What To Do With Your Life If You Don’t Know What To Do

There’s a lot of pressure in life.

Too much really. Just working and earning enough money to support yourself and your family is hard, but now we keep hearing that we also need to:

  • Find our true purpose.
  • Follow our passion.
  • Meet the one true love of our life.
  • Live happily ever after.

So much pressure and such high stakes. It’s almost enough to make you give up because it all seems like such a hard mission.

Are we being sold an impossible dream?

One highly popular self development expert believes that you can discover your life purpose in 20 minutes by asking yourself,

“What’s my true purpose in life?”

Then writing down every answer that pops into your head until one of them makes you cry.

This strikes me as utter twaddle but I can see the appeal ~ first that we can discover what our life’s purpose in just 20 minutes and second that we have a purpose in life at all.

Is there a purpose to life?

If we stick to the facts of life our one true purpose is to procreate – to breed and have children so that our race is perpetuated.

In fact, this is just what people used to do.

At one stage life was about survival, and if you lived long enough to have children and see them grow old enough to create your grandchildren, then you were lucky.

These days we want more out of life. Now we want to:

  • Live well into old age;
  • Look young and beautiful until we drop;
  • Travel the world;
  • Be financially wealthy;
  • Accumulate material possessions.

Although most of us still want children some people have rebelled and opted for a canine or feline offspring instead.

Oh, and we also want to know what our purpose in life is and follow our passion.

It’s not enough to be steadily employed in a job which pays the bills and allows you to save up for a decent retirement. Now we have to have life totally sorted out too.

Proof the stakes are too high

Unfortunately, while some tiny percentage of people are able to pursue their passions and earn a small fortune from them not everyone can.

Many people are happy to take a mundane job and pursue their passions in their spare time. And what’s wrong with that anyway? Not everyone can be extraordinary, not everyone can be famous for doing what they love, not everyone can get rich from it.

Take the ladies who run the tuck shop at my kid’s school as an example.

They work hard, they love what they do, and they’re good at it too, with profits rising every year which benefits the school and improves the kid’s education.

But the tuck shop ladies are never going to receive the global acclaim and wealth of celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay, even though they probably make better role models for our children.

Don’t believe some of the things you hear

I think the quest to find your passion, then follow it and hook up with your one true love are myths which are making a lot of people unhappy.

In order to find happiness – which I believe to be the true purpose of life – you’ll have to make a few changes to your thinking and accept that some of the things we’ve been led to believe might actually be making you unhappy.

It’s liberating to consider that:

  1. You probably don’t have one true life purpose or passion
    You may have several goals, dreams and desires but these will change and evolve over time. Your childhood dreams may still coincide with what you want in your adult life – a few kids must have dreamed of becoming a train driver or ballerina and got there in the end. But generally, once you’re living that dream the initial thrill wears off and you still have to find something else to motivate you to get out of bed and get to the train station on time for the first run of the day.
  2. You probably don’t have one true love
    There are certainly many people who could make a good partner for you in life. They’re everywhere and they may not be a romantic connection either. Maybe a group of friends with similar values and goals is enough and if you have that you have every reason to be happy.
  3. There’s no such thing as happily ever after
    Life isn’t a fairy tale. There’s no such thing as fairy godmothers and handsome princes to whisk you away. Life will have good bits but there will be bad bits too – loved ones dying, relationships breaking down, jobs being lost, financial and health problems. Working out how to protect yourself from these bad times when they inevitably come is the key.

So What Should You Do With Your Life If You Don’t Know What To Do?

If you feel like it you could do some of the exercises I suggest in How to work out what your dream is.

Otherwise don’t push it at the moment, give yourself permission to enjoy what you’re doing right now. Forget about your unique purpose, life passion, one true love and living happily ever after.

Just live the way you are right now and try your best to be happy. No pressure.

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More Articles On Dreams

>> 3 Keys To Living Our Dreams

>> 5 Secrets For Avoiding An Average Life

>> Live Your Dream In A Material World

Recommended Course to Help You Work Out What to Do With Your Life if You Don’t Know What to Do

I highly recommend coach Barrie Davenport’s course Path to Passion. I met Barrie at Blogworld in 2010 – she’s a highly trained personal and career coach with years of experience and she’s utterly passionate about helping other people discover what their passion is.

Find out more about Barrie and How to Discover Your Passion here.

Photo credit: Marco Belluci

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  1. Stafford January 12, 2010 at 10:39 am - Reply

    Well, Annabel you have certainly put the magpie among the worms with this. It’s fun to identify the myths we are fed from all angles that are intended to sell us an idea or a thing. Every myth busted is another step towards freedom from economic / emotional slavery. Wisdom comes sooner for some. Well done.

