Don’t know what you want in life? You’ll figure it out later

lost in a maze
When you are young, it is normal not to know what you want in life.

Many young people feel lost and don’t know what to do with their lives; this is partly because we live in a complex world with many moving parts. But it also happens because we aren’t taught how to deal with it. In the recent past, I felt dissatisfied with many things, but with finding a sense of purpose, everything else got easier.

When we are young, it is common to feel we don’t know what we want. As we get older, we gain experience and a better understanding of who we are. Through effort, we gain perspective and understanding of what we need to do, but it takes time to figure out.

If you don’t know what you want out of life, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to figure something out. Instead, when you feel that something is off, that is often a sign from your mind that you need to take action and do something about it. If you feel unsure about what you should do, keep reading as we will dig deeper.

It is normal not to know what you want in life.

Some people know what they want in life right away, and it is easy for them to stick to their plans, but from my experience, most people aren’t like that. I’m almost 40, and I can say that I’ve always had a sense of what I wanted out of life. However, I’d never been clear about how to get there or what actions to take.

On the other hand, my brother knew right out of high school wanted he wanted to do with this life. When I look at my friends, they are in different stages of life; the ones with kids are often more stable or clear about what they want in life.

However, I’d suspect that part of that comes from having a family and needing a job to sustain a family.

Put another way, when you have a family, that is what you want, so many other elements of life are about getting family life to work.

Single friends are ok with their lives, but they seem to be looking for something else. In particular, one friend prioritizes finding a partner as he wants to start a family. Another goes on a lot of dates but doesn’t seem to be looking to settle down. That said, he appears to prioritize figuring out how to make money, be that via investing or business ideas.

From these examples, what seems to be the case is that not knowing what we want out of life often comes down to maturity and where we are in our lives. Having a family makes it easier to see your priorities; you need to house and food for everyone, so your preferences revolve around making that possible. Whereas without a family, priorities can be more fluid and less defined.

But if you are still young, you aren’t likely at the point where you are ready to start a family.

That is alright, but that also makes the search for what you want a little more complicated. When we have responsibilities, what we need to do is often more clear; however, the fewer responsibilities we have, the less clear we need to be. Generally speaking, the younger we are, the fewer responsibilities we have, the less urgency to figure everything out.

If you are young, it is normal not to know what you want in life; you’ve not yet started a family or fixated on your career, so you have wiggle room. If you are getting older, like me, late 30’s, it might be worthwhile to start working on setting out your priorities. Changing your purpose or what you are working on is always ok, but don’t wait too long because it gets more complicated with time.

Being young is a time for exploration.

When I was younger, I always felt out of place and desired action and travel. For those reasons, it was hard for me to stay focused on what I was working on; for example, during university, I was always thinking about what I would do next. Part of the problem was that I wasn’t clear about what I wanted to do at school; I was just there because I was supposed to be.

As young adults, if we aren’t clear about what we want, we might go along with the flow; that is what I did.

As a result, I switched my major a couple of times and eventually settled on something because I wanted to get out of school. As a result of this lack of motivation and direction, it is probably apparent that my grades weren’t excellent. Without a plan, it isn’t easy to do things well.

On the other hand, after a couple of years off for adventure, I returned to school, but I went to college and took a practical program this time. I had a goal in mind, and learning how to build websites would help me get there. As a result of the direction and a desire to get something done, it was easy to keep focused, do a good job and get good grades.

It isn’t easy to do good work or put in the effort when we don’t know what we want. But at the same time, I had to graduate from university and travel to realize what I wanted to get done. In other words, the non-fruitful work made it easy to get to the point where it was possible to do something more meaningful.

Once again, we come to the idea of growing older and evolving into our purpose or figuring out what we want to do with our lives.

When we are young and free, we have a lot of time to discover what we want out of life, but as we get older, we are forced to choose our priorities. 

Luckily, being young is an excellent opportunity to explore and discover. So if you are young and worried about not knowing what to do with your life, you are normal. Use this time to explore and find out what you want to do with your life.

Getting older is the time to figure out what you want.

As I mentioned earlier, it seems from my experience that the people who have a family, i.e., responsibilities, often have the best sense of what they want out of life. While we are young, our time is an opportunity to explore and sort out what we want, but when we get older, it is the time to settle down and get our priorities sorted out.

I’m getting older, but I’m not too old; however, I’d say this last year has been the clearest, relatively speaking, that I knew what I wanted in life.

At the same time, lots of things have changed, my daughter got old enough to go to school, so we needed a home near a decent school. I was worried about my health, so I committed to exercising; I wanted to write, so I made a plan to track my progress.

Think back to a time when you had to make a decision. Was it easier when there was a deadline? If so, then it kind of makes sense why getting older leads to us getting a better understanding of what we want cause we have less time to waste.

On the other hand, remember when you had no deadline and could take your time making a decision? Did anything ever happen?

Some people are mature for their age, while others take a little more time, and while the title of this section includes ‘getting older,’ it’s really about maturity and where you are in your life. Everyone will be ready at a different time, but if you aren’t prepared now, you probably will be when you get a little older.

But the point remains, if you don’t know what you want, that is normal, but if you are wondering about this problem, it is probably time to take some action and get your priorities sorted out. Our hearts are often a good guide, even if we don’t always listen.

How to know what to do with your life?

I’ve written a lot about this topic, so rather than rewriting it here, here are some links to related articles, and clearly, I like the number 12:

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Robert Carr

Over the years, I've learnt to see things in a different light. This website is my place to share those insights and give my unique perspective on living a meaningful life.

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