A hitchhiker extends a thumb on a forest-lined road.

Image: Unsplash

It happens to all of us. You wake up one day and realize you’ve been waking up the same way for so many years. Same breakfast, same shoes, same job that isn’t the job you wanted in the first place. But it can be tricky to figure out where to go and what to do if you don’t like where you are. It seems like the easiest solution is to pack up and flee, but that probably won’t work: being lost isn’t about place; that feeling is going to follow you wherever you go. But if you’re feeling stuck, here are some suggestions that might point you in a better direction.

Stop right there.

As I mentioned above, when you realize you’re not happy with a place or a situation, your first (and feral) instinct might be to bolt as fast as you can. What is it you think you should be doing? Rather than follow the path of should, consider the could—and the want. Stand still, just for a moment. It will help to remember that no one really knows what they want to do with their lives. They kind of just try stuff until it sticks. That is the important word here: try. That’s all you can do. Try something new, try to do it differently, and try again.

Figure out what your pillars are.

A moment of reflection can go a long way in helping you discover what you want to do. Think about those things that hold you up: who do you love? What do you love? What do you need to feel human? Paying attention to these things can help you find the right direction. A lot of people think that you will just have one purpose in life, but the truth is you really have infinite purposes. There are many choices you can make. Think of these pillars as a kind of map. Keep those things and those people you love in your life—the rest will be details.

Figure out what needs to happen next.

This might seem like obvious advice, but creating an action plan is one of the best ways to get out of a rut. Consider the pillars you’ve identified. Take baby steps: what can you do to make today better? How can tomorrow be a little easier? How can you work more easily with the things and the people you love? What are you good at? How can you get better, and how can you make those passions into a bigger part of your life? Find what works for you and what makes you happy. Then work towards those things a little bit every day.

Do the things!

You might be tired or cranky, but it’s important that you hold yourself accountable for the steps you want to take. You’re the only one with the power to change your life—no one else. What you tell yourself can influence how things turn out. So if you think that something isn’t your fault or that there’s nothing you can do, then that’s as far as you can go. But if you’re honest with yourself, is it really? You know you can go farther. All you can do is try.