I don’t know what I want to do with my life.
There, I said it. Even though I feel like it’s a crime these days. The internet is full of ‘inspirational’ quotes which are shared everywhere under the guise of #motivation – you know the sort, a picture of Steve Jobs with an overlaid quote saying something like “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. Everywhere I look, someone else is starting up a business, writing a book, volunteering in Africa, changing the world. Living their #bestlife.
They may be well-intentioned, but with no idea how to help or change the world, or even how to improve myself, I just found these affirmations and excited statements of achievement daunting. I started to believe that everyone had found their own personal mission – everyone but me.
I give this topic a lot of thought. At 29 I have just quit another job. Six years into my professional life and I’m still plagued by this doubt that I could ever be good at anything. On the plus side – I have now successfully crossed another one off the list of things I definitely don’t want to do in life. And I’m strangely hopeful. The more I talk to friends and family about this, the more I realise I’m not the only one. There are a few skills that I’ve picked up which help me deal with this feeling that I don’t know what I’m doing in life. They’re easier said than done (aren’t most things) but when I follow them I feel like I’m getting closer to where I need to be. I hope that you’ll find them useful too.
First of all, do whatever it takes to block out the noise. You know, the social media presence which somehow intertwined with your inner dialogue and now says to you almost constantly that if you’re not living every day as if it were your last, then you’re wasting your life. Anything that makes you feel that way needs to go, even if just for while you’re getting onto the right track. If you’re not the kind of person who’s motivated into action by seeing other people doing ‘cool stuff’ (I’m not!) then filling your social media feeds with people achieving all their goals and doing so much cool stuff is not going to get you anywhere except exasperated about all the time you’re spending on Instagram and Pinterest.
Which leads me to the next one. What I’ve learnt so far is that when we’re feeling a little lost and confused we tend to seek out the quick comforts which in the end can make us feel even worse. Scrolling through your social media for ‘inspiration’ may seem productive but usually ends in hours spent staring at the screen and little accomplished. Comparing yourself to others is a losing game – there is always going to be someone out there who is better at things than you. Accept it and move on. The same can be said for trying desperately to emulate someone else.
Try not to worry – instead of feeling overwhelmed at all the amazing things that you could be doing, pick one and figure out an action plan of how to get started. Love the idea of making your own clothes? Start by finding a local sewing class. Going to a few lessons and finding other people who share a similar passion is more likely to spark conversations about where to find interesting patterns and motivation to do more towards this new goal.
Don’t have any ideas? Stuck in a job which makes you miserable? My biggest piece of advice would be to just take up a hobby. Leaving the house and joining a sports team or attending events when you’re depressed and drained in energy from spending all your time doing a job you hate is so hard (trust me, I know) but so worth it. I can’t tell you what a difference it can make. How much it made to me. It made me feel like there was life outside of the job I hated, like I was getting somewhere. It may not lead to your dream job straight away but even just having something to look forward to, or something that you’re getting good at – a ray of light shining through the clouds of self-doubt – could be the motivation or the ego-boost you need to help you on your journey. We don’t all have hobbies which can turn into high paid jobs and dream careers but by pursuing our interests we can meet interesting, like-minded people and learn new skills which in themselves can provide happiness.
The second part to this is that you may have to try a few different things until you find the ones that you really like. I was so used to going with the flow and doing what everyone else wanted that I wasn’t sure what I actually liked. I tried acro-yoga, running, Oz Tag, life drawing, a book club, learning to drive, hiking, sewing, painting, camping, stand up paddle boarding, volunteering, writing (there are clubs for this too!) I started to realise which ones suited me – they weren’t necessarily the ones I was good at straight away (change is hard) but they were the ones I couldn’t stop thinking about and couldn’t wait to get back to.
Finally – not everyone has to be the next Instagram sensation or rags to riches story. Some people work hard their whole lives and are incredibly happy, without ever having come close to being rich or famous. We are all different and we all have different aspirations and motivations. The more you can focus on finding out what makes you happy and then working towards it, the better.