Here’s a secret: you will lose your way. We all do. At some point in our lives, we wake up and wonder where we are and, more importantly, why we are here. It’s human nature.
And it doesn’t always have to be on a grand scale. You may wake up and realize you lost your way in friendship, in love, in work, or, yes, in life overall. And, of course, we’ve all lost our way on a diet or exercise regimen here or there. It happens. We’re human.
Still, it’s hard.
And there’s absolutely nobody to blame. Your ex? Maybe, for the fun of it; but in your heart, you know that blame’s not warranted. Your parents? Sure, it’s the best cliché blame we have. But we all know it’s not true. Nobody pushed you off course. Nobody led you to make some avoidable decisions. And there is no way to undue what has happened. It’s in the past.
But when you find yourself lost in life, there are a few simple things you can do to get back on track. They are not at all what you’d expect:
- Blame yourself for where you are. But only for a minute! When you take responsibility for your life, you also claim power. Sure, there’s that brief sulking of acknowledging, “Wow. My choices landed me here. Shucks.” Perhaps you didn’t grow up far enough South to have “shucks” in your vocabulary. But whatever your choice of word, when you begin to acknowledge that your decisions have the power to determine your future, you gain power over your future. My friend, you could make a decision right now to get out of this lost place! Blame isn’t a judgment; it’s just a power move!
- Play a game of “What if.” Ask yourself, “What if I chose a different career?” or “What if I broke up with him two years ago?” Ask yourself every what if that comes to mind, and let your imagination wander into the possibilities. Then make those possibilities your new reality! You know what you want in life. You just imagined it. So what are you waiting for? Stop wishing you had made that choice and go for it right now!
- Give up. Something clearly isn’t working — this guy, this job, this town, this outfit. Something is making you feel lost right now. And the hardest thing in the world is to say, “I quit.” The hardest thing is to let a part of your life go. We as humans just crave the familiarity of our patterns. And we fear that empty space that comes after the statement, “I quit.” For a moment, there will be a part of our lives that is simply unfilled. Maybe it’s those Monday through Friday work hours; perhaps it’s that pillow on the left side of our beds; maybe it’s the hair reaching down to our lower backs. Something will be missing, and it will feel … off. The thing is, discomfort drives change. And when we’re feeling lost, change is exactly what we need.
- Get a little self-conscious. Look in the mirror, and really just let your mind go for it. Roast yourself like the Tonight Show depended on it. Tell yourself every negative thought you hear. And pay attention to those thoughts. Keep a record of them. Because those negative thoughts are the ones standing in your way.
Become aware of the voice telling you that “you can’t.” By letting that emotion surface, you allow yourself the opportunity to talk back. If you think you’re incompetent, great! There’s something to work on. You hold a belief, and whether or not you believe me right now, those negative beliefs aren’t true. With a little help — from CBT, journaling, perhaps therapy or just coffee with some friends — you will look in the mirror and realize that your self-conscious voice only has great things to say! You can become your own advocate. By simply connecting to yourself, you may feel just a little less lost.
It’s hard to feel lost. It’s hard to look around and wish everything would just change. It’s painful to believe that change is out of your control. And it’s really no consolation to know that everyone else, at some point, in some way, has felt the same.
The worst experience of all, of course, is receiving unsolicited advice. It always ends with something along the lines of “so perk up,” as if it were that easy.
So that’s not what I’m going to tell you.
Instead, I’m here to say keep sulking. Keep what-ifing. Keep blaming yourself until, one day, you wake up and realize that inherent in your own mental process is the key to the path of your dreams. If that’s the wrong path, too, well then, you know what to do!