Life is a journey that is filled with numerous paths.
Sometimes we find ourselves on a path that we don’t recognize.
It can happen for several reasons: we started living our lives based on the expectations of others, had a traumatic incident occur, or simply lost the connection that is present between the heart and the soul.
When this happens, fear results. That fear then creates a feeling of being lost in life.
“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”
When you feel lost, you have two options.
#1. You can choose to do nothing and continue to wander around in the darkness.
#2. You can find yourself once again and take back control from the fear that wants to rule over you.
If you’re looking to find yourself once again, then the first step you must take is to determine what caused you to get lost in the first place.
Have you lost sight of your true beauty?
Have you been living a lie for so long that it has become your truth?
Are you hanging around people that are constantly dragging you down so they can build themselves up at your expense?
Even those who are stuck in the past can find themselves lost in the darkness of the future.
These tips will help you to find yourself once again so that you can finally steer toward the light that is always at the end of the tunnel.
#1. Stop believing every toxic thought that you may have
You’re not good enough. You’ll never be good enough.
You’re a failure and you’ll always be one.
You should have never been born. You’re a drain on everyone around you.
You should just give up. The world doesn’t need you anyway.
Even healthy people have toxic thoughts like these from time to time.
With tens of thousands of thoughts coursing through your brain on any given day, it is unreasonable to expect that every single thought which occurs is going to be a positive thought.
To help find yourself once again, it is important to remember that these negative, toxic thoughts aren’t a definition of who you are as a person. It is just a single thought amongst tens of thousands of other thoughts.
“You got to go down a lot of wrong roads to find the right one.”
Imagine yourself in a room with 1,000 people.
999 of those people are telling you how fantastic you are. How talented you are. That you’ve changed their lives in uncountable ways.
Yet you choose to listen to the 1 person in the room that is telling you that you are a failure. You define yourself by that 1 person’s negativity.
We are often our own harshest critic.
That criticism can fuel us to great heights of success, but only if we treat it as feedback instead of as a personal definition.
Toxic thoughts are always going to be there. Consciously choose to take the good out of that thought, discard the rest, and you’ll begin to find yourself once again.
#2. You don’t have to control everything around you
Life has a natural flow that is always happening around you.
It ebbs and grows every day in new and exciting ways.
Sometimes we feel like we need to control this process instead of letting it flow naturally.
This feeling can occur for a wide variety of reasons, but the outcome is always the same: we become imbalanced.
This imbalance creates a disconnection. Once that happens, loneliness is sure to follow. Loneliness leads to isolation and isolation leads to losing oneself.
For some people this process takes years to occur. For others, it may all happen within a day.
This isolation expands and grows every day if it is allowed to fester.
How do you stop the festering process?
By choosing to let go of the things you can’t control.
“We have lost contact with reality, the simplicity of life.”
Here’s the harsh reality of life: the only person you can control is yourself.
The only environment you can control is that with which you have direct contact.
You make choices for yourself. Others can then choose to come along for the ride or go in their own direction.
Focus on you. Focus on making what you believe is the right choice for you consistently.
When you can make this a habit, then you’ll begin to find yourself once again.
#3. Reinforce your personal values
Our ability to directly communicate with billions of people on a daily basis has created an information overload.
Even when we are sure of ourselves and what we believe, when we encounter family, friends, and random strangers who believe something else, it can cause us to question our personal values.
You can quickly lose yourself in a sea of doubt when you feel like you’re the only one who believes certain things or feel that certain thoughts or feelings are important.
Much of the information we gather today is based on something read on a computer screen.
When you turn to the written word that you have put pen to paper in order to write, then you have something tangible and meaningful that feels more important to that Facebook status update you just read.
To find yourself, try reinforcing your personal values by writing them down.
What is important to your faith? Your spiritual life? What are your personal ethics and why have you found them to be a guiding force?
When you answer these questions, then you’ll have something to share with a trusted advisor or mentor. Get their feedback.
Are you out of line with what you think, feel, or believe? Self-evaluation will always help you to discover who you really are.
#4. Give yourself time to breathe
We live in a society that expects instant gratification.
Can’t think of an answer to a question? Then check Google. Want to pay for something? Use your phone since credit cards or cash are too slow now. Want to purchase something? You can have it delivered to your home in an hour or two in some locations today.
This attitude becomes problematic when you feel lost. It demands that you become found and that it happens right now.
