If you have no idea what you want to do in 10 years and are feeling lost, stuck, or overwhelmed, this article is for you. We discuss 10 actions you can take to find your purpose in life, to choose your direction for your life, and to design and build a meaningful life of fulfillment, happiness, and success. Finding purpose is simple, but it takes time. You can find your purpose and meaning in life with this ultimate guide to finding joy, success, and fulfillment.
It’s the end of a decade as I write this post, and there is an undeniable energy in the air. 2020 is just around the corner and we feel like this is THE YEAR that we all let go of our fears, pursue our biggest dreams, and live fulfilling lives.
For people who have a clear sense of their purpose and where they want to be in 10 years, the start of a New Year is exciting. It’s a chance to set goals effectively and create a road map to success. It’s a fresh slate exploding with potential.
But for people who have no idea what they want to do ‘when they grow up’, it can be entirely overwhelming to have the end of the year approaching so fast. Especially with so much pressure on social media to ‘hurry up and set your goals for 2020 ‘cause you have less than 2 weeks before the start of a new decade!!!’ The FOMO is real.
I’ve often set New Year’s Resolutions on December 31st, in a panic, because I felt like I should be shooting for SOMETHING even if I didn’t know what, how, or why. Can you guess how effective that was in helping me grow? Zero percent.
If you are panicking about the fact that you have no idea what you’re doing with your life but you’re not happy right now, then don’t worry, I’ve got some advice for you.
This post is for every lost soul who is wondering what the point of the day to day grind is, and how they can get that epiphany (that everyone else seems to have already had) that will spell out their life’s purpose for them.
This is for anyone who gets home at the end of the day and wonders ‘is this all there is to life?’
This is for the old me, who was so caught up in having a master plan for her entire life’s course, that she forgot to breathe sometimes and live her life.
This article will outline the 10 things you can do if you don’t know your purpose, are struggling with finding your direction, and just want to feel happy and fulfilled.
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Take the pressure off to find your purpose
It is OKAY to not know what you want to do. It is perfectly fine to have no idea what your dream job is. There is nothing wrong with not having a life plan at this point!
No, you shouldn’t be ‘further along’ by now. No, what you see on Instagram is NOT real and it is NOT easy to decide, land, and live your dream life in the span of a week.
There is no fast track to success or happiness or fulfillment.
Please give yourself grace and remind your inner critic that it takes time to build a life you love. If you’re not there yet, that is okay.
You will get there.
But take the pressure off yourself to be there right this moment.
Realize that you can’t FIND your purpose
So often we buy into the notion that there is one specific purpose for our lives, and if we don’t know it yet we will never amount to anything. That’s just not true!
Life is a continual process of arrival to who we areMARIA POPOVA
The fact of the matter is that we don’t “find” our purpose or meaning in life. We create it. And the way we create it is by trying new things and failing at them. It’s by doing things that scare us or that we thought we would never do. It’s by leaving doors open for opportunities and following what feels good to us.
It is impossible to follow your dreams without self knowledge, which takes years. You discover your ‘dream’ (or sense of purpose) in the very act of walking the path, which is guided by equal parts choice and chanceMARIA POPOVA
If you’re waiting for an epiphany or some sort of revelation to dawn on you, you’ll be waiting a really long time.
Related post: Building A Meaningful Life
Understand that success is yours to define
The fastest track to misery and regret is doing what we think we’re expected to do with little to no self awareness of whether or not it gives us energy.
If your entire life you’ve heard that success means being a rich lawyer and you think that’s your path to fulfillment, you’ll have a rude awakening one day if you haven’t taken the time to self reflect on whether it aligns with who you are.
This is how I ended up running multimillion dollar projects for a giant corporation, having achieved “success” financially, but being completely miserable emotionally. You can read more about my story here.
But the moral is that it’s up to you to decide what YOUR definition of success looks like.
- Success can be going to bed at 8pm so that you can wake up early and exercise.
