There will be times when life becomes too overwhelming. There will be times in our lives where we have no idea how to go on. There will be times where doubt, fear, confusion, and uncertainty will set in and cloud our minds.
In this age of information where we are constantly bombarded by the tales of what we should want in life. “You have to get a degree from this university or college in order to be happy.” “You need a new phone in order to look good in front of your friends.” “You need that job/promotion.” “You have to have that big house to be accepted as ‘successful’.” “You need to get married by this and that age.” On and on and on we are fed by stories of what “happiness” is supposed to be. But instead, these so-called “happiness” often times left us with a sense inadequacy to life.
So what should one do when one is lost in life? Here are four simple steps to getting your life back on track.
4 Steps to Getting Your Life Back
1. Stop and Take A Step Back
One evening I return to my hermitage from a walk in the hills, and I found that all the doors and windows of the hermitage had been blown open. When I left the house, I hadn’t secured them, and a cold wind blew through the house, opened the windows, and scattered the papers from the desk all over the room. Immediately I closed the doors and the windows, lit a lamp, picked up the papers, and arranged them neatly on my desk. Then I started a fire in the fireplace, and soon the crackling logs brought warmth back to the room.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
Above is exactly what we do with our lives when we are lost. Thich Nhat Hanh equates our senses as the doors and windows of our life. It is difficult to pick yourself up in the middle of the storm. Sometimes it is wise to just stop and take a step back from it all. Of course, the purpose of this is not to run away or give up. Its purpose is to give ourselves the chance to recover and prepare to face life again.
To stop and take a step back from life could be anything from spending time with yourself, turning off all your electronics, a solo vacation, meditate, to participating in a meditation retreat. I do not recommend losing yourself to distractions or putting the problem off by making ourselves busy on purpose or do something just to forget the problem. The point is not to run away. The point is to allow you to step out of your situation to look inward and review your life with more clarity so that you can begin anew.
2. Understand That It’s Ok To Be Lost
It’s ok to not be ok.
Life never goes according to what one wants. This is the fact of life. So it’s inevitable for everyone to, at some point, not be ok.
What is the worst and best thing that one can do at this point?
The worst thing anyone could do when facing such a situation is to hate the situation one is in. Imagine you are lost in a desert with a person who kept brooding, crying out loud, throwing tantrum, sending depressive comments, and complaining about the whole situation. How would that person help to make the situation any better if not worse?
Well, our own negative thoughts are like that person. Sometimes we can be the worst person to tag along with. Sometimes the person who is making the bad situation worse than what it is is no one other than ourselves. To hate the situation we are in is, therefore, to be a bad companion to ourselves. It is literally digging our own grave. It only makes everything worse.
In its worse form, it creates an infinite down spiral. When one dislikes the situation one is in, one tends to become dishearten and give up the whole thing which makes the situation even worse. And when the situation is worse, it makes one wants to give up even more.
The best thing that one could do when lost is simply to focus on the problem in front of us in order to put our lives back again. Don’t victimize yourself. Instead, find ways to encourage yourself. Don’t complain. Don’t blame. Instead, learning to be open to the problems of life and see it as an opportunity for you to learn to overcome. Keep going forward. Keep exploring for options. And most importantly, be nice to yourself.
3. Regaining Your Sense Of Direction
Once you have given yourself the opportunity to take a look at life from an objective point of view and your inner self is calm and collected enough to face the challenges of life then it is time to find your sense of direction in life.
Finding one’s sense of direction required a lot of inner and outer exploration. The purpose of the inner exploration is to be clear to oneself what one actually wants. The questions which one should try to answer are:
“If I die today, what is the one thing I want to do?”
“What matters to me most?”
“What am I good at?”
“What makes me feel alive?”
“If nothing else matters, what would I be doing right now?”
“What do you imagine your ‘perfect’ or ideal life to be like?”
There is a line in a famous Japanese anime where the main character said,
If you’ve got time to give yourself a beautiful end, then you might as well live beautifully to the end.
Well, if you are reading this then surely you still are capable of not only imagining but pursuing a beautiful life.
It’s ok to not be able to answer these questions right away. Many spent their lives never actually tried to answer these questions at all. Some never found their true sense of direction until later in life. Everything has its own time, so no need to rush in for the answers. However, to help you find your sense of direction. Here are some suggestions:
- Don’t Overthink. Just Explore. The benefit of being lost is that it forces you to explore. So take this opportunity to learn more about yourself and find what it is that you truly believe in. Learn something new. Meet new and inspiring people. Learn from them how they succeed and get to where they are. Make drastic changes in life. Live life differently from what you used to. Just like when you are lost in a middle of a jungle. You probably need to try different routes before gaining some idea of which direction might be lead you to your destination. So get exploring both inside and outside. And do your best to not to do it out of fear, but out of joy.
- Simplify. The reason why we are confused about life might because we have too many wants–some not what we actually want, some contradicts with another. Having too much wants make our lives become too difficult and complicated to manage. And when happen when we have too much to think about? we freeze. As a rule of thumb, a simple life always lead to happiness. So find whatever that matters to you most and let go of others which are not. In this way, you have a clearer sense of the direction which you want to head toward.
- Revisit Your Inner Drive. If you are feeling lost then you must have known what it was like to not be lost. Revisit your past when you feel sure of life or when you felt you have a sense of purpose. This could be helpful in getting you back on track.
4. Taking Massive Action
When we are lost it is difficult to know what to do first, how to prioritize life or what we should or should not do. However, there is one thing we know for sure: if we give up and stay exactly where we are or do the exact same thing as we have always been doing then there is no hope.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
What we need when we are lost is to take action to change. Again, it does not need to be perfect but it just has to be something which improves our life.
To help us scope down to what we work on, the Buddha suggested 6 areas toward growth:
- Keep good health
- Discipline yourself
- Have good role model
- Learn to truly understand the nature of the thing in which you are engaging
- Do only that which is right and good
- Diligent on all tasks
These 6 areas are only a generalization which might point us toward an area in which we feel we need to work on. For example, finding a good role model could bring us hope as well as help us get to where we want to be in life. By learning how someone got to where you want to be, you automatically found a path or direction in which you can walk toward. It also gives you hope just knowing that there is already someone who has done it. And if you could learn from them then you just got yourself a shortcut toward your desired life. If you don’t have a role model yet then perhaps it is time to find one. Better yet, contact them! They might even help you out!
Once, you know which area(s) you need to change, come up with a plan and follow through. The more the specific the plan the better. It doesn’t have to be THE perfect plan. Keep a record and be mindful of your progress each day from moment to moment. Remember, without the commitment and action to change and grow, there is no hope of regaining one’s life back.
Keep Going, Keep Experimenting, Keeping Exploring. Do Not Give Up.
“Players with fight never lose a game, they just run out of time” – John Wooden
You are never lost until you give up. So never give up. Keep going. Eventually, you will find your way. Perhaps it is not the path you were expecting. But you will find it. It’s only a matter of time, patience, perseverance, and one’s willingness to change. You have my full support!
If you would like to share your story for others to help and support you or become an inspiration to others. You can do so at True Happiness’s Forum.