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"I don’t know what to do with my life" - 12 ways to start to figure out what you really want from life

counseling for young adults, therapy for college students

Are you having a quarter like crisis and thinking "what should I do with my life?"

As a millennial, you might find yourself staring into the abyss of adulthood, wondering, “What am I supposed to do with my life?” The truth is, you’re not alone in this feeling of uncertainty. The path to a fulfilling life and career, including potential career changes, isn’t always clear, especially for a generation facing unique challenges and opportunities. This article will guide you through the process of finding direction when you feel lost, offering practical advice and encouragement along the way.

Recognize You're Not Alone in Trying to Figure Out Your Career Path

First and foremost, it’s crucial to understand that feeling directionless about their career path is a common experience, particularly among millennials. Understanding your career choices involves examining your values, interests, and strengths to make informed decisions about your future.

A 2019 survey by Deloitte found that only 29% of millennials felt prepared for the changes brought about by Industry 4.0. Another study by Gallup revealed that only 29% of millennials were engaged at work, suggesting widespread dissatisfaction with their current career paths.

Several factors contribute to this generational uncertainty. Millennials entered the workforce during or in the aftermath of the Great Recession, facing a tough job market and often settling for positions that didn’t align with their aspirations or education. The rapid pace of technological change, the gig economy, and the pressure of social media comparisons have all added to the sense of instability and indecision.

Life can be a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. Many adults in their early twenties and thirties are navigating multiple changes and for many, they are setting out on their own for the first time and feel like they’re experiencing a quarter life crisis. The mental health of many young adults is affected by these life transitions, developing their sense of self, and navigating the expectations of their family members as well as themselves.

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Twelve tips how therapy can help you when you're feeling lost and don't know what to do with your life

Here we'll give you nine helpful tips of how therapy can help young adults navigate this new and challenging stage of life especially when you're feeling stuck and not sure how to figure out what you want from life.

1. Gain more self awareness as a young adult

When you don’t know what to do with your life and feeling lost, the first step is to turn inward. Building self-awareness is a crucial process that can help you understand your values, passions, and strengths as you figure our your path forward. By spending time reflecting to better understand what you want in life you can start to get an idea of what moving forward could look it. This allows you to create the foundation for making decisions that align with who you are and what you want.

Start by dedicating time to self-reflection. This could involve journaling, meditation, or simply setting aside quiet time to think deeply about your experiences, desires, and fears.

When that ruminating thought of "I don't know what to do with my life" pops up start to ask yourself questions like:

  • What activities make me lose track of time?

  • What issues or causes am I passionate about?

  • What are my core values?

  • What skills come naturally to me?

By answering these questions, you can start to identify what your dream job might look like and how it aligns with your values and passions.

In addition, therapy for young adults can help you gain self-awareness and get to know yourself on a deeper level. Self-awareness is the ability to recognize your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and understand how they impact your life. Therapy provides you a safe space where you can explore your thoughts and emotions so you can start to make changes if need be.

A therapist can help you identify patterns of behavior that may be holding you back and help you develop skills to make changes. By increasing your self-awareness, you’ll be better equipped to make positive changes in your life and build stronger relationships with others.

Fostering self awareness also allows you to know yourself on a deeper level in order to figure out what you truly want from life.

letting go

2. Identify patterns to get unstuck and find your way

Emerging adults are often discovering what they want and who they want to become. By cultivating self awareness, you can identify areas of your life where you’re struggling and feeling overwhelmed. For instance, you might realize that you have a tendency to overthink and have negative thought patterns, and many times young adults think that this negative self talk is “normal”. Understanding these patterns can help you make informed decisions that will impact your entire life.

However the therapeutic process can help you unpack this pattern and how it is affecting your daily life. Once you identify these challenges, you can work with your therapist to develop strategies to make sustainable changes that support you. By understanding yourself better, you can make more informed decisions, set appropriate boundaries, and build healthier relationships.

