Have you ever felt lost, like you are deep in the woods with no directions, yet you are anxious, and eager to find a way out?
Feeling lost sucks; not knowing what to do about it sucks even more, because our brains hate it.
Maybe you don’t know what you want, and can’t see any point in taking random actions, so you stay in inertia.
Maybe you’ve been hustling, chasing one goal after another, only to find yourself exhausted, burned out, even resentful.
You might feel you lost the purpose, the motivation, the mojo, the energy, the courage, the “why”.
Whatever that is, something is missing, and you want it back. But here’s the bad news: You don’t know what “IT” is. So what are you going to do?
I invite you to try this list of 5 things when you feel lost, so you can start from where you are at and eventually get yourself moving towards where you want to go.
1. Do Nothing: Simply Feel the Feelings
Sounds counterintuitive, right? Don’t be misled by the headline, but this is perhaps the best thing for you at this moment.
You sit there with your feelings and do nothing about them: simply be present with your feelings, experience them, and witness them as they come and go.
To feel the feelings is the first step towards getting yourself back on track. Very often, the cause of feeling lost is because you avoid feeling your feelings—you do not let yourself fully experience the emotions.
Not all feelings are great, and since our human brains are hard-wired to seek safety and comfort, our basic instincts would be to run away from them, or to “buffer” them.
You tell yourself: “I want to do something so I don’t feel these yucky feelings.” You turn to food, alcohol, work, or sex for short-term pleasure so you don’t have to feel your negative emotions.
Well, here’s the tough truth: The more you resist, the more it persists. That’s how you wrap yourself up in endless emotional pain—you choose to avoid it because it seems easier and more efficient at this moment, only to find out they come back even stronger. What’s worse, you waste a lot of energy on resistance, and the tolls keep compounding, leaving you stuck in the unwanted states.
What if you just accept, say yes to whatever comes your way, and train yourself to be more comfortable with discomfort?
2. Journal Your Thoughts
Aren’t you curious about your emotions? Curiosity is one of the most helpful emotions to help you better understand the world and yourself truthfully.
When you are genuinely curious, there is no room for judgment or preconception. You can approach everything with fresh eyes, like a child. Curiosity is the first step towards getting unstuck.
Yes, you heard it right—you don’t just pull yourself out of the swamp and move onto a triathlon. That rarely works.
What’s worse, you’re likely to beat yourself up for not meeting your expectations and feel bad about yourself, causing a downward spiral of negative emotions. In reality, however, expectations are just a bunch of thoughts.
Why don’t you get curious first? Ask yourself questions and take a peek into your brain.What thoughts make me feel this way? What thoughts am I repeatedly thinking about? What thoughts might motivate me to get out of the swamp?
The best way to do the thought work is journaling: set a timer and start journaling non stop until the timer goes off. It gives you the opportunity to watch your thoughts come and go like cars on a highway, yet you are the observer standing still.
Thoughts beget thoughts—they chase one another and pull you down the rabbit hole. Putting your thoughts in black and white helps you see their patterns–you may even have an ah-ha moment: “Ah, there you are! That’s it!” and therefore break the loops and spirals.
3. Do a Value Inventory
The act of journaling will make you feel much better, as it gives you a chance to let out your thoughts and emotions. I call it “flushing the pipes”.
Are you feeling clear-headed, relieved, soothed, and focused? Good. Now you are on your way to figure out what you want.
Remember: When emotions are high, intelligence is low. So remember to flush the pipes before doing the inventory.
A value inventory is a record of your values—this is a helpful tool for you to gain clarity. If you are familiar with Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle”, you can tell this exercise focuses on the “why” level. Your “why” leads to your “how”, then eventually to your “what”.
It’s way too easy to fall into the trap of “figuring out the next thing to do”, but I invite you to think about “who you are” and “who you want to be” before anything else. If your “doing” is not aligned with your “being”. you will soon find yourself lost in the minute details.
After a few minutes of free journaling, start having this honest conversation with yourself. What are your values and purposes? Who are you if you don’t have any money/title/social status?
Values are something intrinsic to you, and no matter what happens, they cannot be taken away. Values help you find purposes in life. Goals, on the other hand, help you realize your values—they are means to ends.
For example, you can set an income goal, but you probably don’t want to make money for the sake of making money—you want more money so you can have a better, more fulfilling life—that is your purpose.
Ask yourself: “To what end? For what purpose?” That will help you determine your values, and guide you towards a purpose-driven life.
4. Take the First Baby Step
After you identify your values, take the first step toward building something that fits your core values and aligns with your life purposes.
It can be as small as reaching out to an old friend to say hi, if being a good friend is one of your core values. Or spend more quality time with your family, if that aligns with your why.
When you plan your activities according to your values, they will become so much easier to execute.
Struggling to get your butt out of the chair and onto the yoga mat? Remember your commitment to become more flexible and mindful for better health—because staying healthy is a key value of yours.
Dragging your feet to pick up your kids when you still have work to finish? You will feel differently if you remind yourself that being an awesome parent is on the top of your value list.
Getting crystal clear on your values motivates you to take consistent actions that will get you where you want to go, and help you become who you want to be.
How do you feel about taking actions now?
Individually they might not really mean anything to you, but now since they fit those core values, every time you take these actions, they add to your value bank. You will feel a boost in your net worth. This is how you create momentum.
5. Hire a Coach
I say this not because I am a coach, but I’ve fully experienced the benefit of coaching and can’t stop talking about how amazing it is.
Coaching is the cheapest way to get results, because it saves you the trial and error, shows you your blind spots, and massively speeds up your growth.
A coach shows you how your brain works, steers you away from repeating patterns, and holds you accountable to achieve your goals.
A coach tells you the truth when she knows you are avoiding, gives you an extra push when you need it, and helps you acknowledge and learn from your growth when you fail to do so.
Having a coach is like having a best friend who is wise, objective, and knows you better than yourself.
You want both results and the experience?
You want to shorten the time span and put yourself on the fast track?
Hire a coach—your future self will thank your current self for doing that.
While I just gave you this list of 5 things to do when you feel lost, the one thing I invite you to constantly check in with yourself is: “Who am I? What are my values? Does what I do serve my purpose and identity? If not, how can I prioritize and optimize?”
When you step into who you really are, your brain will give you all the answers you need.