It was Abraham Maslow who introduced the need to be “self actualized,” and what he identified is that people have an inherent need to realize their potential. It’s part of our very fabric — when the challenges we face seem to fit perfectly with our strengths, we feel fully engaged, absorbed in the task. It’s when we don’t question ourselves, and what we are doing has purpose and meaning larger than ourselves. And, it’s when we feel most alive, most fulfilled, and probably, most happy.
And yet, so many of us go about our daily lives, and never seem to be able to fully answer the question: Is this really the life I’m meant to live?
So, to help answer the question, here are six signs that the life you are living is not meant for you.
You Numb Your Feelings. Drinking too much, working excessively, shopping excessively, overeating, gambling, and yes, too much time on the internet, are all ways we can numb our feelings. And the reason we do is that we are trying to feel something other than what we are feeling in the moment. Because what we are feeling is discomfort, dissatisfaction, a feeling of unrest. And it’s a sign — a sign that something is not right. The need to distract from the discomfort is a way to avoid facing it, and facing the reality that this is not how you want to be feeling, and this is not the life you want to be living.
The Fix: Stop numbing and start listening. Listen to what is really under the surface. Is it a longing for connection? Is it a need to feel that your work matters? Is it the desire to make a difference? Is it the desire to create something? To feel more challenged? Whatever the feeling is, listen to it until it’s crystal clear. Once you know exactly the way you want to feel, you can begin scripting the life that will get you there.
You Envy Others Success. From the outside looking in, everybody seems to have it better than us. More money, a bigger house, better, more exotic, travel, and of course, the envy of everyone else. Yet, if you find yourself envying others success — wishing it were you — it’s because what their success represents, is what you want. And what you don’t want is what you have. Instead, you would rather have what someone else has, because to you, it looks better. And feeling as though other people’s lives look better than yours is a sign — a sign that you are not satisfied with your life. You feel as though you could be, or should be, doing more. Somehow what you are doing is just not good enough.
The Fix: Stop Looking Out and Start Looking In. Instead of looking at everyone else’s life as the example of how to live, look at your life and ask yourself: Why is this not enough? What about my life is not good enough? What parts of my life are unacceptable to me? And when you ask these questions, make sure the answers come from you, and that you — and you alone — are determining what is good enough for you.
You Constantly Seek Validation. While we all appreciate praise, and certainly there is nothing wrong with receiving it, praise is not permission. When you who seek validation frequently, praise becomes the barometer from which you determine what is right and wrong. If my friends like this post, action, relationship, etc., then it must be good, and therefore I will go forward with it. And again, this is a sign — a sign that you have doubt. And it’s your doubt that you want others’ validation to make up for. But your doubt, your feeling that maybe this is not good, right, smart, whatever, should be a signal to you that maybe this is not what you are meant to be doing. Because when you are doing what you are meant to — when you have a calling — you don’t doubt yourself, and you don’t need others to validate it.
The Fix: Ask yourself: When do I feel most confident? When do I feel like I know exactly what I’m doing? Ask these questions and clarify the answers until they are as specific as possible, and you can describe exactly what you are doing when you longer need others’ approval.
You Feel Empty. We can all feel alone, isolated, and empty from time to time, but if you find yourself with a chronic feeling of emptiness, again, it’s a sign that something is not right. Often what is missing is a feeling of purpose, because emptiness is what happens when the life you are living lacks meaning to you. It’s when you feel as though nothing you do really makes a difference. And on a deeper level, it’s when you feel as though you do not matter. Yet, when you are doing what you are meant to do, you feel compelled to do it, because you know it makes a difference.
The Fix: Ask yourself: When do I feel as though what I am doing matters? When do I feel like I am making a difference? Again, be as specific as possible. Try to narrow down the answer until it is a specific activity that you can clearly describe. Once you have an idea of when you feel as if you — and what you are doing — matter, you are already one step closer to feeling fulfilled.
You Are Easily Frustrated. Frustration is a like a flashing red light. It is a warning signal, and it often precedes an impulsive act — like bursting out in anger. Yet frustration is there for a reason, and still many of us don’t heed it’s warnings. Because the chronic dissatisfaction — the feeling that things are not the way they are supposed to be — is a sign that maybe this isn’t the life for you. Perhaps someone else could be in your shoes and not be frustrated, but this is you, and your frustration should tell you that this isn’t right for you.
The Fix. Ask Yourself: What bothers me the most about my life? What is the one thing that I most want to change about my life? When you answer these questions, what you will uncover is that some part of your life doesn’t fit with your values. And you will have also identified one or more of your values — which means you can begin to create the life that exemplifies them.
Your Life Lacks Direction. Sure, many of us have been approached by someone with a great business idea, an exciting proposition, or a great moneymaker. And certainly, these things can look attractive. But jumping off your your own ship onto someone else’s is a sure sign what you are looking for is not in your possession. Because if you don’t believe in what you are doing — and you don’t feel as if it is uniquely suited to you — you will be very ready to trade it in for something else. The problem, however, is that you will always be trading in. Because what you are looking for does not exist outside of you. Instead, the life that you are meant to be living is dependent on internal qualities — your unique strengths — and once you find it, you wont want to give it up. Finding yourself easily talked into changing course is a sign that you have not found your own.
The Fix: Ask Yourself: What am I doing when I don’t want to stop? What is it that I have to pull myself away from? What am I doing when I feel most involved — almost absorbed in the activity? What the answers will reveal is what brings you the greatest feeling of engagement. And the feeling of engagement is a sign that what you are doing is what you are meant to do.
There is a life out there that is meant for you. We all have the need to realize our potential. And we all have the right to. And hopefully, if you feel as though you are not living the life you are meant to, you will go after the one you are meant to be living.