I Don't Know What to Do With My Life
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'I don't know what to do with my life' – Exactly how to figure it out

Figuring out what to do with your life can be the easiest thing for some people and the hardest thing for others. Some people find it incredibly easy to answer the age-old question of what to do in life, seemingly knowing from birth, while others struggle to know which way to go in life and are left sitting there saying to themselves, “I don’t know what to do with my life”.

It can be incredibly frustrating going through life not knowing what you want to do with it. You see other people who are extremely focused, knowing from the age of 12 that they want to be a doctor, a CEO or President of the USA.

Perhaps you’re at school and all your friends know exactly what they want to do at college or university and you have no idea.

Maybe you’re 35 and all your friends have their careers figured out and you are still bouncing from job to job that you hate, worried that you will never find a career you love.

Or maybe you’re 50, thinking you’re too old to do what you want, that it’s too late for you to go after your dreams or, more, that you don’t even know what it is you want to do!

It’s a very difficult position to be in, knowing that other people around you seem to have everything figured out while you go on still trying to figure out what to do in life, asking yourself, “what am I doing with my life?!”.

In fact, it’s worse than difficult. It can be really painful. And it can lead to feelings of regret and despair.

But I can tell you right now that there is a way through this. If you are willing to work for it, you will find something you want to do with your life, and you will be able to be happy going after that.

I don’t know what to do with my life: A personal history

On the surface, I have been very fortunate in that I have always known what I wanted to do with my life (well, since I was about 15).

I discovered acting when I was 15, after being in the musical Oklahoma! at the local girl’s secondary (high) school. I loved being on stage performing.

This lead to me acting in some films and TV shows, working in film and TV, and, eventually, discovering film directing.

So here I am knowing that that is what I want to do with my life: directing, writing, and acting in film and TV.

But I seriously struggled along the way. “Why?”, you ask. Well, ironically, even though I knew what I wanted to do, I struggled so much in actually going after that dream due to fear and anxiety, that I wasted so much time debating if I really wanted to do it, if I was doing the right thing, or if I should do something else.

I wasted time getting a Law degree, starting to qualify as a lawyer, working random odd jobs, and more.

I literally spent years knowing that I wanted to act and direct but I was paralysed by fear and self-doubt, and proceeded to barely go after my dreams with any gusto.

Fortunately, I can now say that I have made my way through that issue and now am decidedly focused on getting to where I want to with my career, but it was a seriously tough time getting there.

So if you ever feel like others are doing so well knowing what they want to do, trust me when I say that everyone struggles in their own ways, and you may not even see it!

Why do some people know what to do with their lives?

So why do some people find it so easy to know what they want to do, while others have absolutely no idea and panic thinking they will never figure out what to do with their lives?

Well, the answer is actually incredibly simple when you think about it – it’s because they had an experience that told them exactly what they want to do with their lives.

Think about it – usually when you ask someone what they want to do who can answer it precisely, they can tell you the reason why they want to do that.

Perhaps they give an answer to do with making people happy, helping people, being in charge, etc. These are all feelings and are useful. But where did these things come from?

Well, most usually they came from an external experience someone had. Think about it – if someone wants to help people and wants to be a doctor, it’s probably because they have experienced people in pain, either up-close (say with a family member or friend), or through a medium such as TV, seeing suffering in a documentary.

If someone wants to make tonnes of money, why is that? Well, it’s probably because they have had an experience of either poverty or wealth (or both). They have seen what it’s like to be poor or what it’s like to be rich, and decided they want the latter.

Or take someone who wants to be an actor. They have likely been on stage, or on some other platform, where they have had to perform and entertain people. They liked the experience and the feedback and decided they want to be an actor. Or maybe they watched a movie or TV show and thought it looked fun, or realised they can have an emotional impact on people, and realised they want to be an actor.

Fundamentally, it comes down to the experiences people have. Someone has an experience, and it points them in a direction they want to go.

Likewise, you can have experiences that point you away from something you definitely DON’T want to do!

Get experiences

So it is clear that the way to figure out what to do with your life is to get experiences. When you go out in the world and get experiences, you get answers as to what you enjoy doing and what you don’t, both of which are incredibly valuable.

But what experiences should you focus on? It would be basically impossible to try everything in life.

So let’s get some ideas down first before going and trying stuff so we don’t waste time.

Figure out which experiences to get

There are a few steps you can take to figure out what experiences you want to get. Let’s have a look at these now.

What does your gut say?

Is there anything that your gut tells you that you might enjoy or that you might want to get experience in?

I am a big believer in gut feelings – I think they are your body’s way of distilling everything you think down in to an answer that you probably already know.

If your gut is telling you to try something, don’t ignore it or overthink things. This is your body pointing you in a direction you should try out.

Is there anything you like to do in your spare time?

Is there anything you like doing in your spare time or that you have previously liked doing?