3. Build Resilience and Let Go of the Struggle

In today’s rapidly changing world, adaptability and resilience are crucial skills. The ability to pivot, learn quickly, and bounce back from setbacks will serve you well, regardless of the path you choose.

To build adaptability, embrace a growth mindset. View challenges as opportunities to learn and grow rather than insurmountable obstacles. Seek out new experiences and be open to change. Practice stepping out of your comfort zone regularly, even in small ways.

Resilience can be developed by reframing how you view failure. Instead of seeing setbacks as personal shortcomings, view them as valuable learning experiences. Cultivate self-compassion and remember that everyone faces obstacles on their journey.

young adult therapy

4. Figure out the “what”, then the “how” if you don't know what to do with your life

So many of us often get stuck on “how” we’re going to achieve our goals and create a life that we love.  Our minds sometimes send us down a rabbit hole of doubts with thoughts like “how am I going to be independent?”; “how can I be successful?”; “how can I find a partner etc.

Your mind start spinning with all the different paths of how you’re going to create the life that you want. Many young adults get stuck in the “how” or the process needed to create a life that they want. However many times we are unsure “what” we want from life and “what” is most important to us.

Understanding what you want can also help you decide whether a full-time job aligns with your goals and values.

Therapy for young adults can help you reevaluate the questions you’re asking so that you can get unstuck. Therapy can help you first understand what you want and then build a path of how you’re going to get there.  Having a clear direction where you’re headed can help you feel more grounded and calm in order to move towards the life you want.

5. Explore the unique challenges of managing expectations

It's common for young adults to feel pressure to meet the expectations of their parents, peers, and society. So many young adults experience a quarter-life crisis since they thought they knew what they wanted, but when they finally finish school or achieve their goals, they start to realize that maybe this isn't exactly how they envisioned their life.

Having to make a decisions regarding your career or confusing your studies, often can be overwhelming. Many young adults experience decision paralysis around major life decisions. Family pressure or expectations can be another layer that therapy can help you unpack feelings of confusion, possible guilt, or overwhelm so you can have more clarity about what you want to do with you life.

different perspective

6. Start to gain a different perspective

Pressure from family, friends, and society can be overwhelming and can lead to anxiety and depression when you don't know what to do with your life. A therapist can help you identify how family dynamics have influenced these expectations that might be causing you stress and develop strategies to manage them effectively.

Emerging adulthood is a time when many people need to reevaluate what they want and what they thought they want because of the expectations of others.

Therapy for young adults allows you to gain a different perspective and evaluate if there are family differences related to what you want in your own life. Young adulthood is a the stage in life when many people experience mental health issues due to a clash between complying with what has been expected of you and being their authentic self.

7. Take Small Steps Towards Goals

When faced with big, ambiguous questions like “What should I do with my life?”, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The key is to break this big question into smaller, more manageable steps.

Conducting a little research into fields or people that inspire you can provide valuable insights and guidance for your future steps.

Start by setting small, achievable goals related to your interests or values. For example, if you’re interested in writing, your goal might be to write for 30 minutes each day. If you want to explore a new career field, your goal could be to conduct one informational interview per week.

Celebrate these small achievements. They not only bring you closer to figuring out your path and passion but also build confidence and momentum. Remember, progress, not perfection, is the goal.

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8. Embrace Failure as a Learning Opportunity

Fear of failure often holds us back from pursuing our goals or exploring new paths. However, failure is an inevitable and valuable part of any journey. Many successful people have faced significant setbacks on their path to success.

Even if you are focused on making money, it's important to find meaning and happiness in your pursuits.

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter manuscript was rejected by 12 publishers before being accepted. Steve Jobs was famously fired from Apple, the company he co-founded, before returning to lead it to unprecedented success.

These examples illustrate that failure is not the opposite of success, but often a stepping stone to it.

When you encounter setbacks, try to approach them with curiosity rather than judgment. Ask yourself:

  • What can I learn from this experience?

  • How can I use this knowledge to improve or adjust my approach?

  • What strengths did I discover in myself while facing this challenge?

