If You Don't Know What to Do With Your Future, This is for You

11 MINS READ

Photo shot by  Lui Cardenas

Photo shot by Lui Cardenas

Do you ever feel like you’re supposed to be somewhere else, doing something you haven’t thought of yet, with a person you still haven’t met?

Do you struggle with self-esteem because it seems like you’re so far from all of that? Maybe your friends are either married or headed in that direction with financially rewarding careers and secure futures leaving you feeling even more defeated.

Maybe that’s not even the issue. Maybe you did things “right.” You went for the safe job, got married, and thought you’d beat the statistics. But now you feel like you’re back at square one, unexcited about what each day brings because they all feel the same, and there’s a deep hopelessness about the future.

We all grow up with ideas about how our life will play out. We try to fit prototypes to level up to the competition. As much as we might dislike it, we compare ourselves to the people around us. And that’s not entirely our fault. We’re wired to secure our place in the social hierarchy for survival. In other words, it’s normal to give a fuck about how our status compares to those around us.

The fear that we’re running out of time to get our ducks in a row is real, and it can be paralyzing. Marriage, parenthood, a thriving career…it can feel so intangible, like a distant cry. But you’re not alone.

Anyone who’s ever felt lost before can relate to at least one of these three symptoms:

1) It always feels like you’re ‘figuring it out.’

Maybe you’ve been trying to build a full-time business from scratch while juggling a full-time job, or you’re getting a degree you have no clue what to do with. Perhaps you have your career figured out, but your relationship is failing. Whatever it is, this stage never seems to end. Friends urge you to cut yourself some slack because you’re in transition, but you’re worried that you’ll just be stuck here forever.

2) You feel like you keep starting over without making progress.

It’s refreshing to have a new start. The problem is, that’s all you seem to have. Maybe you’ve written a half-finished book, or multiple business plans you’ve never done anything with. Maybe you’ve been cycling through first dates and are starting to feel jaded. Your ideas always seem to launch but never actually take off.

3) All advice sounds the same.

The only thing worse about the position you’re in, is the fact that all the advice you get has a similar ring to it. You have so many self-help books that you use the pages as toilet paper when you run out. Yet, despite all the tips from so-called experts, you still haven’t budged an inch.

Image via Shutter Shock

Image via Shutter Shock

Whether you’re grappling with one or all of the realities mentioned above, just know first and foremost: it’s not your fault. Sure, you think. Then whose fault could it be?

It can be tremendously hard to offer ourselves compassion when we continuously seem to be missing the mark. While self-evaluation, that is, objectively reflecting on our thoughts and experiences, can help us improve, beating down harder on ourselves does not. Self-criticism often feeds into anger, which is actually pretty detrimental on our health. Anger increases blood pressure, fastens our heart rate, and highers fats and sugars in the blood which can contribute to a host of health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Uncontrolled reactions to stress and self-criticism can also lead to kidney damage. As the blood filtering units of our body, kidneys are subject to problems with blood circulation and blood vessels. Thus, high blood pressure and high blood sugar can place an additional strain or burden on the kidneys. Crazy that your inner critic has the power to do all that, huh?

According to Psychology Today, “as with anger, self-criticism is a reaction to some triggering event that is experienced as threatening.” For example, being ignored over text or feeling envy towards others on social media. The article continues, “Self-criticism, stemming from the perceived threat, is itself a threat. And, it similarly arises from a revisiting of the past, in mind and body.”

Aha! “Self criticism...arises from a revisiting of the past...” So, the source of self-criticism is essentially the past.

It’s wise to use the past as guidance. Mistakes afford us an opportunity to do things better moving forward. However, revisiting the past solely for evidence that we suck, feeds into the negative loop aforementioned, a loop I may remind you, that wreaks havoc on your body.

What do we need from the past?

The lessons, the wisdom, and the valuable advice.

What do we need to leave behind?

The heavy baggage, i.e.: anything we use as evidence that we’ve intentionally screwed up our lives. These ideas need to be let go of or re-framed A.S.A.P.

We do the best we can in every moment. Even if it doesn’t seem like it. We’re constantly securing our needs in the present. That’s why self-awareness is so important. The more cognizant we become of the source of our needs, the better we’re able to control them. That is the basis of being mindful.

There are many factors outside of our control that influence us to do the things that way we do, so to take full responsibility for the unfavorable factors of our lives is not only unhelpful, but it doesn’t take the full picture into account.