It’s incredibly important to do something in life that you enjoy. After all, you spend most of the time in your life doing it. Why would you want to spend all that time doing something you don’t like?

So is there anything you enjoy doing that you might like to explore more? Is there something someone wouldn’t even have to pay you to do that you like doing anyway?

If so, consider exploring areas in or around that.

What are you good at?

Although I don’t necessarily think you should do something just because you’re good at it, being good at something could point towards something you enjoy.

It might be you are good at it because you’ve focused on it and you’ve focused on it because you enjoy it.

Note, again, this comes down to enjoyment. If you’re good at something but don’t enjoy it, then that’s probably not the path for you.

I was good at Law… So I want to do it as a job? Heck no!

Is there anything you WANT to be good at?

Like above, is there anything that you are interested in that you really want to be good at?

This is an excellent pointer towards something you might like to do. After all, if you want to get good at something and put that time in, that is a really good sign you might like it enough to work in that area.

Is there anything you definitely DON’T like?

Now this seems an obvious question to ask when trying to figure out what to do with your life.

Is there anything at all you definitely DON’T like? If so, avoid it like the plague! There is no point going after something you don’t like doing.

That old advice of focusing on what you’re bad at or what you dislike so you get better at it is, usually, wrong.

When you’re asking yourself what to do in life, make your list shorter by discounting these things!

Life is short. Discount areas you know you don’t enjoy or actively dislike.

Do you like working with people or alone?

Although it won’t point you to specifics, this can be helpful so you know what to even consider or so that you can go in to something with your eyes open.

If you know you need to be around people and love working with others, you might find it hard to work in isolation from home as a freelance copywriter, for example.

This is not to say you CAN’T work somewhere that is not your usual environment, but just to say you might find it more difficult and might need a plan to effectively deal with it. For example, if you really want to be a writer but don’t like working alone, you can still write and do the work from home thing, but you may need to come up with plans that help you be around people frequently.

The process of getting experience

Once you have thought of a few areas you want to get experience in, you need to actually get experience in those areas!

This experience is going to be crucial in helping you to figure out what to do with your life.

Talk to people

One thing to do before you spend time on an experience somewhere is to talk to people who work in that area, or who do the very thing you’re thinking about trying.

The reason for doing this is so that you can find out if the area you are thinking about works like you think it does. You may have a preconceived idea of what it’s like working in a certain job, but it turns out it’s actually completely different.

Or maybe there were things about the job you never considered, which you really don’t like and don’t gel with your personality at all.

This is why it’s so crucial to talk to people in that area. Ask what they do, ask what the job is like, ask what they like and dislike. Use this as a kind of mentorship.

And don’t just talk to one or two people – get a few different people’s experiences so that you can start to see common threads or know if one person’s experience is completely different from another.

This can save you literally years of wasting time doing something that turns out not to be what you expected.

Further, the people you talk to may be able to help you actually get experience in that field by pointing you to opportunities or openings.

Get experience

The simple part, really! Go out there and get experience!

It doesn’t have to be full-time, it doesn’t have to be paid – it just has to be experience.

In fact, there’s an argument that getting this experience in your spare time at the weekends is a great way to approach this, as it’s low-risk.

Can you volunteer somewhere? Do people doing a project in that field need help from local people?

Can you reach out to a company or particular person and ask to shadow them?

Can you go out on your own and do this thing by yourself?

Whatever it is, whatever route you choose, just go out and get experience.

Then do that experience long enough until you have an idea of whether you want to continue, explore it more, or not work in that area.

And you don’t need to stay longer than necessary. If you have an experience and it gives you answers that tell you to go do something else, don’t just stay in that experience because you’re there. That would be a waste of time.

Change it up

Similar to the last point – if you have got what you can out of an experience, or if you know it isn’t right for you, or if it’s pointed you in a certain direction, then great – move on – change things up.

It’s important to get these experiences (and really as many as you can).

You may want to get another experience in the same field so you have a broader view of what it’s actually like.

You may now realise you really dislike that kind of work and want to do something else.

All these things are great as they give you information you can work with.

The point is not to become stagnant, but to keep moving forwards trying new things until you are full of information and being pointed towards something that you love doing.

Get out of your comfort zone

One key thing with all this is that you need to step out of your comfort zone. If you only do things that you know or that you feel comfortable with, then you may be missing out on opportunities that could really serve you.

There is an opportunity for growth in getting out of your comfort zone. You will also get tonnes more information when you are doing something you are not used to doing or are in an environment you are not used to. This is all useful stuff.

When we stay in our comfort zone, we miss out on opportunities in life and we don’t grow.

Think about this – you probably do the most growing from when you’re a baby to somewhere around later teenage years. That’s because everything is new to you. You’re out of your comfort zone and learning all the time. But as people get older, they tend to do that which they know, and that keeps them in their tiny bubble of not growing.

