'I Don't Know What to Do With My Life': How to Navigate This Feeling (2023)

When we see people who are successful in their careers, it's natural to assume they always knew that what they're doing was the "right" path for them, and that they're thrilled to be doing it. That isn't necessarily the case, though. When surveyed, about 70% of people at any given moment are actively looking to change careers, and only 14% are fully content in their jobs without any changes desired.

The typical career path of going to college or trade school, choosing a vocation, and entering that field for life once you graduate has gone by the wayside. It used to be the norm, but that's no longer the case.

Nowadays, close to half the American population changes careers when they're just shy of 40 years old! Additionally, the average person experiences nearly half of the total jobs they'll ever have by the time they're 24.

Are you unsure about what to do your life? You're far from alone, and most people have felt that at one time or another. Below, find the steps to take to help you figure out what to do with your life.

Examine Where You're At

Before you can know where you should go, you need to have a clear view of where you are. Most importantly, you need to understand what you do and don't like about your life right now, because that can help you determine what direction to take in a potential career.

If you spend a lot of time around people, are you happy and fulfilled by that? Or does it leave you feeling overwhelmed and suffocated, and you wish you could spend the bulk of your time alone? On the other hand, if you spend most of your time alone, does that make you content and at peace, or do you long for more consistent social interaction?

Look closely at how you spend your days, and at what activities in them bring you joy. Equally important is to examine what elements of your life you just don't care for. You'll also want to think about what motivates you: Do you want to have a positive impact on society, or is that not vital for your happiness? Do you want to earn high wages, or does that feel unimportant? Take time to sit with these questions, and consider journaling to help you work through your thoughts and feelings.

List Your Talents

What we do for work is more likely to come naturally to us, and to feel smooth and easy, if we're capitalizing on our innate talents and strengths. To go the opposite route, such as becoming an accountant when you're bad at math or a salesperson when you don't like chit chat, could lead to misery.

Everyone has talents, but we don't always recognize them. For example, if you have an easy time talking to strangers, you might assume that everyone does—but that's very much not the case. Some people have social anxiety and may find talking to those they don't know well to be anxiety-inducing. Chances are, much of your personality is actually comprised of your individual talents as a person.

If you're having trouble deciding what your own talents are, ask your friends and loved ones. You might think you just like doodling, but a close friend might consider you a gifted artist. Utilize your community to help you understand what you do well naturally, and do your best to believe what you hear even if you've never thought of the things you do as strengths or talents.

Discern How You Work Best

Jobs vary immensely in terms of process. Some are client-facing, having you interact in person with other people all day; other jobs are remote, with few or no virtual meetings ever. Some jobs are full time, morning to evening, Monday to Friday; others involve nights and/or weekends, or condense work schedules into shorter durations. Jobs can be project-oriented, such as the film industry, or long term stable with a large company.

Think about what excites you when you consider all the various workplaces, times, and methods out there. Picture your body, and what you like to do—if you enjoy using your hands all day, or if you like using only your brain, for example. Understanding how you would fit into a workplace's culture is key to understanding whether it would make you a happy worker. Journaling can also help in this phase, and give you better clarity on your feelings.

Talk to People Who Enjoy Their Fields

Reach out to anyone you know with a career they enjoy, and ask if you can use them as a resource. If they agree, ask them questions about their job. How did they find this field? What made them know it was right for them? What about their job makes them feel fulfilled? How important is their job to their overall happiness in life?

When you receive answers, check in with how they make you feel. If you're excited to hear someone talk about something, that's meaningful, as is a gut response of "Wow, I don't know how anyone could enjoy doing that!"

How to Find Happiness in Your Life

Research Training and Education

Once you have gained an understanding of your talents, how you work best, and how others got into their fields, do some research to find out what potential career paths for you would entail.

Your personal financial resources might feel paramount here, and you might think you have no options except very inexpensive ones. Fortunately, that isn't always the case. There are many types of help available (that aren't student loans). These range from federal grants to financial aid, and there may be specific help available for your career choice or people in your demographic.