  2. Annabel Candy January 12, 2010 at 1:48 pm - Reply

    Stafford – I rarely watch tv so don’t get sucked in too much by those ads but I do read a few glossy magazines and it always makes me wish I had the latest designer clothes and skincare products. Then I put the magazine down and forget all about them:) Life’s too busy!

  3. Anne January 12, 2010 at 3:51 pm - Reply

    All I can say is “Amen!” Too much of what goes on, and I will say especially in blogging and social media, is bent on telling us why we should be unsatisfied (if we really break it all down).

    Most people will not be able to achieve their “dreams” – through no fault of their own. What is wrong with finding contentment in family? In a job that puts a roof over our heads and food in our family’s bellies? For most of history, people struggled just to survive, as you pointed out. We have so much.

    That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pursue doing things we love and enjoy. But sometimes it seems we are told to sacrifice everything to pursue our dream or passion and frankly, I don’t think we have a right to sacrifice everything, if that means our children end up getting kicked to the curb (either in reality or emotionally). There is a place for responsibility – and that is a theme too often left unexplored.

    Anne @alivenkickin

  4. Desertgirl January 12, 2010 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    Good post!

    So many people become despondent and frustrated with their jobs & lives when they realize it isn’t “fulfilling” or making them happy. But the reality of life is that most of us do not get to work in wonderful jobs that make us feel we’re following our life’s purpose or fulfilled. The question then becomes if my job isn’t fulfilling, if this is all I have to look forward to career-wise, then where should I look in order to find fulfillment?

    Unfortunately most of us need to devote a big portion of our days to that unfulfilling job. I made the choice (prompted by health issues) to work only part time for only part of the year. I have had to accept the reduction in income but most years it is enough for me to pay my bills and afford one very cheap trip away. Even though the past year has been tough & income-depleted I would not consider changing this part of my lifestyle. Of course, I am incredibly fortunate in that my partner IS working in a field that he simply adores so he’s happy. His income provides me with a roof over my head, occasional travel and these days, pays for the groceries too. (We’ve never shared our finances so my unemployed status has been an uncomfortable challenge for both of us.)

    As for relationships, your Point #2 is so true! Hopefully we learn this & accept it happily eventually. Took me a long time but now I’m happily content. :)

  5. QwkDrw January 12, 2010 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    Several points here may be in some degree of conflict with the values of a whole culture that seems to have it’s center in southern California. And you know the size of California’s economy on a global scale. The self-absorbed consumer evidently is a potent financial force.

    Finding happiness is good. Also guessing that we may be here to accept GOD’s infinite love and to love others. Of course nobody should take seriously a guess about ‘the true purpose of life’ from a blog commenter with a moniker like QwkDrw


  6. Robin Dickinson January 12, 2010 at 6:42 pm - Reply

    Nice, juicy post Annabel.

    As I was reading it, several thoughts came to mind…

    1) You probably don’t have one true life purpose or passion – what if life has one true purpose for you, but you were so busy looking for your purpose that you missed it?

    2) You probably don’t have one true love – what if the conscious force that drives this sack of water around *was* love – right under our noses the whole time?

    3) There’s no such thing as happily ever after – what if every moment was supercharged with happiness *if* we decided to truly live and breathe life moment-by-moment.

    No mysteries there. My hunch is that irrespective of our circumstances, life presents us with much more beauty, joy and possibility that we could ever hope for – if we could only slow down long enough to breathe the moments – the precious present moments.

    PS: Thanks for cooking reference. Ah, cooking – now THAT is passion-purpose, true love and happily ever after – all rolled into one…with a rolling pin, of course.



  7. Kelly January 12, 2010 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    Thank you for writing this!! For about a year now I have felt so much pressure – mostly self-imposed to “figure out my passion and my purpose in life” and then feeling like a failure when I cannot figure it all out myself. I have spent far too much time feeling unhappy.

  8. J.D. Meier January 12, 2010 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    I like to think of life as a process and a path of growth and experiences.

    On the process side, I’ve found playing to strengths, living my values, and getting up to bat as key to go the distance.

  9. Randall January 13, 2010 at 1:22 am - Reply

    I am not going to try to restate, rehash, or summarize this post! It is enough to say that this really spoke to me! Thanks.

    You brought out some points I really needed to hear. We all read blogs where we are encouraged to excel in every area, strive to succeed, live life to the fullest! This is all well and good but there is this inconvenient stumbling block called reality that rears it’s ugly head on a daily basis for most of us.

    Thanks for a timely post! It helped me take a realistic view of my goals and relax a little! Thanks as always!

