Don’t know what you want?
Don’t even know where to start?
On top of all this, you may feel like you need clarity, and you need it now.
Yet the problem isn’t what you think it is.
It’s not your job to figure your life out. It’s your job to live life, and to do the best you can in this very moment.
Doesn’t make sense, does it?
That’s why we’ll dive deeper into this, right now.
Before you continue reading the rest of this article, watch the video below, because it will help you gain more clarity.
Also, in this video I share a handy little exercise that’ll help you get unstuck if you don’t know what to do, or where to go next.
And remember to subscribe to my YouTube channel, because not all videos I record end up on this blog.
What does it mean to want to figure life out?
When I want to figure out my direction in life, I want to know what step will lead me to happiness, success, and whatever else I desire.
I also want guarantees. I want to know that the effort I put in today will bear fruit. But life doesn’t offer guarantees. I have to try things, experiment, and learn.
So the problem isn’t that you can’t figure life out; it’s that you think you should.
You think you have to know where you’re going in order to live a fulfilling and happy life, but you don’t.
The question then becomes: How can you dance in the fog, despite the confusion that seems so inherent to life?
Here’s what I do…
When I feel like I need to figure something out, I don’t act on it.
I’ve learned through experience that when I’m a low mood, I tend to make bad decisions. The key then is to wait for my mood to improve, for the murky water to become clear.
As Lao Tzu said:
“Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear.”
I also know that it’s not my job to force clarity. Life rarely gives me clarity about the future. All I know is what next step I feel drawn to take.
If I try to figure life out, I end up frustrated and exhausted.
But how can you live a purposeful life if you’re not figuring things out?
There Are Two Kinds of Figuring Things Out
There’s the figuring things out that happens naturally, with time.
Then there’s the figuring things out where you try to push, force, and manipulate life.
The difference between the two is the underlying feeling. The first one happens naturally, without stress. You’re relaxed and you let life happen.
The second one is plagued with frustration, stress, anger, and confusion. That’s because you’re trying to do something you cannot do.
Now, what does a more relaxed approach look like in real life?
A Practical Solution: Your Inner GPS
Imagine you’re walking in a fog.
As with any fog, there’s a circle of clarity around you. You can see, but you can’t see far.
As you keep moving forward, you see more, because where you go, your circle of clarity goes.
Life seems to work much the same way. You can’t plan out your whole life. You can decide on a direction, sure, but then you have to come back to this moment, and take action from here.
I like to use the example of using a GPS in a car. It gives you instructions step by step, not all in one go.
So what I do is move in the direction that feels the most magnetic. I keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I do the best with what I have.
But What If You Need an Answer Right Away?
If we’re talking about your life path, you don’t need an answer right away. You just think you do.
You only need to experiment with life. You think you need an answer because you think a wrong step will ruin your life.
But a sure-fire way to ruin your life is to try and figure it out, to try and overanalyze everything. It will drive you mad, which I’m sure you already know.
You assume you have to figure things out, but you don’t.
Now, sometimes you need an answer right away. In those cases, I do my best, but I try to give myself room so that I have time to make great decisions.
In short, you don’t need to figure life out just because you feel confused.
You have a ring of clarity around you, but in order to see further ahead, you have to move forward, you have to take action.
Move in the direction that feels the most magnetic. Trust your inner GPS, but don’t expect it to reveal your future.
The mind worries about the future, but the truth of the matter is that you can only ever make decisions in the now.
So bring your attention to the present moment, and notice what next tiny step you can take.
Cheers from the North,
P.S. Would you like to learn more about tapping into your Inner GPS? I invite you to check out my popular book Follow Your Heart: 21 Days to a Happier, More Fulfilling Life.
Henri, this is perfect timing as always, I have really been feeling this the last week or so, and I have been telling myself to just let it go, but this is a great booster from the behind!
This just clarifies how I don’t need to clarify, ha! I am in a great ‘doing’ flow at the moment and so I guess I am just going to keep doing what feels right to me at the time.
Like you say the real trick to a joyful life is doing what you feel like doing in the moment … every moment.
Sounds like you’re on the right track, Lewis!
Gosh Henri. You are always a breath of fresh air:-)
Your analogy of walking in a fog with just a circle of clarity in your immediate vision and more fog stretching out before you is SO HELPFUL! We just need to do the best we know how, right where we are and then take the next step and the next… in the direction that most magnetizes us. It is only our thoughts that mislead us into believing that we have to figure out the whole journey. Simple, simple…..
