Have you ever stopped to wonder if the things you’re doing with your life are right for you? The decisions we make have a big impact on the way we move through life, but many people don’t consciously consider how we make those decisions or how we move. Your life’s path should be aligned with what you feel like your life’s purpose is. That phrasing makes it sound difficult to figure out; how are any of us supposed to figure out our entire purpose? But really, it’s just your daily motivation, your reason for working hard, the thing you get excited about. And your life path should be taking you towards that thing, where you want to go and where it feels right for you to be heading.
Even if you are secure in your purpose, getting yourself on the right path isn’t always easy; there are countless factors that influence our direction and path, and life’s inevitable ups and downs can certainly make it tricky to get yourself started on going where you want to go.
Luckily, even if you don’t know where you want to go, or if life’s difficulties are complicating things for you, you can still determine if you’re going in the right direction because chances are you still know where you don’t want to go.
Here are a few things to look for that let you know you’re probably on the wrong life path:
1. Your mindset is stuck in the past
Our mindsets are powerful things. If we have a certain attitude or set of beliefs, if we have a tendency to view the world in a pessimistic way or if we’re constantly dwelling on negatives, it can keep us stuck in a place we don’t want to be. If you find yourself consumed with the past, with a mindset you’re stuck in, it might be because you’re not heading where you’re supposed to be heading. Things like thinking about the times you’ve messed up, being obsessed with people who’ve wronged you, or ruminating on old memories are examples. There’s certainly nothing wrong with thinking about the past, but if you find yourself living there instead of in your present, maybe it’s because you’re unhappy with the path you’re on.
2. Things don’t align or make sense
Sometimes things just don’t add up. It’s pretty common, and usually, it’s nothing to worry about. Life throws curveballs all the time. However, if the effort you put in doesn’t add up to an outcome that makes you feel good, it might be a sign that you’re on the wrong life path. Think about it: if you always try your hardest but don’t feel good about the outcome, don’t you think it means something is wrong?
3. You aren’t satisfied
Do you wake up and feel motivated to start your day? We all have days where we wake up and have to drag ourselves out of bed; it isn’t necessary to jump up with intense enthusiasm every day. But we should wake up in the morning and feel at least some sense of satisfaction. Life satisfaction is more than just nice to have; it’s important for our health and well-being, being strongly correlated with things like chronic illness, sleep problems, and anxiety (Positive Psychology). If you aren’t excited about the life you’re currently living, it’s worth it to figure out how to change it.
4. You have no energy or enthusiasm
Are you tired no matter how much you sleep? Do you reach for coffee after coffee just to get through the day? Low energy could be a sign that you aren’t enthusiastic about what you have to do every day and it’s making you mentally drained. American businessman Bo Bennett said, “enthusiasm is excitement with inspiration, motivation, and a pinch of creativity.” To be enthusiastic, and therefore have enough energy, you need to be excited and inspired and motivated by your life. In other words, you need to be on the right life path.
5. Making choices feels difficult
If you’re lost, unsure of whether or not you’re on the right track, you might find yourself always second-guessing your choices. It could be because the options on the path in front of you seem equally terrible since they don’t reflect the life you want to be leading. It could also be because you don’t want to think about the decisions you have to make since that would involve facing the reality of the wrong path you’re on. Avoiding the hard parts of life might be better in the short-term, but there will ultimately be a time you have to face them.
6. You’re stressed
A study published in 2013 found that having a direction in life makes people recover more easily and be more resilient in the face of stress. By startling people and measuring how quickly they composed themselves after, it concluded that “higher levels of purpose in life predicted better recovery from a negative stimulus,” meaning when we know where we want to go, it’s better for us. Being on the right path is clearly important. If you’re stressed, and not recovering from it easily, it could mean that the life path you’re on isn’t one with purpose.
7. You aren’t focused
Maybe you can’t seem to concentrate on what you’re supposed to be doing. That’s normal to some degree, but if you’re constantly fighting with yourself to get your work done, it could be because the work you have to do has nothing to do with the work you want to be doing, the work you’d be doing if you were on a different life path. Ask yourself tough questions. Are you distracted by daydreams? Are you overqualified for what you’re doing? In your perfect life, how would you choose to spend your time? What changes can you make that will help you live how you want to live.
8. You aren’t confident
Many people struggle with confidence, particularly in terms of their physical appearances. That doesn’t mean you’re heading somewhere that’s wrong for you, but if you aren’t confident in the actual way you’re living life, it is a sign you’re on the wrong path. Things like not being proud to look in the mirror at yourself have a different sort of meaning than lacking body confidence. If your self-esteem has been dwindling, pay careful attention.
9. A gut feeling
If nothing else, your intuition might be telling you that you need to make some changes. Intuition is simply “nonconscious thinking” where your brain works on autopilot and is actually a result of past experiences and all the knowledge you’ve built up throughout life (Psychology Today). So even if the reason is something you can’t quite put your finger on, if your gut is telling you that things aren’t right, you should listen. There’s probably something about your current journey that your brain knows that isn’t reaching the surface.
Finding out who we are and what we’re meant to be doing is certainly not easy. It takes effort to get on the route that you’re supposed to be on, and you might need to backtrack or start over a few times. But in the end, if you take the time to do so, you’ll be thankful and happy.
“Intuition.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/intuition.
“Life Satisfaction Theory and 4 Contributing Factors (Incl. SWLS Scale).” PositivePsychology.com, 12 May 2020, positivepsychology.com/life-satisfaction.
Schaefer, Stacey M., et al. “Purpose in Life Predicts Better Emotional Recovery from Negative Stimuli.” PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 11, 2013, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0080329.