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Life is filled with unfortunate moments, some of which leave us forever changed. But recognizing that it isn’t our fault makes all the difference. We do the best we can with what we have. So to effectively create lasting change, we need to make ourselves increasingly resourceful to have more to work with.

Here are three actionable steps you can take to sharpen the trajectory of your future immediately.

1) Start where you are.

Use your current circumstances to your favor. It may seem like you’ve exhausted all options, but it’s pretty common to overlook the opportunities around us when we’re fogged. If you have a maxed out schedule, what have you done to optimize your time? For example, if you have a long commute to and from work, you can use that time to record blog posts on a dictation app, or record videos speaking on a topic for social media. Sometimes direct asks can be immensely powerful. It’s not comfortable to admit we need help, but being willing to be that vulnerable can yield us the results we’ve been waiting for.

The next time you’re out in public, try it. Instead of trying to come off like you have your shit together, lay your guard down and see if someone out there has the keys to the doors you’re trying to unlock. You can say something like, “I just launched a ___________ business, but I’m having trouble growing my email list. People seem to like the content I create, but don’t sign up for my newsletter.” They might have a creative suggestion you’ve never thought of, or know a person that can help you with that specific aspect of your business. If it’s love you’re finding trouble with, you could say something like, “honestly I’ve grown a little jaded lately with dating. I meet a lot of people online but it doesn’t really translate in real life. I haven’t figured out what I’m doing wrong yet.”

Being honest like this isn’t easy. But when we’re open to growth, it may just be the missing link. We weren’t always a digital world. Just a decade ago, conversations like this with strangers weren’t unheard of. Don’t let the Internet jade you and make you forget your humanness. We’re all experts on something. When we’re open about asking for guidance, amazing things can transpire for everyone involved.

2) Wear socks in the shower.

Okay, don’t actually do that (unless you want foot fungus). But if you’re frustrated with the results you’re getting, perhaps it’s time to change things up. Whether the dissatisfaction is coming from your job, your health, or your love life, ask yourself, what am I doing to lock myself in this pattern? If you’re acting the same way in every situation and it’s still not panning out, perhaps it’s not the circumstances that are working against you, it’s you.

If you don’t know what you’re doing wrong, ask someone who does. Our friends can point out our flaws with their eyes closed. Unlike us, their ego isn’t on the line. It’s easier for them to be objective and tell us where we can use improvement, and they can probably even tell us how to do it. Get in the habit of asking people for objective insight, then actually try doing at least some of what they say. An outside perspective can help us refine what we’re already doing so we can actually start seeing results.

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3) Hire your weaknesses

I first heard this bit of wisdom from Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx. You can’t be good at everything, and you shouldn’t try to be. Invest in your vision by hiring people who can do the things you can’t, or at least can’t do well. In a world where you can find help in all corners of the world while you take a morning shit, there’s no excuse.

And if you’re not even at the point of knowing who to hire because you don’t know where to start, then consider speaking with a life coach. Coaches help people find clarity and direction. When you’re buried under dozens of potentially great ideas, it’s a great use of your time to talk it out with a professional who will help you narrow it down.

If you can’t afford to hire help, find a free mentor. What I mean by that, is find people who’ve already succeeded at what you’re trying to achieve. Once you’ve done that, research the fuck out of them. Read their blogs, listen to their podcasts, and if they’re dead or don’t have content they create themselves, then read their biographies. Maybe even muster up the courage to reach out to them. Even if you never get a response back, the habit of reaching out to people in positions you aspire to can be incredibly rewarding in the long term. And the more you practice doing it, the better your approach will be.

So there you have it comrades. As difficult as it can be to have abso-fucking-lutely no clue where your future is headed, there is hope. If you take anything away from this, let it be that where you are is exactly where you’re supposed to be--always. The best way to ensure a prosperous future is to be fully present now. When you’re present, you have a clearer sense of where you’re going, and you can refine as you move along. Think about your life five years ago, and everything that’s happened in between. A lot it makes sense after the fact. You had to stumble here and there to discover what you didn’t want. You had to disappoint and be disappointed in love to find out what you were looking for. Rather than get caught up with where you’re headed, come to terms with where you’re at, and absorb the lessons and laughs along the way. Doing so will allow you to let go of what you don’t need and travel lighter towards your destination. So embrace the fog, and remember, the sun always come out tomorrow.