- Success can be spending most evenings on your couch reading your favorite books.
- Success can be starting a dog walking side hustle because furry creatures bring you joy.
- Success can be starting over, quitting your job, leaving a relationship, moving to a new town.
As you embark on your personal growth journey and seek happiness and fulfillment, remember that success is yours to define.
Give yourself room to breathe
If I could give my 18 year old self some advice, most of it would center around this: chill out. Stop overthinking everything. There is NOTHING to be anxious about. You do not need to find your purpose for your entire life right this moment.
You will end up where you’re meant to go if you would just stop spinning in circles for a minute.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the fact that you don’t know what you want to do or where you want to be, the most important thing for you to do right now is to take a step back.
Relax. Put away your to do list. Get out of your own head. Go for a long hike. Do purposeless activities. Live lightheartedly in the moment and forget about the future. Spend some quality time with the people you love just being present. Fill your cup back up.
Sometimes, we just need to make space for our hearts to speak to us.
Does that sound as cheesy and intangible as it gets? Yes. But there is truth in that statement that I couldn’t even understand until I experienced it time and time again.
In the past, I had been so overwhelmed and anxious about my future that I had completely tuned out my inner voice. I wouldn’t have recognized my life’s purpose if it appeared right in front of me.
I was too busy researching, comparing, analyzing, thinking, worrying, planning, starting over, banging my head against the wall, crying, talking myself in circles in my own head, and all sorts of other things that made me feel like I was TRYING my dang hardest to figure it out, but in reality were of no help.
Most of the time if we would just stop trying so hard and get out of our own way we will find what we are looking for.
I took a break from setting goals this time last year because I was so overwhelmed by what I should do in 2019 and how it tied into my overall (completely undefined) vision for my life. I took a mini sabbatical from all personal growth activities for 3 weeks and just enjoyed the present moment, and do you know what happened after? 2020 was THE HAPPIEST year of my entire life.
When I relaxed, I found the clarity I needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Since that mini sabbatical, I’ve continued learning & growing, but at a pace that enables balance. I’ve developed a habit of going for an hour long walk in the woods every single day at lunch, and it has been essential in keeping creating room for me to breathe and maintaining that balance on a daily basis.
Related post: 17 Ways To Change Your Life
It wipes away any and all stresses from the morning and gives me so much clarity into where I should focus that my happiness and fulfillment becomes inevitable.
Ask the tough questions
One of my favorite questions of all time is “what would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”
I ask it of every single one of my coaching clients when we first start working together. It helps them find their purpose and shines light on the key drivers in their life.
I remember hitting a mental block on this matter when I was working in corporate management. I would journal in the evenings, trying to figure out what would make me happier in life, and I would get nowhere. I would sit down, have zero thoughts, and distract myself with food, social media, or productive tasks like cleaning.
Not only was I avoiding answering the tough question, I was avoiding thinking about it altogether because I knew whatever came up would be different, and challenging, and a lot of freaking work.
It’s like I had constructed this mental cage for myself: my life fit inside this perfect little box and as soon as anything tried to bend, break, or shift the box around, my subconscious resisted with everything it had.
Once we’ve created room to breathe, there is space for us to consider different paths.
There are a few questions we can reflect on that give our consciousness the opportunity to shed light on what would fill our hearts and bring us joy.
I suggest you start with these:
- What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?
- If you had all the money in the world, how would you spend your time?
- When things are going really well in your life, what does that look like?
I’ve got 10 questions to find your purpose explained in this post, which helped me gain clarity into my dreams when I was feeling lost and directionless, so go see if they resonate with you!
But, I’ll warn you, none of these questions are easy to answer, especially if you’re holding onto preconceived (and often limiting) beliefs of what is and isn’t possible for you.
You need to put EVERYTHING on the table when you’re answering these questions.
What got you here, won’t get you thereMarshall Goldsmith
Nothing is off limits. No idea is too crazy. No thought is impossible.