Sometimes that just doesn’t happen. Finding yourself can be a process that takes some time to complete.
“When I feel lost and can’t make a decision, I just stop and get quiet. I take a time-out.”
Parents give children a time-out as a way to remove them from a situation that is filled with negative stimuli.
It’s a way to help them calm down, process the situation, and find a new or better way to address whatever happened the next time they encounter it.
Adults can do the same thing.
There are a number of ways that you can find a place to stop and allow the quiet to take hold.
A hidden corner at the library works just as well as a few minutes of meditation behind a locked door.
Put on your headphones. Watch an NFL game. Do what you need to do to slow life down, take a deep breath, and allow yourself to have time to keep breathing.
When you do this, a funny thing happens: you find yourself.
#5. Reclassify your wants and needs
A friend of mine was recently telling me about an assignment his twins, who are in first grade, had to complete, for school.
It was how to define what are wants and what are needs in today’s society.
Although simplified for first graders, he found it to be a rather profound experience.
His twins were given a group of objects, items, and foods that had been printed on small slips of paper.
Their job was to glue these images based on whether they thought it was a want or a need.
As he helped his kids complete their assignment, he realized that many of the things we think of as needs in our current society are actually wants.
“We’ve been told so often by advertisers, businesses, and even friends that we need certain things,” he said. “The reality is that we’ve been misinformed. We want many of these things. What we need are just the basics of life.”
What are the basics of life? Food, water, health, shelter, clothing, and companionship.
Take these 5 categories and examine your wants and needs today.
That triple chocolate fudge ice cream might feel like a need, but it’s more of a want.
Paying the rent? That’s a need. A $5 quart of coconut water? Probably a want. Visiting the doctor when you don’t feel well? That could go either way depending on the situation.
Replicate the first grade assignment. List the things you have in your life as wants or needs. Be honest here. Don’t make ice cream a need!
By organizing your thoughts here, you’ll be setting specific priorities. Those priorities will help you to find yourself once again.
#6. Use positive affirmations
In the movie What About Bob?, the title character is told by his psychiatrist that the best way to get to where he needs to go is to take baby steps.
Through the use of positive affirmation, by believing that you can do anything as long as you take baby steps to get to where you’re going, then you can do anything.
Bob uses baby steps to get onto a bus to visit his psychiatrist, who happens to be on vacation. You can use positive affirmations to take your own baby steps to find yourself once again.
Positive affirmations are an external influence that will help you to change negative thinking patterns.
Instead of telling yourself that you’re a failure, you’ll hear a voice telling you that you’re a success. There are several audio programs available to help you get started, but you can also do this on your own.
When you face a challenging situation, don’t say, “I’ve always failed at this before.” Say, “I think I can do this.”
Pretty soon those thoughts begin to turn into reality.
#7. Stop trying to keep up with everyone else
When your neighbor is able to purchase the BMW you’ve always wanted, a painful feeling can develop in your chest.
When you see other kids are behaving and your kids are having a full-on tantrum in the store because you won’t purchase them the package of Skittles they want, you feel like every look is a judgmental one.
This is a classic thinking error.
We believe that in order to be someone that gets noticed, we must be able to keep up with what everyone else is doing.
We’ve got to work 75 hour weeks to afford that car. We’ve got to put the hammer of discipline down on our kids.
Except that we don’t need to do these things. You must simply let yourself shine brightly for all to see.
Finding who we are can be as simple as saying, “This is who I am and I’m fine with that.”
So what if you buy your kids those Skittles because you’ve been having a bad day and need a break?
Or so what if you let your kids scream as loud as they can on the floor because you’ve told them “No”? You set the priorities.
Let other people try to keep up with you.
“Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.”
When we are able to find a level of contentment with our lives as they are, then we unlock whatever doors we have managed to stash our true selves.
You get to take a certain pride in who you are, what you choose to do, and how you influence the world.
Sure – maybe the neighbor got that BMW. Yet maybe you work 15 hours per week, can have your needs met, and get to spend an extraordinary amount of time with your family that your neighbor is unable to do.
Maybe your neighbor feels the same way about you.
It’s hard enough to keep up with ourselves. Don’t judge yourself by the successes of others. Look at who you are, be yourself, and the darkness will fade away.
#8. Celebrate every success you experience in some way
Remember my friend with the twins in first grade?
