It’s common to look back on your life and wonder, “How the hell did I get here? This wasn’t the plan!”. But not being where you thought you would be at this point in your life isn’t always a sign that you’re on the wrong life path. Sometimes, however, it is. Have you been sitting on the fence for a while, feeling unsure if you’ve got unrealistic expectations or if you need to take action to make sure you achieve your true purpose in life? Here are 7 signs you’re on the wrong life path and how to get back on the right path.
Signs you’re on the wrong path
You feel empty inside
Being on the right life path brings meaning to your life and gives you a clear sense of purpose beyond survival. However, when you’re off track, it’s common to feel a sense of emptiness inside you. This feeling tends to start as a small, barely noticeable sensation. But, the longer you stay off track, the more that feeling of emptiness grows and the harder it becomes to ignore.
Action: Grab a piece of paper and try writing down everything that’s going through your mind. Behind any feeling of emptiness lies a multitude of other thoughts, beliefs and fears. Write them all down and read what you have written. What jumps out at you?
You’ve fallen back into an unhealthy habit
Self-medication is a common action taken by anyone struggling with a lack of purpose caused by being on the wrong life path. When we feel helpless to change our situation, we can seek out instant gratification. And often we do so by turning to an unhealthy habit that makes us feel in control. We all have a weakness that rears its head when times get tough, so take a look at your recent behaviours. Are you a comfort eater who has been binge eating like crazy recently? Do you normally enjoy a glass of wine but have been drinking a bottle each night lately? Whatever the unhealthy behaviour, its escalation is a sign that you’re not happy at the moment. Don’t ignore it.
Action: The next time you reach for your unhealthy habit, pause and ask yourself, “What’s wrong?” “What feeling am I trying to soothe with this behaviour?” If the answer is sadness, boredom, loneliness etc., dig deeper. Consider what needs to happen right now to make you abandon the unhealthy behaviour.
When we feel helpless to change our situation, we seek out instant gratification. And often we do so by turning to an unhealthy habit that makes us feel in control.
You’re increasingly questioning the meaning of life
Have you started to look more critically at the human race recently? Do the actions of everyone around you seem pointless in the big scheme of things? Having nihilistic feelings when you used to think that there is a meaning to life is a classic sign that you are on the wrong life path.
Action: Take a moment to reflect on when exactly you started feeling like life is meaningless. These feelings tend to build up over time, but often there’s a straw that breaks the camel’s back – something that hammers the message home that life just isn’t going to work out for you. If you can identify that triggering action, you’ll be able to see what needs to happen to make you feel purposeful again (hint, it will be the opposite of the triggering action).
You feel like there’s something wrong with you
When you look around and everyone seems to be satisfied with living a mediocre life, you may initially think there’s something wrong with them. However, as time passes and you continue to feel purposeless and miserable – while everyone else seems happy enough – it’s common to start wondering if it’s not everyone that’s crazy, it’s you.
Action: Speak to a close friend, colleague or someone else you admire. Ask them how they feel about their life. Are they where they thought they would be in life and how do they feel about that? Speaking to others provides a fresh dose of perspective and this is essential. When you’re off track in life, you can develop a sense of tunnel vision, ruminating over the same points and trying to achieve clarity using methods that haven’t worked for you in the past.
As time passes and you continue to feel purposeless and miserable – while everyone else seems happy enough – it’s common to start wondering if it’s not everyone that’s crazy, it’s you.
You’ve started to develop physical symptoms
Feeling like you’ve missed your purpose in life is an incredibly stressful experience. And if you’re a highly-functioning person (as we suspect you are) it’s easy to not even notice that you’re under stress until you start to develop symptoms. Are you struggling to sleep? Have you been experiencing headaches, rashes or other unexplained symptoms? Have you lost or gained weight without meaning to? Has your appetite changed for no reason? All of these are symptoms and signs of stress.
Action: See a doctor if you are experiencing physical symptoms. They will be able to confirm that you’re under stress and that nothing else is causing these changes. Once you’re sure that your symptoms are stress-related, you need to start taking off some of the pressure you’ve put on yourself.
Schedule a day off from trying to fix your life each week. Spend that time doing something that feels like a frivolous waste of time. As we at The Ambition Plan always say, feeling off-track in life is an emotional problem that can’t be fixed by ‘thinking hard’, You need time to clear your mind and allow the answers that already lie within you to come to the surface of your consciousness. This is the best way to get back on the right life track.
You have an overwhelming desire to run away
Are growing increasingly tempted to book a one-way ticket to Fiji? Have you been making trip after trip lately, hoping to ‘find yourself’ somewhere far from home? Packing a bag and going to somewhere entirely different can be liberating and provide a healthy dose of perspective. But if the problem is you and not your environment, when the novelty of your new location wears off, the feelings of emptiness and discontent will start to emerge again.
Action: Travel if you feel like doing so, but destroy the belief that doing so will deliver an epiphany. Instead, use any time away to reconnect with yourself. Try things you usually wouldn’t try, spend time with the types of people you have little contact within your everyday life and pay attention to the moments that bring you joy. They hold big clues about what will help you feel fulfilled in life.
Travel if you feel like doing so, but destroy the belief that doing so will deliver an epiphany.
You feel disconnected from yourself
Do you feel like you no longer recognise yourself? Do you find that when people ask you what you want from life you have absolutely no clue? These are all signs that you may be on the wrong life path. If you’ve been ignoring your needs for a while, perhaps because you haven’t know how to get out of your current situation, you may have lost touch with who you are and what you want. The good news is that you can find yourself again.
Action: Take 20 minutes each day to do an activity that ‘grounds’ you. By this, we mean that it helps you reconnect to yourself. This could be sitting quietly and observing your thoughts. It could also be doing a guided meditation, taking a long bath and being aware of how every part of your body feels or doing some exercise and noticing how your muscles feel and how your breathing changes as your work harder.
Practice taking action in response to your internal cues instead of on autopilot. For example, wait until you feel hungry before you eat. Go to bed when you feel tired instead of forcing yourself to stay awake. Say no to that party if you don’t really want to go. All of these seemingly small actions work wonders for putting you back in control of your life. And the more you get used to responding to your body’s cues, the better you will get at recognising what part of your current life and career needs to change to put you on the right track.
Are you sick of feeling stuck and on the wrong path in your career and life? We’ve created the ultimate solution for you. Our interactive 8-week online course The Career Clarity Bootcamp is a radical-change clarity programme for high-potential women and it’s now open for enrollment. Find out more about it here.
*While the points mentioned in this article are all signs you are on the wrong life path at present, they can also be signs of clinical depression. This is a serious medical condition that needs medical attention, so make sure you see your doctor if you’re struggling to cope.
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