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How to deal when you feel lost

A lot of people hate their jobs but have NO IDEA what they would rather do instead, so they feel frustrated and trapped. If you feel like this, you’re definitely not alone. Every day I work with people who feel lost, helping them figure out what they want so they can finally quit jobs they hate and pursue feel-good work instead.

So what do you do if you feel lost? Here is my loving advice:

Feel the feels

First, just admit the truth about how you feel. Trying to pretend things are fine when they’re not always feels bad. Because lying to yourself always feels bad. So as strange as it may seem, admitting when something sucks (if only to yourself) can be a really good thing.

We spend a lot of mental and emotional energy trying to push down negative feelings like frustration and uncertainty, but just being honest with yourself about where you’re at may give you some relief. You may unravel a bit (perhaps that’s what you’re afraid of), but if it happens know that it’s supposed to happen and it’s one of the first stages in making a change…even if you’re not sure what that change is yet.

Try not to judge yourself

There’s often a lot of shame around feeling lost. People suffer silently because they’re embarrassed about it. They think maybe there’s something wrong with them. After all, we live in a society that says “follow your dreams”, but what do you do if you don’t know what those dreams are, right? If you feel lost there is nothing wrong with you. It’s a natural part of the human experience, and unfortunately one that we don’t talk about very often.

Feeling lost is an especially frustrating experience for those of us who are doers — because goddammit we just want to channel our energy toward something positive! But you can’t do that if you don’t know what the next thing is. I’m the last person to preach about patience (since I have none), but getting unstuck does take some time. Be gentle with yourself.

Start looking for ingredients

Of course we wish that our dream job title and a clear and easy path would just magically appear in front of us, but unfortunately it doesn’t happen that way. So try and take the pressure off a little bit. Press pause on needing to know your exact dream job title and focus on “career ingredients” instead — what you want more of and less of.

Maybe you feel isolated and lonely in your work so you want more collaboration. Maybe you hate administrative work and want to do something more creative. Maybe you have young kids and flex hours would make your life so much easier. Coming up with lists of career ingredients is a good place to start. (And if you hate your job, I recommend you start with the less list because it will be easier to think of the stuff you hate.)

Keep an eye out for self-sabotage

I like to think of making a career change as two parallel tracks. On the one track is figuring out what you want. On the other track is getting out of your own way — addressing some of your personal issues and hang-ups so you don’t self-sabotage.

We all have baggage (me too, dude). And it’s like we strap it on every day and carry it around with us. Things like fear, or an unhealthy need for approval and validation, or perfectionism, or not setting boundaries, you name it — and all of that stuff makes it even harder to get unstuck. So instead of crossing your fingers and hoping for clarity, try to gently work on some of the things that may be getting in your way. Because even when you figure out what you want you don’t want to sabotage the next amazing chapter in your career.

Lots of love. You’ve got this.

xo Sarah

Feeling lost is a natural part of the human experience. Unfortunately, one that we don’t talk about very often. 

Published at Entrepreneur