Also consider the amount of time involved, and be realistic about how much time you're gladly willing to take to learn everything needed to enter a new career field. Your gut instinct is helpful here, too. If thinking of going to school for several years for a particular skill sounds exciting, that's a much better sign than if it sounds boring and exhausting.

Try New Things

This is the perfect phase of life to give new things a try. Any career you might be interested in will probably have a small scale version available for you talk to someone at, witness for a day, or spend a few hours at the place of business.

Local colleges and trade schools are a great resource here, as they can discuss your options with you and potentially connect you to the businesses you might be interested in. By having the opportunity to spend a few hours or a day somewhere, you'll gain a deeper understanding of what that field would be like to be a part of.

If you're confused or unsure where to begin, or you just want the help of a professional, a career counselor might be the answer for you. Their whole job is helping you figure out the right one for you, and they'll be well-versed in the needed steps to take to get started in any field. You can find career counselors at your local high school, college, or vocational school.

A Word From Verywell

Not knowing what to do with your life can feel incredibly stressful. Know that this is a common feeling most people have experienced at one time or another, and you have countless options. If you're feeling anxiety around this subject, seeking out online therapy for anxiety can help you feel more settled and able to move forward on your path.

2 Sources

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. 17 remarkable career change statistics to know(2022) [Internet]. Apollo Technical LLC. 2022 [cited 2022 May 10].

  2. Number of jobs labor market experience marital status and health results ... Bureau of Labor Statistics. Published 2021. Accessed May 10, 2022.

'I Don't Know What to Do With My Life': How to Navigate This Feeling (1)

By Ariane Resnick, CNC
Ariane Resnick, CNC is a mental health writer, certified nutritionist, and wellness author who advocates for accessibility and inclusivity.

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What to do if I don't know what to do with my life? ›

Figure out what to do next with your life
  1. Examine your purpose in life. Find your purpose. ...
  2. Evaluate your life values. ...
  3. Analyze your strengths. ...
  4. Examine your career choices and designation. ...
  5. Assess your opportunities. ...
  6. Explore your hobbies and passions. ...
  7. Take field trips and observe other people. ...
  8. Read, learn, and get inspired.
May 13, 2021

How do you figure out what you want to do with your life? ›

4 Tips for Figuring Out What You Want in Life
  1. Think broadly. Narrowing down what you want to a single, overarching life purpose is overwhelming. ...
  2. Stay in the moment. It is never too late to figure things out and pursue a new job or relationship. ...
  3. Be yourself. Avoid comparing yourself to others. ...
  4. Be open to change.
Jun 5, 2022

Is it normal to not know what career you want? ›

It's perfectly normal – in fact it's one of the most common things we hear. Few people have a grand career plan when they leave university, and for many it's daunting making such an important choice.

What is the purpose of life on Earth? ›

All life forms share at least one essential purpose: survival. This is even more important than another key purpose for life, reproduction. Plenty of organisms, after all, are alive but do not reproduce. To be alive is more than passing genes along to the next generation.

What makes you happy in life? ›

People often think things like money or luxury lead to happiness, but research indicates some healthy life practices may actually be the key. Simple experiences like spending time with friends and family or practicing gratitude may promote a healthier outlook on life. Looking for ways to shift negative thinking?

Why is it so hard for me to pick a career? ›

Lack of Experience. Limited work experience is another reason why you might find it tough to choose your career path. There are instances when talking with people who work in a career you're interested in pursuing isn't enough. You can overcome this hurdle by potentially participating in additional training.

What is the best degree for people who don't know what to do? ›

Considered the best major for undecided students is liberal studies. This major offers broad studies that apply to different careers. As a liberal studies major, you will take humanities, social science, and other classes. From history to psychology, plan on taking many liberal arts courses.

Why am I so confused about my future career? ›

Why am I so confused? See, the sole reason behind every career confusion in an individual's life is that when adults in their life tell them they can be anything they want to be, but by the time they reach their teenage years, those same individuals often start doubting their options and choices.

Why am I always bored no matter what I do? ›

Boredom can manifest when you're unable to focus your attention. This can be because you are consumed by multiple stressors in your surroundings. If you're stressed out about something else, and your present situation is overly-stimulating, you may feel bored.