Don’t worry about how you would achieve those things or whether it’s feasible. All you’re trying to do is shed light onto the natural desires that tug at your heart.
When you have insight into the things that light you up inside, you have everything you need to pursue your dream full throttle and achieve it. Everything.
Seek outside opinion
If you’re not going to read this entire section, then disregard this whole point and move on, because I don’t want you to get the wrong message out of context.
THIS IS NOT ABOUT ASKING FOR PERMISSION.
This is not about having your dream validated. This is not about seeing if your mom or Aunt Sally or your best friend from 10th grade think your dream is realistic. This is only about YOU.
The reality is we are often blind to our own awesomeness.
Your natural talents and the things that you excel in come so easily to you that you don’t even realize they are anything special!
I remember the day I discovered that not everybody can stand up in front of a room full of high powered business executives and lead a 2 day strategy session that helped them create a road map to explode their businesses.
If this is not your strong suit, you might read that and think OF COURSE NOT. But to me,
- Standing up in front of a room and speaking felt natural.
- Helping people find clarity and determine their direction felt natural.
- Asking good questions and calling people out on their excuses felt natural.
- Organizing and planning a 2 day event felt natural.
- Everything about it felt natural.
So when I did the exercise I’m about to describe to you and realized that ‘facilitating a large group of people toward a common outcome’, ‘helping people zone in on what’s important and filter out the rest’, and ‘captivating an audience’ were things that I could do exceptionally well, I was confused.
Isn’t everybody good at that? No, no they are not.
This exercise helped me appreciate the value I bring to the world and build a life around my strengths
Find 5-10 people that know you in different areas of your life and have spent a lot of time with you, have worked closely with you, supervised you, etc. and ask them “What is my unique ability? What is my superpower? What is the thing that people count on me for? What am I very good at that I could do all day long? What gives me energy?”
When you ask enough people, you will be surprised to notice that they will all say virtually the same thing, even if they don’t know each other.
It’s because YOU ARE YOU, and you bring your unique ability to everything you do. You just don’t realize it.
So, if you’re struggling to find a direction for your life and you have no idea what to do for work, for fulfillment, for success… you need to understand your superpower. Seek feedback from the people who’ve interacted with you most… you may be surprised by what you learn about yourself.
Find opportunities to practice your purpose
Remember, your purpose isn’t going to find you, you are going to create it through action.
The quickest way to understand what direction you want to take your life in is to find opportunities to use your superpowers and see how they feel.
Get creative in matching your superpowers with an income or impact opportunity. Experiment with different hobbies, internships, and volunteer opportunities. Reach out to people you know really well and people you barely know – let them know what you’re looking to do and see if they can open any doors for you. Do unpaid gigs. Shadow someone who is doing what you think you might want to be doing. Try new things.
Look for ways to practice your superpowers in different environments to find what brings you the most joy.
You could be phenomenal at planning details. You could use that superpower to plan extravagant parties for high profile celebrities. Or you could use that superpower to help small business owners create detailed marketing plans to grow their business. Or you could use it to grant dying wishes for the Children’s Wish Foundation.
You can take one skill in so many directions. Your task is to determine which of those is most appealing to you. If you don’t know where to start, work with a coach.
Our most fulfilling careers play on several superpowers and strengths of ours, so find opportunities that fill multiple needs for you.
Get a good understanding of your values, as your direction should align with your most authentic self if you wish to feel fulfilled.
But the bottom line is, there is no limit to the ways in which you can use your unique abilities to make an income and impact the world.
Find ways to experience it in different situations and you will get a good feeling of what fires you up and what makes you want to pull your hair out.
Remember that your purpose doesn’t have to be tied to a job
Whether or not your life has meaning does not depend on whether or not your job is meaningful to you.