Don’t be like that. Get out there, get out of your comfort zone, get new experiences, and learn and grow a whole not more.

Maybe you’ll find something to do with your life that you never knew existed or that you never believed you could do.

Be okay with things going wrong

If you do an experience and it doesn’t turn out as you expected, that’s okay! If it turns out you are terrible at it and don’t want to do it anymore, that’s okay!

This is all information you can use. Don’t shy away from it or let it bring you down or stop you from continuing on your quest to figure out what to do with your life.

Just pick yourself up and move on. You will be okay! And, always remember – when nothing goes right, go left! In other words, if something doesn’t work out for you, use it to your advantage. Ask yourself if there is something else you can get out of it, something you can learn, etc.

Keep going!

Finally, don’t forget to keep going! This is going to be a process. You’re probably going to get tired and fed up, but this is all part of the journey of working you what to do with your life.

Sometimes when we just want to stop, the biggest moments of growth can be found in us carrying on. So when you want to stop, just do one more thing. Eventually, those multiple “one more things” will get you to where you want to be.

“But seriously, IDK what to do with my life!”

If you have read this post and are still panicking that you don’t know what to do with your life… stop panicking. It’s okay! It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do with your life.

Many people go through their whole lives never figuring out what they want to do with their lives. It’s actually perfectly normal.

But, assuming you want to figure this out rather than go through your whole life thinking, “IDK what to do with my life”, just start taking the steps outlined above. I know you might not want to, I know you might be confused. But just try some things. That’s all.

And, remember: none of these things are a life-long committment! If you fear trying new things or committing to things, know that you can stop them at any time.

So stop dwelling on the idea that you don’t know what to do with your life and get out there and try things! Trust me! It works!

How to know what to do with your life

The process of figuring out what to do with your life is very simple. It comes down to getting experiences. Take the following steps to figure out what those experiences should be, get on the course to figuring out what to do with your life, and be free from the thoughts of “I don’t know what to do with my life”!

  1. What does your gut say?

    Your gut can be a powerful tool to point you in the right direction.

  2. Is there anything you like to do in your spare time?

    Often times, the things you like to do in your spare time give you valuable information about what you should do with your life.

  3. What are you good at?

    Perhaps you are good at it because you like it and want to spend time doing it.

  4. Is there anything you WANT to be good at?

    If there’s something you KNOW you want to be good at, maybe that thing is what you should be focusing on, and maybe that is what you should be doing with your life.

  5. Is there anything you definitely DON’T like?

    Don’t waste time doing things you don’t like! If you know you don’t like something, steer clear of it!

  6. Do you like working with people or alone?

    Although not the be-all-and-end-all, it could help you to know what to discount or at least what to go in to with open eyes about the work environment.

  7. Talk to people who do what you are thinking of

    Talking to people who actually do the job you are thinking about can save you years of wasted time. They have been there, so get their advice!

  8. Get experience

    At some point, you actually have to get experience. Only then will you know if it’s for you and will you be able to take away valuable lessons.

  9. Change it up

    Keep trying new things! Whether things are going right or wrong, there is value in trying out new experiences to learn other lessons about what you may or may not want to do.

  10. Get out of your comfort zone

    Don’t just stick to what you know! You may find something exciting out of your comfort zone that you never considered before.

  11. Be okay with things going wrong

    Don’t be disheartened if you have a bad experience. Just chalk it up to a lesson you can use, and carry on with your quest of finding out what to do in life.

  12. Keep going!

    This is going to be a journey! It’s going to take time! When things get hard, just keep going. Just do one more thing. Soon, you will have your answer of what to do with your life.

I don’t know what to do with my life – Conclusion

Add you can see, working out what to do with your life can take quite a bit of work, time, and dedication.

But don’t be put off by this seemingly daunting task. Just work through it step-by-step and you’ll start to get answers.

And won’t that be a much better position to be in?! Rather than constantly thinking to yourself, “I don’t know what to do with my life” every night on repeat, you’ll have answers – or, at the very least, a bunch of information that will point to potential answers – that will help move you towards figuring out what you want to do with your life.

So don’t just read this post and not follow-through. Take the action steps provided and start the process of finding out what you want to do with your life.

Because, once you work out what you want to do in life, you can really start living it.

Further Reading

If you are thinking about following your dreams, check out this post on whether you should follow your dreams and this one on if it’s ever too late to follow your dreams.

If not knowing what you want to do with your life makes you feel like a failure, check out this post on what to do when you feel like a failure.

Perhaps you are currently in a job you hate and want to figure out what to do. If so, that post is for you.

And if you just want to feel successful, check out these top signs that you will be successful in life.

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Disclaimer: Nothing on this website should be taken as medical or other professional advice. You should always seek the advice of a professional, qualified person.  

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