9. Get clarity to get unstuck. Learn how to find your way in life and navigate life transitions as a young adult

Up until this point in life many young people feel that their path was fairly straight forward, however many people in their early twenties or young adult years feel overwhelmed with the multitude of choices that have and so many decisions that need to be made. It's important to recognize that this is normal to feel this way during this stage of life.

Therapy for young adults can help you cope with life transitions during this stage of life especially when you're not sure what to do with you life and looking for your higher purpose. This stage of life is full of significant changes, such as starting college, leaving home, and entering the workforce.

These transitions can be challenging and stressful, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed as you're figuring out your next move and future. Counseling for young adults can help you actually understand what you want so you can develop coping strategies to manage the stress that comes with these transitions. A therapist can also provide support and guidance as you navigate these changes and discover aspects of your identity while helping you develop a sense of purpose and direction in life. You can also download our free printable to get more clarity about living more intentionally.

i don't know what to do with my life

10. Learn practical skills to manage life transitions when you don't know what you to do with your life

Life transitions can be both exciting and scary. They often involve a major shift in your routine, and it can be hard to adjust. If you’re starting college, for instance, you might be living away from home for the first time, managing your finances, and adjusting to a new academic workload. For instance, if you used to play video games extensively, you might find that the skills and passions developed there can be applied to other areas of your life.

A therapist can help you manage these changes by providing you with tools and techniques to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression. By working with a therapist, you can develop a sense of direction and purpose, and feel more confident in your ability to navigate the challenges of adult life. A therapist can also help you develop skills to manage uncomfortable thought and emotions so you cope with the challenges you’re facing.

11. Counseling for young adults can help you develop healthy boundaries

Therapy can help young adults develop healthy boundaries in relationships. As we navigate relationships, it's essential to establish healthy boundaries so that we can build relationships based on trust, honesty, and compassion.

Boundaries help us define what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior in our relationships, and they help us communicate our needs and wants effectively. A therapist can help you understand your boundaries and teach you how to assert them in a healthy and respectful way. By developing healthy boundaries, you'll have stronger and more fulfilling relationships with others.

12. Finding yourself - Life coaching and therapy for young adults in California can help you figure out what you should do with you life

Core values are the guiding principles that shape our decisions, behaviors, and attitudes which can help us when you don’t know what to do with your life. When we’re clear about our core values, we’re better able to make decisions and act in a way that is in alignment with what’s most important to us.

For some, this self-discovery might lead to the realization that starting their own business aligns with their values and passions.

This therapeutic alliance between you and your therapist can help you explore your values and identify what’s most important to you. Through this process, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of yourself, your motivations, and what you truly want to do with your life.

You’ll be better equipped to make decisions that align with your values and live a life that honors who you are and who you want to become. Connecting with a therapist can help you improve relationships, feel comfortable with the person your are becoming, and navigate other situations life throws at you.

By clarifying your core values, you’ll have a strong foundation for your personal and professional life, and you’ll be better equipped to navigate the challenges that come your way.

BIPOC women

It's normal to not have everything figured out.

You’re not alone and therapy for young adults in California could support you during this challenging stage of life. Together with a therapist you can get more clarity about building the life you want.

Exploring activities like growing your own food can also contribute to a happier and more fulfilling life.

If you’re a young adult, you know that this time of your life may feel both exciting and overwhelming. Many college students and young adults benefit from mental health treatment and therapeutic approaches as they are trying to figure out this chapter of their lives.

You know you could talk to your friends and your family, but therapy can be a safe space to truly let it all out so you don’t have to worry about judgement or pressures from others.

If you’re interested in learning more about therapy for young adults in California feel free to contact us to book your free consultation to start online therapy in California or Puerto Rico today.

***The ideas, concepts, and opinions expressed in all Living Openhearted posts are intended to be used for educational purposes only. The author and publisher are not rendering medical or mental health advice of any kind, nor are intended to replace medical advice, nor to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any disease, condition, illness, or injury. Authors and publisher claim no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or damage as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material.



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