Self

4 Ways To Find Your Way When You're Feeling Lost

Photo: Getty
woman looking out of a van

Are you feeling lost in life?

Years ago, before GPS was automatically connected to our everyday, handheld devices, I found myself (more than once!) lost in a foreign city, wandering narrow streets aimlessly, going blocks out of my way to figure out where I was on a map.

I’m sorry to say, I have absolutely no sense of direction. Even when I have a map, I will astutely refer to it, study it diligently, then look up at the street sign overhead and walk in the complete opposite direction from my intended destination!

RELATED: 4 Steps To Take When You Feel Lost & Out Of Control

Today, we have GoogleMaps, Mapquest, and Waze to guide us when we're lost or don’t know how to get where we're going. We don’t even necessarily need to know our exact current location.

We simply defer to the wonders of modern-day technology to tell us where we are or where we want to go

What happens when we're feeling lost in life?

Things don’t seem to make sense anymore.

What if we begin to doubt whether or not we’re moving in the right direction? We question what we are doing and why it matters. We lose trust in ourselves, our intentions, and our abilities.

What happens when you forget where you're going?

Suddenly, you find yourself feeling stuck, circling in a holding pattern, unable to make decisions. 

I definitely did not inherit my sense of direction from my father who was a naval aviator. In a letter he wrote in 1969, he described becoming completely disoriented by a severe storm over the Pacific Ocean at night.

Despite his innate sense of direction and navigational training, he found himself surrounded by pitch-black darkness, not knowing which way was up or down, hurling through the air at high speed.

He stated in the letter how he knew he had to depend on the instrument panel in the cockpit. Even when it didn’t seem right, he had to trust the radar to tell him where he was and point him in the right direction. 

Life does not follow a flight plan nor does it come equipped with a foolproof navigational instrument panel.

Rarely are there any easy-to-read, simple directions or a straightforward trajectory toward your future aspirations. 

A semester off from school may turn into three years of working paycheck-to-paycheck. You may follow a partner to another city and end up staying decades after the breakup.

You often encounter unexpected life surprises: pregnancies, job offers, family demands, health issues, etc.

You experience pleasure from your successes and achievements, as much as you endure frustration from countless setbacks and disappointments. 

Without GPS or radar, how do you navigate through life challenges when you feel lost, doubtful, or stuck? 

RELATED: 5 Ways You Can Love Yourself When You're Feeling Lost & Hopeless

Here are 4 ways to find your way again when you're feeling lost in life. 

1. Get oriented.

You need to establish a sense of where you are before you can know in which direction to move.

In order to gain an understanding of your orientation, you must, first, pause. Then, you can use your own innate resources as an internal gauge.

Your body's "map" is your five senses, the physical representation of our present-moment status. What information can you elicit from your immediate environment?

What do you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel by touch? Mindful awareness of the five physical senses will help us to assess our current situation by tapping into your body’s experience.

Your body's "radar" — your other innate senses — allows you to acquire information from our internal landscape. These senses are more visceral or energetic observations.

You have access to these sensations when you invite a shift of your awareness inward.

Proprioception is the sensation of your body in space. How are you feeling about your physical presence in the current situation (work, relationship, health status)?

Given the circumstances, are you able to move through space with accuracy, ease, and intention?

Interoception is the sensation of your internal experiences of the body. How do you feel in your own skin?

Can you attune to the internal workings within (how you breathe, digest, detox)? What does your gut instinct, your heart, or your intuition tell us?  

When you pay attention to both your body’s outer and inner experience, you gain a deeper understanding of where you are, which more accurately informs the direction in which to proceed.

2. Appreciate the gift of the detour.

Sometimes, you learn the most about where you want (or don’t want) to be when you give yourself the permission to simply wander. You might have to go a little out of your way to get your bearings and make sure you're on the right "path."

Perhaps, you even have to backtrack when you take the wrong turn, so to speak. However, you often make unusual discoveries when you offer yourself the freedom to explore with curiosity.

Through the process of the "detour," what have you learned? How has your perspective changed? What unlikely revelation have you encountered?

4. Set deliberate intentions.

You don’t always need to know exactly where you're going. You can choose to stay where you are.

I’ve been known to sit down on a bench in the shade or tuck into a coffee shop when I’m lost in a strange city, so I can re-chart my course of action.

You can deliberately choose to stay in motion, check things off your to-do lists, and maintain focus on your goals.

Or, you can make a deliberate choice to shift into neutral and coast, to accept where you are, and perhaps to gain clarity in allowing yourself the time to reassess. Both are valuable decisions, especially when they're made with intention.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions.

Sometimes, you need to ask for guidance, especially if you don’t have the time or resources to wander or if your detours present significant danger.

Consult with someone who knows the terrain either professionally (through knowledge and study) or personally (through life experience).

Consider your source carefully; it should be someone you trust to support you with honesty and understanding.

You inevitably encounter storms in life. Storms, which can feel disorienting and, despite your "training" or life experience, you may find yourself seized with doubt, fear, or paralyzing stuckness.

You may find yourself lost.

Though you may not have access to a pilot’s instruments or the innate internal compass of some of nature’s greatest navigators (i.e. monarch butterflies, humpback whales, the swallows of Capistrano, etc.), you possess your own unique ability to find your own way.

Through this process, you invite invaluable discoveries about your potential and a sense of clarity about who you are.

RELATED: How I Learned To Live My Best Life Even Though I Was Feeling Lost & Confused

Erin Mason is a licensed psychotherapist, certified yoga instructor, and published writer. In therapeutic practice, Erin works with her clients to identify and cultivate innate resources, inspiring positive change and a more meaningful, rewarding life. 

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This article was originally published at Empowered Times. Reprinted with permission from the author.