It’s not that the concept is new to me, it’s just that in spite of intellectually ‘getting’ it, the way YOU described it makes it so real.
Thanks as always.
We get ourselves into so much trouble when we try to do more than we can.
Such a nice metaphor! It’s hard to stick with this image during the day, but I hope I will remember it sometimes. The funny thing is: before I left school and had to perform (in order te earn money or to avoid become poor) I did not have any problem with living life step by step…
Thanks Chantal. Glad you enjoyed the metaphor. There are different phases of life. Sometimes some things are easier, while others are harder. And then it could be the other way around. You just never know 🙂
Thank you Henri! This was so helpful and perfect timing! Today I was lost in my thoughts all day trying to figure out what is the next step. I always think I’m all alone with these kind of feelings. Now I feel much better and try to relax myself into letting things go with the flow.
Thank you 🙂
You’re definitely not alone!
Thank you for this article and video. I have been going through a quarter life crisis. I am trying to figure out what life is all about and where I want to go and it has been very scary for me. Because I feel lost. And I feel that at my age I should have life figured out like everyone else.
I don’t think most people your age have life figured out. There’s a difference between having life figured out, and thinking you have it figured out 😉
Firoze Mehta says
Man, I’m well beyond my quarter life and I feel like that too. Age doesn’t matter neither does what everyone else around us is doing, especially those closest to us.
We just have to keep doing what Henri and so many other wise teachers keep telling us.. follow your heart and take it one step at a time. Leave the rest up to the Universe 🙏
Yes indeed. Not always easy, but but 🙂
Jane M says
This is great advice. I’ve always had trouble figuring out what exactly I want from life. When I make a list of “I don’t wants” I go one step further and look at the energy I’m putting towards those unwanted things. Once you stop working towards things you don’t want, there’s so much room for clarity and enjoying what’s happening today.
Absolutamente. That’s a great point, Jane!
Thanks Henri, great article. I have been confused for a while now. I don’t really know where my passion is in life and even though I am doing good in life at the moment (and have done good for the most part) I don’t feel satisfied. Then I feel bad because I think I am being ungrateful.
p.s just finished your book (Follow Your Heart) and it has some really great material.
There will always be something more you could do. That’s how life works. Glad you liked my book! 🙂
Fabulous stuff Henri, as always. I spent many years beating myself up for what I thought I should know and when. Today I am surrendered to just living in today. As you say, I don’t need to do anything. It’s about tuning in, not working out. Also, in regards to the happy or sad comment, it reminds me of a book by Thich Nhat Hanh “No Mud No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering”. In it he talks about happiness and suffering as two sides of the same coin. You cannot have one without the other. The trick is to learn how to suffer well!!! Love it, love your articles, your passion and your efforts Henri, be well 🙂
Thanks for the post, Henri. I would say analysis paralysis has been my problem, but that’s just an excuse. I’ve tried to force things in the past I haven’t spiritually been ready for, to be met with seemingly immovable resistance; it is only now, for example, that I feel ready to begin my career as a writer. But incremental improvements have been key!
Many of us feel that control is the key to happiness, but would omniscience be in any way fulfilling? With the uncertainty inherent in life come great mysteries to explore, journeys to embark on… knowing the destination prevents us from growing in these.
Your blog has a high quality. This helps me so much!
Zahra Bardai says
I agree! By the way, thanks Henri, because I am always wondering what I should do to prepare for college and what if I am behind everyone. But now I know that I have to focus on the present which will take me to my future! Thanks again, Henri!
I’ve just completed my graduation in Computer Science but I don’t want to make a career in it.
Rather, I want to make a career in Finance.
But, I’m not sure whether I will like it for mid or long-term.
How do I decide my career path?
How this GPS will help?
Check out these articles, they may help:
Suzanne Freeman says
I appreciate you advice and enjoyed reading your book Do What You Love. I liked it so much, I gave it to my son for Christmas. Your advice is good about just taking life one step at a time. I add to this my Christian views about letting go and letting God. The same still applies in that we have to just relax and not have everything figured out. Knowing that gives me peace. Again, thank you for you insight.
Absolutely. Well put, Suzanne!
Consuela Evans says
My 22-year old estranged daughter of up to 3 years told me that she needs to figure things out and her life and that she needs to do this on her own. I goggled “figuring out my life” and came across your site. This is bittersweet to be frank.