Why am I so bored and tired all the time? ›

In some cases, boredom may occur due to: inadequate rest or nutrition. low levels of mental stimulation. lack of choice or control over your daily activities.

What causes a boring life? ›

One of the most common reasons why you feel bored is because your life is becoming too much of a routine to the point where you know what to expect in all your days to common. There are too many mundane things in your life that you lack spontaneity and adventure, and this is why your life can be perceived as boring.

What is our purpose in life according to God? ›

Examples of biblical purpose statements

“I live to bring glory to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through consistent worship, by my praise and in my life; to cultivate a life of intimacy with God; and to equip women and men for ministry through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

What is the 5 purpose of life? ›

In The Purpose Driven Life, Pastor Rick Warren reveals the meaning of life from a Christian perspective—five purposes that you were created by God to fulfill: worship, unselfish fellowship, spiritual maturity, your ministry, and your mission.

What are the four purpose of life? ›

The Upanishads mention four purusharth, aims, of human life: dharma, artha, kama, moksha.

What are the 3 best things in life? ›

The Three Things We All Need for a Happy Life
  • Someone to love.
  • Something to do.
  • Something to look forward to.

What is the best thing to in life? ›

Spending time with family and friends, laughing, experiencing heart-felt moments with a loved one – these times are precious, and free. Money brings comfort, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying that comfort.

How do I choose to be happy? ›

Here are 12 ways to choose happiness today:
  1. Count your blessings. ...
  2. Carry a smile. ...
  3. Speak daily affirmation into your life. ...
  4. Wake up on your terms. ...
  5. Hold back a complaint. ...
  6. Practice one life-improving discipline. ...
  7. Use your strengths. ...
  8. Accomplish one important task.

What makes you feel unhappy? ›

But perhaps more interesting is what's scientifically proven to make us unhappy. It wouldn't take a genius to work out that tiredness, stress and loneliness are lead causes. But more surprising candidates include living at altitude and poor sibling relationships.

How do I enjoy myself? ›

Short-term tips to get you started
  1. Avoid comparing yourself to others. ...
  2. Take a step back from social media. ...
  3. Take a phone break. ...
  4. Carve out time to let your mind wander. ...
  5. Take yourself on a date. ...
  6. Get physical. ...
  7. Spend time with nature. ...
  8. Lean into the perks of being alone.
Aug 23, 2019

What makes a woman happy? ›

According to prolific novelist and playwright Weldon, women's sources of happiness are sex, food, friends, family, shopping and chocolate—in that order.

Is it easier for attractive people to get jobs? ›

Researchers showed more than 300 videos to a sample of hiring managers. The results were unequivocal: the better the looks, the better the chances of getting hired. Sophia Amoruso, the CEO of Nasty Girl, was voted sexist CEO on the planet by Business Insider magazine. She is worth $280m.

What is the most difficult career? ›

1. Military. Coming first on our list of the hardest jobs in the world is the military. Being in the military is a prestigious honor for many people who aren't afraid to take risks and who are looking for a high paycheck.

Which career would have the highest average income per year? ›

Highest-Paying Occupations
Chief Executives$189,520309.20%
Computer and Information Systems Managers$164,070254.30%
Architectural and Engineering Managers$159,920245.30%
17 more rows

What majors do people not regret? ›

In general, STEM graduates were the least likely to regret their majors. Just 24% of those who studied engineering said they would make a different choice. People who studied math, computer science or physical sciences also felt good about their decisions — only one-third would study something else with hindsight.

What degree is always in demand? ›

Students should consider their interests and employment prospects when selecting a major. Students can choose in-demand college majors in healthcare, like nursing. Computer science, engineering, and IT are some of the most in-demand majors in STEM.