When they got an A on their wants and needs assignment, he took them out to a local restaurant to celebrate it. He got them nachos, milkshakes, and they had a great time.
He told me the waiter came over and asked what the occasion happened to be. “We got an A on one of our assignments at school!” the twins said in unison.
The waiter’s face fell flat. “It must be nice to have a parent do something like that for you,” he told the kids wistfully. Off to the back he went. They assigned a different waiter to my friend’s table.
The fact is that we don’t celebrate our successes very often. We’re told that this pride is an indulgence. Some might even say such celebrations are offensive.
“I need to have a reason why I’m doing something. Otherwise I’m lost.”
When we celebrate a success, we’re recognizing the hard work that went into creating the circumstances which led to a positive outcome.
It’s a way to reinforce our positive thought patterns to make ourselves want to experience another success.
Rewards don’t always have to be nachos and milkshakes. It can be 5 minutes of peace and quiet during a busy day.
It could be a trip to your favorite salon. A night out with your friends or loved ones. Buying that movie you’ve wanted to see for awhile now.
Celebrations are where we can focus on our wants.
This helps us to then refocus on our needs so a balance can be found.
When that balance is found, you’ll find that you have discovered you are no longer lost.
#9. Allow yourself the “luxury” of mindfulness
Mindfulness is a practice where the perfection in any given moment can be discovered by your personal senses.
It could be a perfect smell from a favorite recipe, the sound of a child’s laughter, or a secret moment with a loved one never to be shared with anyone else.
Even when circumstances are difficult or tragic, there is still a moment of perfection that can be found.
Take the 2004 tsunami which occurred in the Indian Ocean. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in all of recorded human history.
The moment of perfection? A world that set aside many of its differences, coming together to provide $14 billion in humanitarian aid to those affected.
A funny thing begins to happen when you begin to look for the perfection which exists in each moment.
Instead of seeing a tragedy, you start looking for those who courageously rise up to begin helping. Instead of loss, you look toward what can be gained in the future.
Instead of pain, you begin to see hope.
“The soul which has no fixed purpose in life is lost; to be everywhere, is to be nowhere.”
– Michel de Montaigne
Hope is where we can always find ourselves when we feel like we’re lost in the darkness.
Hope gives us a chance to experience perfection.
Far too often, we are willing to deprive ourselves of this experience because of guilt or regret. It’s time to stop.
We all have dreams. We all chase them. We don’t always succeed.
Sometimes our failures at chasing a dream can be so embarrassing that all we want to do is cry into a pillow for days on end.
Why does this happen?
There’s a good chance that your definition of who you wanted to be in life and what dreams you wanted to pursue was defined for you by someone.
Parents, grandparents, teachers, or even societal traditions all seem to have things planned out for us.
Let’s revisit my friend with the twins.
He works from home, making him a stay-at-home dad.
His church kicked him out of the congregation because they felt like he wasn’t providing for his family even though he could provide financial statements that proved otherwise.
In the tradition of his family’s faith, the father goes out of the home to work, comes home with a paycheck, and the mother provides for the family.
Because he wasn’t “earning enough,” he was told he wasn’t good enough. Sound familiar?
What we learn from these situations depends on how we react to them.
You can doubt your spirituality, doubt your decisions, and even doubt yourself.
Or you can realize that what you are doing is pursuing your dream, meeting your needs, and what others have to say about it doesn’t have to influence your life in a negative way.
Many people will try to tear you down when they see that you are learning from each life experience.
They will try to stop you from chasing your dreams because they either gave up on their dreams long ago or they are trying to live vicariously through you.
Life is too short. Learn how to live your life and you will be proud of the person you find.
We all get lost from time to time.
In some ways, it’s important to get lost because this allows us to find who we really are.
If life remains comfortable and predictable, then there is never really an opportunity available to grow.
The danger in getting lost is that you may never find your way out of the darkness.
You may not like the person you find on the other side of such a challenge. Yet without some level of risk or threat of failure, you will never be able to truly chase a dream.
“Feeling lost? Good! Now you get to walk new paths that lead to much better places.”
– Robin S Sharma
You’ll encounter obstacles. You’ll encounter negative thoughts and feedback. You will have people try to tear you down.
It’s going to happen, but you don’t have to accept this toxic negativity.
You can tell your own story. You can be the person you want to be. You are stronger than you could ever know.
When you feel lost, use these tips to find yourself again and you’ll be able to do anything.