Most of us grow up believing we need to have our lives “figured out” and stick to a plan. Feeling directionless can feel like a sin.
Our parents and grandparents lived in a world where decisions made at eighteen lasted into retirement, but now many of us find ourselves without that security and overwhelmed by the number of options for our futures.
In a world that values action and decisiveness, it can feel like others live attached to a magnet, constantly pulling them toward the perfect future.
What it means to feel directionless
To feel directionless is to feel disconnected. Some experience it as an increasing sense of misalignment and malaise regarding one’s present and future. Others may feel stuck, hopeless, or unmotivated.
Or you might find yourself longing for greener grass, but unsure how to get to the other side. When you’re directionless, life begins to look bleak.
Inaction screws up your compass
While some feel satisfied with the status quo, many of us continually wonder how we could get more from life, or how we could better spend our energy. However, when you wonder about change but stay stuck in familiar circumstances, it only compounds your state of directionlessness. Being stuck makes you feel powerless, which keeps you from deciding on your path forward.
Surprisingly, you can feel directionless even right after taking drastic action. It’s easier to feel lost right after taking action, once your feelings of achievement have settled. For example, four years of studying might lead to your dream job! But after six months of work, you realize that you never thought about what you wanted after this goal.
Our society is goal-oriented, but we tend to obsess over the one single step in front of us. Many fail to realize that life pathways are born through a chain of goals, and that’s how we create and experience our lives. The end goal is only a moment, but the directionless moments between goals are opportunities to shape your future path.
It’s not bad to feel directionless
Sometimes, a lack of direction accompanies feelings of shame and guilt. We see our privileges and believe that we do not have the right to feel uncomfortable or lost.
As noted before, life itself is just a process of deciding where we want to go, with checkpoints in between. So it’s important to remember that feeling directionless is two things:
- Inevitable, and
- An opportunity!
In sitting with the discomfort of feeling directionless, allow yourself space to discover when the disconnection and discomfort began. Ask yourself when you first experienced this feeling, and allow yourself to move forward through your memories until the present moment.
What trends show themselves as you look into feeling lost? As you dive deeper, begin to look at your self-identity and how it has shifted with past decisions. Often times we feel guilty for changing, but change is both inevitable and healthy.
Give yourself permission to feel blessed and stressed
When you feel lost and directionless, grant yourself space to grow out of who you were, and to fantasize about who you could be. This creative thinking will help you uncover possible paths forward.
The most important takeaway is that discomfort is an indicator of necessary change. If you’re feeling directionless, it means you’ve moved forward in some way! Congratulations are in order. You finally made it to the end of the last path you were on and now just need to choose how you’ll proceed.
Try not to put so much pressure on where you go from here. You’ll make a choice, and it’s ok whether you end up happy with it or not – there will always be a next choice.
By allowing ourselves to make choices that don’t ‘fit’ us, we give ourselves the power to change and improve our lives. Even if all you learned was “I actually hate this” that feeling is valid and makes space for you to move toward what you truly enjoy.
The skills learned up to that point remain with us, and we learn more about ourselves in the process. Ultimately, life is an ongoing journey to learn about oneself. And finding out what makes us feel stuck opens space for us to find what inspires us – which in turn allows us to live a life of purpose and direction.
Follow what feels good
By slowly figuring out your life purpose, you gain the ability to move towards what makes you feel best, while healing your state of directionlessness.
Unfortunately, our upbringing and the status quo often render us deeply disconnected from our purpose. So the first step to finding your life purpose is to assess your intrinsic motivators: in other words, what you naturally enjoy.
In a world bent on the belief that one must struggle before they flourish, many people just do what’s in front of them, believing their natural talents will eventually come out.
But you don’t have to ignore your natural talents and what comes easy to you. Most often what comes naturally to us aligns well with what we enjoy, making it perfectly in line with our life purpose.
Figuring out what you like
If you struggle to find what you enjoy, a good place to start is looking at what you gravitated towards in childhood – before depression, loneliness, and anxiety introduced you to hopelessness.
- What activities did you engage in without anyone asking, without worrying what others would think?
- What kinds of things do you find yourself doing naturally?
- Who are you when no one is watching?
- What do you enjoy about your current status quo (if anything)?
You may find that you naturally find yourself teaching others, or find yourself in a state of flow when writing in your journal. Allow yourself to connect with the parts of your life disconnected from monetary gain.
Another thing to try, is to look at the small scale of what you naturally do and enjoy. Now consider how more of that energy could positively impact the world.
If for example you love writing, consider how your words could inspire others and bring them enjoyment. Maybe you could even write about your experience of feeling directionless, to help someone else find their way!
Find direction through the path of least resistance and catch yourself when you move into negative thinking styles. And don’t lose faith – healing your directionless feeling is vital to your overall health. Research shows that individuals who believe their life has meaning are more likely to feel fulfilled and healthy.
Putting it all together…
By engaging in safe activities that feel good, and developing an understanding of what deeply motivates you, you’ll start to feel less directionless.
As John Lennon once said: “When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
Despite popular belief, life is meant to be enjoyed. Taking the time to learn about yourself and honoring your feelings is a noble and important act.
Hopefully you will come to find that the only direction you have ever needed was the one into your own self, so that your life becomes your own creation – a piece of art, rather than a map.