'What Should I Do With My Life?' How To Answer This Age-Old Question

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woman wondering what should I do with my life

Have you ever asked yourself, "What should I do with my life?"

If so, you're not alone. Many people wonder what the best course of action to take is. 

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What will make you happy? Considering the question, "What should I do with my life?"

Maybe as a kid, you wanted to be a firefighter, a doctor, or a construction worker. Maybe you fulfilled that childhood dream or another that surfaced and love your life.

Or maybe has something changed in you, so you're not sure what happened to that childhood certainty and passion.

You have a life; you have a job, maybe you're married and have kids. You're going along with a program acceptable to society.

Are you happy? Fulfilled? Maybe.

Do you also have an itch that says, "I want to do something more, but I don't know what."

An itch you need to scratch.

Normally when some feeling bubbles up, like a vague dissatisfaction, you try to figure out what it's about with your mind. You try to think up the answer to this hazy, internal unrest of what to do with your life. You may come up with ideas and make them happen.

Is this new direction what you really want to do with your life?

Are you happy doing it? Or do you have a nagging sense that you could do something more, something better, something more fulfilling, though you don't know what?

Your mind is amazing: It thinks and often comes up with solutions to life's issues. However, it's limited. It's only part of who you are.

The essence of you that leads to what you're uniquely qualified to do doesn't normally emerge from your mind. Are you still searching for the answer to, "What should I do with my life?"

First, you need to start by answering, "Who am I?'

The essence of "you" and your ability to tune into whatever will give you a fulfilling life is not about asking your mind or your body for answers.

Many experts offer solutions to this question. Books, workshops, online classes offer formulas and exercises that help to discover how you can tune into yourself and happily live your life.

Some useful exercises have you answering questions about what you love to do. Or thinking about when you have felt joy, passion, and peace.

Were you in nature, riding a bike, or taking care of a baby when you found that doing that opened your heart? Brought you peace or joy?

The answers to some of these questions yield good clues that can lead you to uncover what could make sense to do with your life.

But this process still may not give you your complete answer. The answer that, when you sit with it, you just know it's right. You feel a sense of peace or completeness, or your heart opens wider feeling gratitude or love or freedom in the reality that this picture is you!

How do you get to that place of knowing? Where do you find the answers to you?

In many years of practicing meditation and looking for ways to help folks discover the essence of themselves, and through that knowing learn how to create an amazing life, I keep coming back to the heart.

Let's dig deeper into that.

Your heart has something to say about you.

Those exercises where you list what things you love to do, like gardening, writing, singing, etc., are definitely a start to uncovering what your nature is. So, here you’re talking about feelings: Love, peace, passion, joy, freedom, and gratitude.

You’re talking about positive emotion.

When you're in a boring job, you may not feel joy or love for your job. But if you're doing a job you love, you want to keep doing it. Your mind is clear and can be more creative. Your body may feel calm and exuberant.

Positive feelings are such that you want more of them. Like a runner's high when your endorphins — natural chemicals in the brain — are generated and make you feel good.

Where do you feel positive emotions? In the center of the chest. The area you can refer to as the heart.

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Recent research shows that the physical heart is 5,000 times more sensitive than the brain, and when the heart senses something it actually tells the brain what's up.

The heart is powerful! Perhaps your heart does have something to tell you about yourself.

Science says your heart is super sensitive to what's around it. It knows when something in the environment feels wrong. Other traditions believe the heart is wise and has a connection to spirit.

Among the ancient Egyptians, Chinese medicine, and Ayurveda, the heart is revered as the essence of a person.

Could it be that tuning into your heart can help you get closer to discovering what to do with your life? That connecting to the powerful center in your chest might help you tap into your own wisdom?

What does that even mean, tuning into your heart? How can you tune in or listen to your heart?

Meditation is helpful in calming down your busy brain and soothing an antsy body. In meditation, it's possible to learn to consciously focus attention where you want it.

That's a good thing, especially when the world around you wants your attention, and you’re distracted by thoughts.

Being in a good meditation is a lot like being in the zone when you're playing a piece of music you love. Or when you're completely immersed in your painting. You're engrossed.

You feel positive energy flowing through you that makes you want to keep doing what you're doing. You're also having fun.

Meditation techniques can be easy and quite doable.

Here's a simple meditation technique you can use right now.

  • Imagine breathing into and out of your heart.

  • In your mind's eye, imagine the air going in and out of your heart space.

When you practice this repeatedly and bring your attention back when you get distracted, you might find that your body, your mind, and your feelings relax.

If it doesn't work right away, no worries. As you persevere in learning this new skill, you'll get better.

When you relax, your attention is available to tune into your heart.

Do you notice that a lot of your emotions are centered in your heart area? Like sadness, grief, joy, gratitude, or love.

What if your positive emotions are key to who you are? What you love? What brings you joy? They're key to the wisdom of who you are. If you lead with these emotions, they'll help you discover what to do with your life.

Continue with this meditation of breathing in and out of your heart area.

Bring up something you love. Imagine the love for that thing filling your heart space. Allow your heart space to fill up with this love. Let the love go deep inside, as deep as it can go. And rest there. Rest as long as you want.

Your heart has an innate wisdom and ability to feel love, joy, peace, passion, or freedom. This space is your core, leading to the fundamental essence of who you are.

Once you tap into that inner place through a positive feeling, you can ask your heart what would give you a fulfilling life. It could look like, "Give me a clue to what life would make me the happiest."

Then, the trick is to let go and trust that your heart knows and will lead you to something that will feel so right you just know that direction's the one to follow.

I invite you to pursue any methods that connect you to your heart space. I have found that's where the answers to your deepest questions dwell, including, "What should I do with my life?"

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Ann Naimark is an MFT who incorporates spirituality into her work. For 25 years, she has led groups, held workshops, and treated individuals and couples to help them focus and integrate their mind, body, emotions, and spirit so they can fully live with purpose, joy, balance, and peace.