Life is a journey, and the path is not always clear. Each moment blooms with wonder and possibility – but you need to know where to look. The first thing to remember is that you will not find your way by scanning the distant horizon of the future. You need to start walking. Set out along your way, step by step, and keep your eyes peeled for the opportunities that appear. Try to identify your passions, and try to spend more of your time on things that feel meaningful.
Part 1 Getting Started
- Know yourself. Before you can find your way, you must understand where you are standing. Become conscious of your circumstances, even if you still don't know how to change them. Try to figure out exactly why you feel lost or adrift. Develop the clearest possible picture of your life as it is.
- Think about how you spend your time and energy. Look at what you do every day, and try to parse out the things that fulfill you from the things that feel pointless. Think about how you can cut those meaningless activities out of your life.
- Try setting these thoughts down on paper. Write about your life, or make a list; draw a chart or map that describes how all of your passions and commitments are connected. You may find that a visual representation helps you understand your situation.
- Put yourself in motion. It can be difficult to find your way when you are scanning the distant horizon for inspiration. Even if you decide upon a path from where you stand at this moment, you will encounter endless forks and diversions along your way. Indeed, your journey will not become real until you've begun moving in a direction – any direction. Break your inertia, and build momentum. There is a good chance that action will make you feel empowered to change other things.
- Try something. Be bold, and take a chance. This does not necessarily mean that you should commit to something huge. Find a small step that you can take to explore your path. Dip your toes into the water, and see how it feels. If you don't like the way that things are developing, you can always switch your focus elsewhere.
- Perhaps you've always dreamed of being a musician, but you have no idea how you'd ever get to that point. Try something simple: take a music lesson, and buy or borrow a cheap instrument. Make a commitment to yourself to try it out for a few weeks.
- Maybe you feel stuck, and you want to move to a different city. Do something small that feels like a step in that direction: visit a new city to scope it out, or look for jobs and housing in your spare time. Your vision will only become real if you put it into practice.
- Start simple. Your way will fall into place as you walk. The individual steps may feel small and insignificant, but they will build into something powerful if you keep at it. This is the very nature of a way: it does not happen all at once – it is happening all the time. Your way is the sum of every single moment in your life, of all the million things that you do and dream, and there is no map that can show you exactly where you will wind up.
- Getting started along your way can be as basic as deciding to try something out. Intention is a powerful thing.
- Don't make excuses. It is easy to say that you're going to do something, but it is not always easy to follow through. Take the initiative, and do not wait. The longer you hesitate, the longer it will take to find your way. Be afraid of stagnation, not of obstacles.
- Catch yourself each time that you make an excuse. Learn to recognize the signs: perhaps you plan to do great things, but you give in to self-doubt when the moment comes. Embrace your fears; eat your fears; use them as fuel.
Part 2 Finding Your Passion
- Follow a spark. Be aware of how certain activities and situations make you feel. If something excites you, grips you, and engages you to delve deeper – explore it. Open yourself up to the possibility that your way might be right in front you. You won't know until you try. Be bold.
- Accept yourself. Embrace your joys and your ideals, and try to own your circumstances. Don't try to suppress what truly makes you happy. You can certainly work to become the best possible version of yourself, but don't waste energy trying to become someone else. You are a unique and powerful human being, and you have the agency to own your destiny.
- Remind yourself that you will not find your way if you are riddled with self-doubt. You will need to make a choice, and you will need to step boldly into your future.
- Choose between the one and the many. You may come to a point at which your way seems to fork. You want to do this, and you want to do that; perhaps you want to do three things, or four things, or more things! Your way can be a focused and singular path, or it can be a constant exploration of new, exciting endeavors. Ask yourself whether you will be content with choosing, and whether it's worth splitting your energy up into different categories.
- If you choose to forego all other opportunities in pursuit of one goal or path: try to stick to your choice, but give yourself the space to open yourself back up. If you are going to commit wholeheartedly to a single job or focus, however, you may need to close some of the other doors.
- If you decide to split your time between two passions—say, music and psychotherapy—you may find yourself facing a hard, if meaningful, path. You will need to be especially disciplined if you want to keep on top of both goals.
- Stick with what fulfills you. If something makes you feel joyful, meaningful, wired, inspired: keep doing it. See where it goes. You still may not have a clear picture of the larger scope of your "way" – but you can let this feeling guide you.
- Remember: this thing doesn't need to be your only passion, and it doesn't have to be the only place to which you direct your energy! Your way can be a mix of many things.
- Ask yourself what kind of person you want to be. This is your lodestone, so touch it often. Practice being that person, and know that it may not be easy. If you want to be an adventure travel writer, then you have to get up out of bed, exercise, go out and explore – and then come home and write about it. Playing computer games, watching TV, eating snacks, and hanging out at the mall doesn't get you there. It gets you somewhere else.
Part 3 Refining Your Purpose
- Question your beliefs. It's okay to be critical about the things that you were taught growing up. Many children are socialized to share the views of their parents, their communities, and their societies – and those views may not serve your adult life. Ask yourself whether your assumptions about the world are accurate or useful.
- It can be stressful to handle new information that contradicts or disproves what you've been taught. Remember: this doesn't necessarily mean that you must cast away everything you've been taught – merely that it pays to be conscious. Carefully consider each truth, and decide which truths serve your larger purpose.
- Be aware that questioning certain beliefs may alienate you from peers and family members. If you've grown up deeply involved in a religious tradition, your family and community may not approve of you refuting that tradition.
- Be aware of your influences. You likely aren't finding your way in complete isolation. Think about who you're spending your time with, and consider how they might be impacting your purpose. If you structure your days around people who are active and inspiring, then you may find it easier to engage and connect with meaningful work. Surround yourself with people who help you grow.
- Sometimes, you may find that other people are holding too much sway over your choices. Consider whether this plays into why you feel lost.
- Be patient. Understand that you will not find your way overnight. Reading this article is only one small stepping-stone along a deeply personal journey of self-discovery. Remind yourself that it's okay to wait for the right opportunity to come along. Don't jump at the first half-decent chance that you get – but don't wait too long!
- If it isn't perfect, don't be afraid to let it go and wait for something that you really want. For instance: don't marry your first boyfriend if it doesn't feel right. Don't take the first job that someone offers you without looking at the other options.
- On the other hand, be wary of chasing perfection. Sometimes, it's best to choose the option that's in front of you. If you wait too long, you might let dozens of great opportunities pass you by!
- Don't read too many things about knowing yourself. Instead, gather up your strength to make relevant changes in your life.
- Introspect; think about who you are and where you want to be. No one can know you better than yourself.
- If you have a goal, try to honestly understand what is stopping you from achieving it. Are you stopping yourself?
- You don't need to have a plan for the rest of your life – just a place to start. Your way will unfold as you walk it.
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