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There is this idea about the journey of life being, on the whole, pretty straightforward. You move from childhood and all the lower levels of schooling into college and that short period of finding your place in the world. What follows might be a gradual succession of moving up in your career, steadily building a family and effortlessly finding your life’s purpose.
As nice as that might sound, though, life is usually not this way. The path is rarely straight and without roadblocks.
The Loss Of What You Had
When something so unexpected as the loss of a job or the end of a relationship comes hurtling our way, it can be very disorienting. Even transitions you’ve known were coming, such as graduation or moving, can make you feel like the ground has disappeared beneath you while you’re in the midst of the disruption to your life. Any time your life changes course and you’re left with nothing but uncertainty about which path to take, you might feel a loss of your purpose.
As a result of the coronavirus, many people have likely had to find new meaning for the time being. The global disruption has also pushed some off their path completely, requiring them to forge a new purpose for the future. As a child and adult psychiatrist, I’ve seen that any time you lack a sense of direction, you might find your mental health in a pretty bad spot. There might be particular hopelessness if you don’t know what you can possibly do to find your new purpose.
But I believe there is always a new path to be found, even when you’re seriously struggling to answer, “What comes next?” In a lot of ways, what comes next is up to you. It might not be easy to figure out how, but you are able to create your own meaning in life. When life throws you off your current path, you might even be able to put yourself on a better one. Below are a few of my suggestions for how you can get started.
Find happiness in today.
The emotions you experience when trying to adjust and reorient yourself after a life change might include anger, sadness and any other part of a grieving process. It’s normal to mourn, and whatever feelings come up should not be ignored. It’s important to acknowledge your emotions as they come, even as you try to add more joy into the mix.
This joy doesn’t have to come only once all the pieces of your life have been put back in place, either. You should be able to start to find happiness in whatever current circumstances you face. It just might take some effort on your part to make it happen.
There are lots of things you can do to improve your mood on a more day-to-day basis, and they’re not all complicated. Learn to find pleasure in the present moment, whether you go for a walk, make yourself a special lunch, or talk with friends and family. With a smile already starting to form, you might then find new meaning with volunteer work, a new hobby or even a new career path.
Refocus, and make a plan.
You don’t have to know exactly what your new purpose will be in order to start to really make progress toward new meaning. Really, you just need to get started, even if it’s with the smallest of steps. First, stop to take a break and just think. With some time to consider what you really want in life, you can put yourself on the path you really want to be taking.
It might take some creativity to determine a new direction and some serious persistence to get things going, but there is a right answer waiting out there for you. Even the great Walt Disney was fired for lacking imagination, but he found his own path to success, and you can, too. From my perspective, if you look at things in a positive light, losing what you had, while extremely difficult, might also be an opportunity to try something new.
Set out on your new path.
With goals and at least some sort of plan, you’re ready to go out there and find your new purpose. Of course, getting yourself moving on to new meaning won’t be effortless. You will have to take several steps to get on your way, and determination will be key because many more steps will follow.
You might find it very unsettling to step onto a path that’s full of uncertainty, and you might not be very confident about your journey. That’s OK. Put on your best outfit, and hold onto the joyful activities in your schedule. Just continue following your heart toward the life you truly want.
Many professionals might be feeling that their career paths were ripped from underneath them if they’ve lost their jobs or unforeseen circumstances have disrupted their lives. When this happens, it’s easy to find yourself lost and searching for the purpose in your life. But remember: Your journey will continue, and you might even find your new path better than the old. Perhaps whatever disruption you’ve faced can be a catalyst for putting you on a path you were always meant to discover.