  10. Zw January 13, 2010 at 2:56 am - Reply

    “One highly popular self development expert..”

    Really? If it’s who I think it is (SP) then how can we say the person is an expert because afaik he has only rehashed what others have said many times before. He certainly does not practice what he preaches, either.

    On the flip-side, we ARE all experts…of ourselves only. It just takes effort to realize it.

    Annabel, your words about being overwhelmed strike true: Our passion is our lives; live it ALL and don’t worry if it doesn’t match a ‘Top Ten’ list of what everyone else thinks we SHOULD be living or doing.

  11. Brett - DareToExpress.com January 13, 2010 at 6:58 am - Reply

    Excellent post, and helped me a lot. I’ve been debating what field I want to get into for work – and I came to the stunning conclusion that, if I just follow what I think will sound interesting, I’m bound to like it. I don’t just have one passion – I can have many.

    Put it this way: we don’t have only one hobby, so why should we have only one passion?

  12. Annabel Candy January 13, 2010 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    Anne – Great comment. Yes, although responsibility has its place I don’t think as many people would like to read about that as they would about following their passions!

    Desertgirl – Yes, I suppose learning the importance of compromise is important. We can’t really have everything, something has to give.

    QrkDrw – Hmm, can people with odd handles leave enlightening comments on blogs? Yes, I think so:) Thanks, I agree everyone’s purpose should be to help and support each other.

    Robin – Ah, yes, too much seeking and not enough time spent appreciating what we have. Now feeding others has to be one of the most satisfying acts of life. Providing a hungry person with tasty food ensures instant gratification for both parties!

    Kelly – I think not knowing what you want to do in life is a fairly common problem and it does leave us feeling like failures if we aren’t driven by a passion. I think it’s ok to dabble in things. Above all to seek contentment and stick to your principles.

    J.D – I think that’s true, that we can find solace doing work that we’re good at even if it isn’t a real passion.

    Randall – Glad this resonated with you. It came to me lately and I hope that my writing wasn’t part of the problem. While I do want to inspire and motivate people to get what they want out of life I don’t want this blog to be a pressure cooker! It should be somewhere people can come to chill out and back in the glory of doing very little too:)

    Zw – I decided to keep the expert anonymous as I don’t want to get into some flame wars and meet any trolls! One thing which I struggle with is that people are writing self-help books and developing products purely to make money for themselves. I don’t like that at all and it’s not something I want to be part of. I suppose many people seek self help products at a vulnerable time of their lives and it’s easy to promise them the keys to happiness and sell them to them. Sadly there are no keys, as you say, we are the only ones who can fix ourselves – or better yet accept ourselves as we are.

    Brett – Great point. Maybe you’ll have one passion this year and another the next. Have fun exploring whatever interests you at this moment in time.

  13. Steven January 13, 2010 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    This is a nice dose of reality Annabel.

    And you are right, if we constantly force our need to find our true passion then our directions will be misdirected. Instead of living in the moment where life is full of beauty and ideas, we trap ourselves within the moment of the future, where things are possible but not experienced nor intuitively realized.

    The best thing as you said, is to just enjoy what we have now and extract our passion from there, pay attention to what is TRULY important in our lives, not what we THINK is important.


  14. Annabel Candy January 15, 2010 at 3:14 pm - Reply

    Steven – I love your line: life is full of beauty and ideas:) You’re right we need to concentrate on what’s important to us, not what we think is important or what other people or the media tell us is important.

  15. Eric January 19, 2010 at 5:28 am - Reply

    Good stuff. My take on purpose in life is to look at the time before life begins. It’s a bit tough since no one really knows what that is like, but I assume it to be a place of pure bliss. Missing from this pre-Earth experience is physical feeling. We are here in a physical body, and before we came here we weren’t. So that must have something to do with the purpose. I figure we’re here to experience physical sensation and the emotion that accompanies it. In actuality, all of us fulfill our purpose simply by being here. That should take the pressure off, and now we are free to live our lives and enjoy whatever path we follow.

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  20. admin@technofreaky June 22, 2010 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    I think do what you are doing don’t pressurize yourself and just flow with the river. Great article indeed.

  21. Ash June 24, 2010 at 2:33 am - Reply

    What an incredible post. THIS is the kind of stuff that people need to be reading, particularly the last three points. I think it’s particularly easy to get caught in that trap–the one where we imagine our one true love, or our one passion, or the happily ever after myth–because it’s just so clean cut and appealing. It’s romantic. And we love a good romance.

    But the truth is that there are almost 7 billion people on earth, there are a multitude of careers, hobbies and activities that will pique our interests, and there are MANY paths that our lives could take.

