idea what I’m talking about or what I mean by “keeping a journal,” read this.

The process of writing down your thoughts gets them out of your head and allows you to see them in a clear and organized way.

Our brains are powerful machines, but sometimes they need a little help to process things.

  • Practice being mindful and paying attention to every sound, smell, color around you. Doing so will improve your focus, emotional intelligence, and even your creativity.

For more information about mindfulness, check out this post: What is Mindfulness – Mindfulness Education in NYC, Long Island, Silicon Valley, CA.

3. You live according to other people’s definitions

Whether conscious of it or not, every person on Earth has her own definition of things like success, happiness, love, what’s right, what’s wrong, etc.

If you don’t know yourself, you’re likely to adopt whatever definition of things is shared with you. Or whatever definition is imposed upon you.

For instance, if your parents tell you being successful means having a family and making a lot of money, you’ll work towards that definition of success.

If you go on social media, see that every person that owns a home by the beach is over-the-moon happy, and you have no idea what you want, you’ll convince yourself that once you have a house like that, you’ll finally feel happy.

It happens to the best of us, and it’s ok. It’s normal.

However, being mindful of this is the first step towards having our own definition of important concepts in life.

What to do about it

Think about these concepts and what they mean TO YOU:

  • success,
  • family,
  • love,
  • happiness,
  • pleasure.

Write down your thoughts.

Can you identify if one of your definitions is just you repeating what someone else told you you should think?

4. You’ve fallen into the consistency trap

This is a concept I learned from Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.

Humans tend to cherish consistent people, people who say/do something and never change.

These kinds of people are often seen as stable, rational, true, logical, reliable.

And for a good reason.

Being consistent can often help us make quick, good choices without having to give it that much thought, which, in turn, makes us highly efficient. It’s a valuable feature of our highly-developed brain.

On the other hand, when people change their minds, they risk being seen as inconsistent, unreliable, corrupted, liar, illogical, unpredictable. In reality, being able to change your mind every step of the way thanks to new things you learn is a skill we all should value.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson puts it in his essay titled Self-Reliance: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

What happens with this “trap” is that, if you went to law school, for example, now you should be a lawyer. There’s no option for you to leave the profession without high levels of strain because working as a lawyer, no matter how miserable it may make you, is consistent with what you went to college for.

It happened to me.

I’m a translator, and two years ago, I suddenly decided I wanted to sell handmade journals on Etsy. I guess I needed a creative outlet.

Even though nobody made negative remarks about it, I felt I was somehow betraying my career. I did it anyway. I opened that Etsy store and sold a couple of journals, but not without dealing with a deep feeling of embarrassment.

This need for consistency plays a lot of nasty tricks on our minds. It’s one of the reasons why it feels so hard to refuse to buy something once you’ve told a salesman you were going to buy it.

What to do about it

  • I’m not the expert in this matter, so I’m going to refer you to the master Robert Cialdini.

Read Influence. You won’t regret it. It’s a fascinating book. Yes, it focuses a lot on marketing, but all of those principles can be applied to life itself.

5. You don’t know what’s possible

When you know there are people out there making a living out of sending tweets (don’t get me wrong, I know it’s a craft), you start to understand we live in a fascinating era where technically everything’s possible.

Knowing what’s possible opens your mind to endless opportunities.

The best way to open that mind of yours? Embrace the power of stories: read memoirs, watch movies and documentaries, let people talk about themselves often (people love doing that, so it shouldn’t be hard to get them to tell you their stories).

Open your eyes, pay attention. Notice what people do for a living, how they make their money, how they overcome challenges, what they’ve learned from it all.

What to do about it

  • Read books and good articles.
  • Watch movies and documentaries.
  • Read stories on Medium.
  • Follow interesting people on Twitter.
  • Listen to people talk about themselves.

6. You’re a people pleaser

I’ve talked about Not Nice in this blog a couple of times already.

It’s a book for people-pleasers who care more about what others think of them than about their own needs.

If you’re a people pleaser and don’t know how to say NO, life can take you in directions you don’t want to be in.

What to do about it

  • Start by reading Not Nice.
  • The author shares amazing tricks on how to stop caring so much about what others say, do, or may think.

7. You lack love

This is a tricky one, but did you know that feeling love (and loved) is key to your mental health?

According to a study by the University of Michigan, your relationships’ quality influences the likelihood of developing depression.

Not only that, according to this other study by the University of Bern, romantic relationships and self-esteem are deeply connected.

In turn, self-esteem is crucially important in the process of doing what you want to do because only if you believe you’re capable of doing that thing you want will you have the courage to take the leap.

Self-love is absolutely important as well.

When you love yourself, you know you deserve better than being miserable doing things you don’t enjoy. When you love yourself, you inevitably trust yourself. And, when you have a healthy amount of self-love, you know how to stand up for yourself.

If you don’t have caring people who love you, you probably don’t have a support system. You don’t feel confident to share how you feel, be honest, and open about what you’re going through, and if you don’t have that, sometimes it’s just easier to keep living as you’ve always had.

Another kind of love you need is love for what you do. That doesn’t mean every workday has to be absolutely perfect.

What to do about it

I wish I could give you an easy step-by-step guide on how to get people to love you. I can’t. It’s not that easy. Because unlike the rest of the reasons listed here, this one requires other people outside yourself to do something. You don’t have complete control of this one.

However, a. this is just one reason out of XX why we feel lost and b. self-love also plays a role and not a minor one.

  • To increase your self-love, you have to start by increasing your self-awareness and devoting time to self-discovery.

8. You don’t know how to set priorities and smart goals

Because you don’t know what matters to you the most, it’s hard for you to set priorities, let alone goals. This can lead you to live an aimless life that lacks purpose.

The worst part? It can last for years! People can spend years living life as it is, without setting meaningful goals.

Once you realize what you’ve been doing, you see you’ve been operating by inertia, and you haven’t done anything “important” in a long time. That sucks.

What to do about it

  • It’s not late to start learning how to set goals, but first, you need to know yourself better. We’ve talked about it.

9. You stopped learning new things a long time ago

When you read, listen to interesting podcasts, watch educational videos, or enroll in courses, the chances of not learning something valuable that inspires you to change your life are meager.

On the other hand, if you spend years stuck on a boring routine that doesn’t help you learn and think for yourself, you stick to what you know.

Being in contact with things that spark your curiosity will inevitably take you in interesting directions.

What to do about it

Is it normal to feel lost?

I didn’t want to end this post without telling you something you must know:

Don’t be fooled. Most adults look like they have it all figured out when, in reality, they have no idea what they’re doing with their lives.

It’s normal to feel lost every once in a while because changes happen all the time, both inside and outside ourselves.

I dare to say feeling lost is necessary because it tells you there’s something you have to change.

However, I believe we all must learn how to get unstuck quickly and easily to enjoy our lives.

You can start doing many things today to help you know who you are, what you want, and create a solid plan to get there.

Check out the following posts:

Conclusion

Feeling lost is nerve-racking, I know. But don’t worry, not everything’s lost; there are both radical and subtle ways to make changes if you feel desperately lost in life.

Try the action steps I recommend above, and you’ll feel more certain about what you want and why. You’ll also start believing in yourself more.

And remember:

Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it… it’s just easier if you do.” — Byron Katie

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