What are you doing with your life?
This is a question worth asking yourself. It’s also worth asking who is asking this internal question? Is it really you, or does it seem like someone else—an authority figure perhaps? It’s also worth considering the tone in which the question is being asked. Does it feel like WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE!!!? Or is it more like hey friend, just curious, what are you doing with your life? Pondering these questions will tell you something.
If you are alive, you are doing something with your life. Maybe it lacks intentionality or maybe you have strayed away from your values, but you’re doing something. That is a fact. How you feel about what you’re doing will tell you a lot, though. So, whether there are feelings of overwhelm, meaninglessness, uncertainty, fulfillment, accomplishment, or whatever else there is to feel, this is key information that will help you determine if you are on the right track. At times, it might take a little bit of courage, but we must turn towards those feelings in order to see what’s truly there.
Now, I don’t know what you should be doing with your life, but I am quite confident that your current life falls into one of these three categories: 1. Too difficult; 2. Too easy; or 3. About right. Of course, this is all relative to some extent, but let’s not fool ourselves just because there is an element of subjectivity here. Evaluating your life requires serious attention and honest self-reflection, so you should give yourself adequate time to come to a conclusion about where you stand. It’s also important to remember that sometimes “too easy” feels like “too difficult” because the feelings associated with “too easy” may be unpleasant and, therefore, can make life seem “too difficult.” So beware of the mind’s tricks.
A relevant concept to reflect on is responsibility. I’ve been following psychologist and bestselling author Jordan Peterson’s work for several years now, and although I don’t agree with everything he says, I think Dr. Peterson is right when he talks about how “shouldering responsibility” is what gives life meaning. Think about it: what else sustains one’s sense of meaning and purpose more than responsibility?
It seems reasonable to say that the “too easy” life lacks responsibility, which is often associated with feelings of worthlessness, poor self-esteem, and a nihilistic attitude. Again, these are undoubtedly difficult symptoms to deal with, so it might sound counterintuitive to intentionally pursue something inherently difficult like responsibility. But that is precisely what a “too easy” life needs. However, please remember that although it is wise to start with rather simple challenges and gradually move towards greater complexity, don’t sell yourself too short. You are capable of much more than you think.
So what about the “too difficult” life? I know there are some of those out there, for sure. If you have come to this conclusion honestly, you might feel chronically stressed, overwhelmed, and at your wit’s end. For these folks, it is important to consider this fundamental question: What are my options? It could be the case that you need to reel in the ego and ask for help. If help is realistically available, you should not be doing it all on your own. Further, it also could be the case that you need to quit something. Yes, it is okay to be a quitter when necessary. This is your life, and it is your job to advocate for it, which sometimes means telling someone you quit. Lastly, if there truly are no other options (beware: this can be another one of the mind’s tricks), choose your perspective. For example, the principle of impermanence could be a helpful perspective-taking concept. It could be the case that “too difficult” is the biproduct of you entering into a new life phase. So, it might be grounding to remind yourself that this too shall pass, and eventually what was once “too difficult” can become “about right” with experience. The bottom line is this: choosing your perspective will give you options again, and options will give you power.
The final category is the “about right” life. If this is your life, you have it good. You have enough responsibility to give you meaning and purpose, but not so much that you are chronically overwhelmed. Of course, circumstances can and will change, but with proper self-care and clear awareness, you can usually sense when your life is beginning to slip into one of the other categories. I must also note here that “about right” might look different for you compared to others. This point may seem obvious, but we don’t have to look far to realize how easy it is for people to engage in toxic and often cherry-picked comparisons. It’s true. Common wisdom can be so difficult to live by, so please take these famous words (often falsely attributed to Oscar Wilde) to heart: “Just be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”