This hit me like a ton of bricks when I first read about it in a Brene Brown book. I had been so used to tying my value as a person with the value I contributed to the world through my job. I had yet to understand that I was worthy enough just the way I was, and that what I did for work had nothing to do with what I was worth.
If you have a ‘meaningless’ job that pays your bills you can find fulfillment in other areas of your life.
You can have an average day job and still be happy by infusing your relationships, your down time, and your thoughts with joy.
You do not have to achieve your purpose through your job.
Using our gifts and talents to create meaningful work takes a tremendous amount of commitment, because in many cases the meaningful work is not what pays the bills … some folks have managed to align everything – they use their gifts and talents to do work that feeds their souls and their families; however, most people piece it together.BRENE BROWN
It is a wonderful blessing to find work that fulfills you and pays your bills. I am so grateful to have created this for myself and I get fired up about helping other people create this for themselves as well. However,
There are a lot of ways to pay your bills and live a meaningful life.
You can work temp jobs half the year so that you save enough money to travel across South East Asia the other half of the year. If travel is what brings your life meaning, your job does not subtract from that.
Give yourself the grace, the time, and the opportunity to find the right balance that works for you.
Remember that everything is a learning opportunity
My God the hours I’ve wasted planning, overanalyzing, and procrastinating just to avoid failure.
Ohhhh the opportunities I passed up because I wasn’t 100% certain that I would be successful, or didn’t understand how it would help me in the future, or was too scared to try something new.
Our fear of failure will hold us back from making the changes required to live a meaningful life.
If you take ANYTHING away from this article, let it be this
You may not see the links right now, but once you get there, you will understand why it took so long. You will see how every single moment prepared you for your destination. You will laugh at how blind to it you were at the time, and how obvious it seems in retrospect.
So don’t put pressure on yourself to find the perfect path with zero mistakes and no regrets.
Don’t feel like you need to know your entire life plan right now.
Don’t try to anticipate what the next decade of your life will look like.
Don’t think of success as a straight line from A to B.
Success is more like a roller coaster, going up, and down, over, and across, throwing you for a loop, and making you feel like you’re going to die at the same time as you’re learning to fly. The only way to feel the joy of the ride is to stay in it.
The only way to get to your destination is to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Trust in the Universe
You will arrive exactly where you are meant to go.
Be intentional about pursuing your direction and cultivate a level of self awareness that allows you to pivot when your path no longer feels right, but have faith that it will all make sense in the end.
Even if it isn’t clear to you now, trust in the Universe. It has your back.
I gotta tell ya, I HATED reading paragraphs like this when I would go scouring the Internet for a solution to feeling lost and purposeless in my life.
It felt so unhelpful at the time and I would glaze right over it in search of something more actionable.
But those actionable tasks that I could cross off my list weren’t nearly as powerful as shifting my mindset.
Advice like “trust in the Universe” pushed my buttons, the very buttons that fueled my anxiety and overwhelm, and kept me in a cage of “good enough.”
It is when I broke free of the limits of my mind and started trusting in what the Universe had in store for me, that everything flowed easily.
2019 has literally been my happiest year of my life and I trust that 2020 will only supersede that.
Have faith my friends. The Universe has got your back.
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It can be agonizing to spend your days mindlessly toiling away at a job you don’t enjoy, wondering when on Earth you will be able to get out of this mess and figure out your future.
I’ve been there. I spent months crying in the bathroom every day at work because I felt so unfulfilled.
And to be honest, it took months of soul searching to find the answers I was seeking and build a life exploding with joy.
I’m here to reassure you, it is possible to design a life you love. You are not stuck in your current situation forever.
But it isn’t easy.
You were made for more.
You can do this.
And if you want a little help along the way, please reach out to me. This is the work that fires me up.
- How To Change Your Life When Your Job Isn’t Right For You
- Finding Balance In Life: Achievement Vs Enjoyment
- How To Determine The Perfect Career For You
How long have you been searching for direction? Let me know in the comments below!