It’s no wonder why life’s biggest decisions feel so exhausting. Questions like, “What do I want from life,” ”Who do I want to be,” and “Where should I live” demand a significant amount of mental energy.
If you’re not intentional about figuring out what you want in life, it’s easy to fall into survival mode. You become lost, focusing only on what’s in front of you, which leads to frustration and disillusionment.
Often, if you don’t know what you want, you can become bored and restless with what you’re doing — even if you used to love it. Over time this can increase stress, depression, anxiety and can make you feel like you don’t have control over your life.
Figuring out what you want in life is important because it gives you purpose, can influence your career path, and makes life worth living.
We’re here to help you decide what you want in life and who you want to be.
11 questions to understand what you want in life
The world can feel overwhelming. There are so many paths available to you that indecision is totally normal. But analysis paralysis isn’t the answer. You have to overcome your fears and try new things. In the end, chasing after what you want has the potential to transform you into the best version of yourself.
Below are some important questions to determine where you want to go in life:
1. What makes you happy?
How do you want to live? Everyone wants to be happy, but happiness isn’t just feeling joyful. It’s also feeling needed, having a purpose, and maintaining that happiness amid uncertainty.
Both external and internal factors impact our happiness. The former can include our neighborhood or country, while the latter can include our skill sets and self-esteem.
Making a list of everything that makes you happy is a good place to start.
2. What are your needs?
Sometimes, our wants and needs go hand in hand. Other times, what we need isn’t what we want.
Ask yourself which of your needs are fulfilled and which aren’t. This could refer to your emotional, financial, or physical needs. Keeping a journal can help you get to know yourself, which will help you decide what to do next.
3. What are your personal values?
Remember that values aren’t the same as goals. Your core values are principles that guide you through life. They can be anything from patience, honesty, integrity, loyalty, family, and freedom. Most of us prefer to live by our values and identifying your own will help you figure out what you want.
4. What gives you purpose?
Everyone is passionate about something. Maybe it’s cooking, looking after family members, or working with animals. When we do what fulfills us, that infectious energy positively impacts others, too.
5. What activities put you in a flow state?
Losing track of time isn’t always a bad thing. If we’ve nowhere to be and nothing urgent to do, letting go of the clock means our minds wander to creative and unique questions and solutions.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “Go with the flow.” In this case, “flow” refers to the joy we feel when we’re right where we’re meant to be. It means we’re so focused on what we’re doing we lose track of time. We’re performing at our best and problem-solving more efficiently.
Notice when you’ve lost track of time and consider what you were doing. Prioritize activities like this every day to calm your mind and perform with more focus.
6. What would you do if there were no limits?
When times are tough, we stop ourselves from dreaming because we feel limited by external factors, like money or vacation days. But don’t be afraid to think big. If these limits weren’t a factor, what would you do?
Here are some other questions to ask yourself:
- What would I rather be doing?
- Who do I want to spend my time with?
- Who do I want to help?
- Am I in the right location to do what I want to do?
- What am I willing to sacrifice to achieve my goal?
- How do I define a “good life?”
7. Who do you admire or get jealous of?
Do you look up to someone? This person could be an activist, artist, teacher, doctor, or a parent — anyone who leads by example. Think about whether you want to emulate this person.
You should also pay attention to unpleasant feelings like jealousy. Maybe you know someone who’s just landed a dream job or went on an amazing trip. Ask yourself why you’re jealous.
Self-awareness will help you understand why you feel the way you do and what you really want.
8. How do you envision the patterns of your life?
You’ve probably heard the term “holistic.” A holistic approach to a subject means looking not only at problem areas but also at the environment problems exist in.
For example, a holistic nutritionist might suggest something to ease stomach troubles to someone complaining of depression. Knowing that gut health affects brain health is key to treating a complaint holistically.
We tend to think of our lives as having discrete, separate parts, like home, work, and friends. But each area impacts the others, from health to confidence to career. Our underlying desire is to change the path we’re walking, so we must acknowledge that we’re walking many intertwining paths and create goals accordingly.
Life is dynamic. And although we can’t always control how things go, recognizing this domino effect can give us clarity and help set priorities.
9. What don’t you want?
Knowing what to avoid can empower you to make better decisions. Think about what drains you mentally and emotionally, makes you sad, or causes pain.
You can set clear goals — career goals, wellness goals, financial goals — to avoid these pitfalls.
10. What are your greatest accomplishments in life?
Maybe you’ve won a soccer championship or graduated with honors in mathematics. Did you feel pride in your abilities after this happened? Is there a way for you to live a life that repeats those feelings?
11. Are you willing to work hard?
Victories, both large and small, require hard work. Nothing is just going to fall into your lap. Resilience, venturing outside your comfort zone, and learning as much as you can will open even more doors for you.
It won’t be easy. But if you let a few early challenges impede your progress, you’ll find yourself right back in the skewed work/life balance you’re trying to escape. Focus on moving toward your goals, despite setbacks.
6 tips for figuring out what to do in life
Finding one’s life purpose is a constant process and impacts our overall well-being. But remembering these primary tips will help you emerge unscathed.
1. Be ready to make sacrifices
Are you willing to stick with something when the going gets tough? There will always be gloomy days, but things are always more beautiful once the storm passes.
2. Something can give you purpose even if you aren’t rewarded for it
You can find meaning in doing something without being acknowledged or rewarded for doing it. Perhaps drawing or playing the guitar makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, but you only do it within the sanctity of your home. It doesn’t matter if anyone else sees it, reads it, hears it; keep doing it.
3. It’s okay to embarrass yourself
Whatever you want to do, chances are, you’ll suck at it initially. Most of us start this way. Building a foundation of hard and soft skills, making mistakes, and asking questions are all necessary for success. Vulnerability is crucial because it’s what separates dreamers from doers.
4. Have courage
“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” – Vincent Van Gogh.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Chasing your dreams is scary, but doing so will do wonders for your health and well-being. Don’t be afraid to try new things. You’re capable of more than you think.
5. Be open to change
Change is the only constant, and embracing this fact will help you deal with change more confidently and comfortably. Your new path may involve significant adjustments to your current way of life — but that’s the point. The only way to feel better or enjoy a different career choice is to alter what you’re doing now.
Eventually, getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing change will become so comfortable it won’t be scary to mix things up and take scary leaps into the unknown.
6. Avoid comparing yourself to others
As our worlds become increasingly global and digital, it’s difficult to avoid comparing ourselves to others. Social media apps are filled with perfect-looking people, jobs, and houses, and it’s hard to remember these images don’t accurately reflect reality. These are highlight reels.
While a little careful contrasting can be helpful to discover what you want, avoid leaning too heavily on judging yourself based on others’ accomplishments.
Only you have the history, responsibilities, and means you do, so comparing yourself to your own past is the wisest choice. Be comfortable with your own capabilities — they’re what you have to work with, and they’re plenty enough.
Finding a new way forward
It’s never too late to take steps to change your life. With these tips, you can finally answer the question, “What do I want?” When you do, you can chase your version of success and find happiness.
You might want to start your own business or improve the work environment at your current job. No matter your interests, once you’re passionate and focused you can achieve anything.