    Once we’re open to the idea that possibility is not intimidating, but rather an asset, it’ll be far easier to allow ourselves to embrace it in any way that we can.

    Just loved this post, Annabel. GREAT WORK.

  22. Ryan @ Planting Dollars November 19, 2010 at 2:17 am - Reply

    It was really refreshing reading this Annabel. Having struggled a bit with this over the past year and finally coming to a similar understanding I think you’ve got a great perspective. There’s soooooo much focus on finding your passion, and the one thing that makes you happy, but really I think people can be happy doing almost anything. Victor Frankl rings a bell… Anyways, nice post!

  23. Ahmed Mahmou June 3, 2011 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    I think all what you have to do is to have a dream beyond your interest, your dream should include other people too , when your dream is just self centered , you won’t have the enough potential for it , and it won’t feel the real happiness if you achieved it.
    we should dream about making the world a better place to live in , and make the earth a wonderful and peaceful place for living. and that’s the purpose of our creating according to the Islamic principles.

  24. Jah oh August 23, 2011 at 7:47 am - Reply

    I agree and disagree. i agree that no one thing in particular is capable of producing happiness. happiness is first and foremost a state of mind. However, having said that, its natural to have desires in life. and if you desire something, you may as well try to get it. theres no reason not to. if the pursuit of your desire isnt somewhat fun( sometimes when something is difficult we assume it also cant be fun) then it isnt youy “passion or purpose” or whatever. for example, chasing my goals is pretty outlandish and difficult, but knowing im trying and becoming the best i can be, as well using my one life to attain what i desire is very rewarding and fun.

  25. JBR September 19, 2011 at 4:21 am - Reply

    Very nice to read, and not unrealistic or ridiculous! I’m 25 and you hear all the time, “oh my kid XYZ is just trying to find themself.” Reply from a relative or friend, “STILL?”

    Life is not a picnic for everyone and sometimes I think it enjoys playing with some of us, like, reeeeally playing with some of us. I keep trying but I’m to the point of stopping arguing with myself to force myself to do this, and do that, just because friends my age are. I’m not them, I apparently can’t be them. Just let it roll, baby roll! And have a sense of humor. Without it, I don’t know where I would be.

  26. Ben October 8, 2011 at 12:10 pm - Reply

    Hey There, I have to say that this all makes allot of sense… in fact, it makes way more sense than allot of the new age – jargon oh what do really want to do with your life type of stuff ! I am in a pickle whereby I lack energy and am really confused about which direction to take in life because I have so many options… but the way you have helped to put things back in context will really help. I mean for instance, I am pro – environment, but I have found that hanging out with pro – environment people has just made me depressed, what’s up with that ?!! Today I will strive to live simply and without thinking about all of the selfish / rad things I should be doing.

  27. Lea February 11, 2013 at 9:21 am - Reply

    Hello. I just need some words to help me true. Right now I am in the first year studying social working but I have a feeling that it’s not really for me. I actually don’t know what is for me. There are some things that I find interesting.. but I guess not so much that I would actually study it. I get tired of things after some time. Except dancing.. but I had an injury so I am not allowed to dance any more. One more thing.. I am 19 years old and most of the people say “Oh! You are so young! You still have time!”. But the thing is that I don’t feel like having time. And since I don’t know what I want every day is really stressful for me..
    Have a nice day!

  28. Bonnie February 14, 2013 at 7:20 am - Reply

    I love the “truthiness” you’ve written here. I am 33 and rethinking the career i have worked so hard to build the past 10+ years. I’m discovering a lot of what you’ve written above.

    Society and culture tells us we must know and we must set our course. We spend all of our lives learning the rules to happiness according to THEM. And if you’re so lucky, you finally realize that the rules actually puts us in the way of our true happiness.

    Thanks for saying it like it is.

  29. Vico Bartero August 1, 2013 at 1:34 pm - Reply

    The purpose in life is living until you die.

    Happiness, love, sorrow, anger, etc., are feelings, and feelings are not perpetual, they come and go. People wish to stay in or stay out of a feeling forever. That’s delusion.


  30. Dustin December 2, 2015 at 4:04 pm - Reply

    This is literally the first article on wellness/self help/mental health/whatever that I’ve ever seen which discusses the goose chase of the perfect life as it relates to things like finding our purpose, living our passion, etc etc. It seems like 99.9% of self help authors can’t seem to dig deeper than “we all spend out lives chasing money and cars and homes and it makes us unhappy.” I fully agree with them, however, it’s common knowledge these days!
    Anyway, I’m just glad that in the vast oceans of self help articles which I’ve read, someone finally highlighted the fact that chasing passions/fulfillment is just as damaging as chasing money.

    Thank you and sorry for shouting.

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