What is the number one easiest degree to get? ›

These are the easiest majors we've identified by highest average GPA.
  • #1: Psychology. Psychology majors study the inner workings of the human psyche. ...
  • #2: Criminal Justice. ...
  • #3: English. ...
  • #4: Education. ...
  • #5: Social Work. ...
  • #6: Sociology. ...
  • #7: Communications. ...
  • #8: History.
Feb 6, 2021

How do you know if a career is not for you? ›

7 Signs Your Job Isn't the Best Fit for You
  • Values Do Not Align. ...
  • You Have No Idea How Your Role Impacts the Company. ...
  • Your Daily Activities Do Not Match the Job Description. ...
  • You Feel Negative About Work. ...
  • You Have Lost Your Passion. ...
  • You Are Uncomfortable Speaking Up. ...
  • You Are Not Getting Along with Coworkers or Management.
Oct 1, 2022

How do I know if I'm in the wrong career? ›

Perhaps the most obvious sign that you've picked the wrong career is that you absolutely hate the work that you do. You're disengaged, lack motivation, and even if you're not stressed about the work, you're not learning anything new. The whole thing is a bad cycle.

How do I stop being confused? ›

5 Ways to Cope with Feeling Confused
  1. Reach Out for Support. You don't have to deal with this emotion all on your own. ...
  2. 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise. When you're dealing with confusion, this is a great method for clearing your head and improving focus. ...
  3. Journal. ...
  4. Engage In Compassionate Self Talk. ...
  5. Give Yourself a Pep Talk.
Mar 9, 2021

Is it normal to doubt your career choice? ›

When you're doubting yourself and feel like giving up, remember that your doubt is merely a sign that you've chosen a worthy career goal. Realize that doubt is a normal part of the achievement process. Doubt happens to all of us.

Is it normal to not know what you want to be in the future? ›

It is actually fine if you don't know what you want to do in future. Most people are not necessarily doing what, some years ago, they envisioned themselves doing. Life happened to many of us! I have heard a lot of people tell me they are clueless about what they want to do after graduation, and they feel bad about it.

How many people don't know what career they want? ›

New statistics released by Allaboutcareers.com, a leading careers exploration website, reveal that 44% of undergraduates are unable to define the industry that they would like to work in once they graduate.

What is the most common mistake people make in choosing a career path? ›

Not building a career progression plan is easily one of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to career progression.

What is the biggest career mistakes you have made? ›

13 career mistakes and what you can learn from them
  1. Forgetting to negotiate your salary. ...
  2. Abandoning your network. ...
  3. Missing deadlines. ...
  4. Ceasing development of your skills. ...
  5. Switching jobs without following protocol. ...
  6. Avoiding setting career goals. ...
  7. Neglecting relationships at work. ...
  8. Prioritizing money.
Aug 12, 2022

What is one of the most common mistakes people make in choosing a career? ›

Making decisions based on salary alone

One of the most common career mistakes is focusing on compensation alone. When choosing a job or career, there is more to consider besides just salary and perks.

What is it called when you feel like you have no future? ›

A sense of foreshortened future involves feeling as if life will be cut short without any real explanation as to why. People who experience this may also feel they won't be able to reach milestones in their life, such as a career, marriage, or children.

What to do when you're unsure about your future? ›

How to Manage Feelings of Uncertainty About the Future
  1. Reflect. Check in with yourself. ...
  2. Don't "should" on yourself. ...
  3. Know when to shut it down. ...
  4. Find your "best gift" for the day. ...
  5. Move past shame. ...
  6. Find your "resilience circle." ...
  7. Don't try to make sense of things too soon.
Oct 13, 2020

Why do I feel dread when I think about the future? ›

While some anxiety before events and situations is common, excessive levels of anticipatory anxiety can suggest an anxiety disorder. Individuals who have overwhelming fears, or worry about the future, should speak to their doctor or a mental health professional.

What percentage of people have never had a job? ›

Just over 8% of working age people (between 16 and 64), or 3.4 million in total, had never had a paid job.

How many jobs does the average person have in a lifetime? ›

How many jobs will the average person have in their lifetime? It is estimated that most people will have 12 jobs during their lives. In the last year, 32% of those 25 to 44 have considered a career change. Since starting their first job after college, 29% of people have completely changed fields.

What is the average age people change careers? ›

The average age Americans change their careers is 39. People under 24 years have approximately 3.8 more job changes than people over 45 years old.


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