I’ve been there. We’ve all been there.
It’s perfectly fine to feel lost in life as long as you use that feeling to either experiment and try new things, and discover who you really are, or perhaps stick to what you know works.
And yes, I really have been there too. Many times. The worst one was over a decade ago, when I was suffering from severe depression. Felt lost, stuck, unmotivated… and that’s an understatement.
Why we feel lost at times
You get a headache and wish your body was more efficient… then it turns out you were dehydrated. You are anxious and wish your mind was smarter… then it turns out you need to get rid of some unhealthy habit.
Guess what — feeling lost or stuck can be the exact same thing, the exact same process. Perhaps when you feel lost, that’s an opportunity to discover something you never even considered before.
It could be a sign, or a warning. Don’t just dismiss the feeling, don’t just “deal with it”. What do you need to work on? What is the feeling telling you? Listen to your intuition…
Questions to ask yourself when you feel lost
- Who am I? This is the question the Buddha as well as other spiritual teachers, including Ramana Maharshi, would ask themselves repeatedly on their path to enlightenment. You may not need any mystical experience, but going beyond your current sense of identity is key when you feel lost.
- Is my mind always right? Can you detach from your own thoughts, images, and ideas? Can you see your mind as an object — that which can be perceived — rather than the subject — the perceiver? Your mind is not you; be consciously aware of it, otherwise the mind will control you rather than the other way around.
- What are my natural talents? Typically, these will emerge spontaneously; your innate talents will usually manifest as a hobby, inclination, or even random comments from friends. Pay attention to all these things because they indicate your unique strengths, and how these strengths will add value to the world. Speaking of which…
- What is my unfair advantage? Why do we always look for problems? Why do we tend to focus on what we lack, rather than on all the wonderful resources we do have? Learn to identify your own unfair advantages, from pure luck, to innate abilities, to connections — and use them!
- What is my ultimate “unrealistic” dream? Perhaps if you feel lost in life that’s because the child that would dream all the time eventually learned that “it is what it is” and that we all have to put up with disappointment in life. Do we, though? Common sense is healthy; limiting beliefs aren’t. Dream again. And dream big.
- Is this meant for me? Chase someone else’s goals, live a life that’s not your own, compare yourself to others — and you’re destined to feel lost. The habit of thinking independently and consciously asking yourself what you want and what is meant for you, rather than copying others, really is invaluable.
- What are my best memories? Close your eyes. Picture in your mind your absolute best memories and, if you want, your best dreams too. Doesn’t matter if they were not real — they will still be a hint, a guide. All these images (and the feelings associated with them) will tell you what really matters in your life, what gives you joy.
- If society didn’t exist, what would my goals be? You don’t need to be a misanthrope or contrarian to do this — it’s just an exercise. Just pretend that society and societal expectations have disappeared for a minute and see if any of your current habits/desires/thoughts disappear too.
Questions to ask yourself when you feel stuck
- What is my biggest fear? Love is powerful. So are your desires. However, fear is powerful too. Look at how we evolved through thousands of years, look at mass control techniques — it’s all based on fear. If you want to truly grow and go for the best, make your deepest fears conscious — then face them.
- What if money wasn’t an issue? Besides unconscious fears and limiting beliefs, there’s one more thing that prevents people from embracing change in life — money. However, by asking yourself what you would do if money wasn’t an issue, you may realize that you actually don’t need any, or very little, or perhaps you can replace money with other resources.
- What if time wasn’t an issue? Time is life itself. Seconds, hours, days, weeks — these are the building blocks of life. But much like money, time should never be intimidating. Do your goals require, say, one of two years of your time? It may seem like too long now, however, consider this…
- What would the future me be proud of? You are not the person you are right now. You are the person who’s working toward the best version of you. A bit of an extreme perspective? Maybe. But you don’t need to sacrifice the present moment. Live now and also do what your future self would do.
- Which thoughts do I need to let go of? We’ve seen how our mind in general isn’t always our best friend. Now let’s try to identify the negative, unhelpful, inaccurate thoughts that tend to appear in our mind on a regular basis. Feel free to write them down, too. Then let go of them.
- What do I need to let go of, in general? If you feel stuck, what is it that makes you feel stuck? Dig deep and don’t stop at the obvious obstacles (e.g. finances). Perhaps the people around you don’t really inspire you? Maybe you’re in the wrong environment? Perhaps there is too much physical clutter in your life?
- What do I want to work toward? Direction determines your choices. Your choices determine what you do, have, and experience on this planet — in other words, your entire life. Even if you only have a vague idea of what you want, work toward that. Even if you’re not crystal clear on what you want yet, work in that direction.
Questions to ask yourself when you feel like giving up
- Do I need a short/long break? Life’s too short to act like it’s short. Does it make sense? Look at many successful entrepreneurs, artists, or even just people who are healthier and happier than average — they are not afraid to take breaks and recharge so they can then perform at their best once again. Rest is vital, never underestimate it.
- Is my sleep/diet/energy optimal? When you feel lost in life, you may fall into the trap where you believe your mind alone is capable of finding what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen unless you take care of your health first. Prioritize your health and watch the solutions/breakthroughs appear out of nowhere.
- If X wasn’t “important”, what would I do? A cool (and effective) series of life-changing techniques called Reality Transurfing teaches that, paradoxically, importance makes it less likely for you to succeed. Try to eliminate the concept of importance and see what happens. You may feel liberated.
- What is my self-esteem based on? In other words: what supports the notion/belief/assumption that you are worthy of love (other people’s as well as your own)? Is it external or internal? Can you control it, or is it outside of your control? Is it strong and stable? Is it fragile?
- What is my happiness based on? Same again. What allows happiness? Make no mistake — if you asked the average person, they’d have no idea besides things like “money” or “love” which are way too vague and again based on external factors. When you feel lost or feel like giving up, identify what truly makes you happy.
- Have I been too hard on myself? Let go of that bully, that inner critic, that negative self-talk that’s learned to spot all the mistakes and failures and never notice the achievements. Chances are, you do tend to be too hard on yourself — we all do in some way. Love yourself and be your own best friend and ally instead.
- Do I suffer from any type of perfectionism? This is another big one. I’ve been a perfectionist for years and thought it was… perfectly normal. It wasn’t. It was a demon telling me I wasn’t enough; it was never content. If you ever feel like giving up, allow yourself to make mistakes, to be a mess, to take life less seriously.