When You Don’t Know What You Want Anymore

Man Thinking

“We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.” ~Lloyd Alexander

There was a time when I looked at the world without hope. My future felt dark because I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

I felt like I was a random player in a chaotic game. I didn’t like it, and I didn’t like life.

Luckily, I stumbled onto resources, ideas, and practices that helped me reconnect to my wisdom, my heart, and my interests.

I applied what I learned, and clarity emerged.

I’ll share what happened and how I gained clarity, but in order to do that, let’s start at the beginning.

The Problem

The problem wasn’t that I didnt know what I wanted to do. It was thinking that I should know what I want.

When I think I should know, I put pressure on myself. I feel stressed out, and I feel like I’m not good enough because I haven’t got life figured out.

When I accept the present moment as it is, it frees up a tremendous amount of energy. When I stop resisting, I can start living.

When I look back at the darkest moments in my life, not only do I see their purpose, but I also see that, deep down, I always knew what step to take next.

But at the time I couldn’t see this because my vision was clouded by my fears.

The Solution

The solution was to see through what held me back from connecting to my heart, and to my desires.

I did this by becoming mindful of how I was letting my fears dictate my life. I began to deliberately challenge my fears by taking action.

I took tiny steps forward. I listened to my heart as best as I could.

Instead of shrinking away from my fears, I wondered, “What would happen if I took a step forward anyway?”

By doing this, I discovered that most of my fears were false. They weren’t real. They didn’t come to pass, even though it felt like they would.

I realized that acting on what I was interested in right now was enough to start the ball rolling. With time, I could sense what was right for me.

Today, I feel like I have cat whiskers on my body, and I navigate through feeling.

Our desires can never be put out. They can be dampened and dismissed, but never extinguished.

3 Steps to Uncovering What You Want

So the question then becomes: How do we reconnect to our desires?

Well, I’m not going to tell you what to do, because there’s no real formula. And I’m not the expert on you. You are.

So what I’m going to do is share a few examples from my life. That way, you can pick what resonates with you and apply it to your life.

Don’t take what I say for granted. Instead, test it out.

1. Become quiet.

Whenever I feel confused and don’t know what to do, I take it as a sign to calm down. During those times, I notice that my mind is speeding along, trying to figure everything out.

I often lie down on my bed and just breathe. Sometimes I take a walk, and sometimes I watch a movie.

I don’t have a set routine. I listen to my heart. I notice what I feel pulled to do. I trust my body and my inner wisdom to know what is right for me at that moment.

But there are times when I don’t know what’s right. I just feel confused. When that happens, I become quiet and I focus my attention on my heart area.

My mind often tries to pull me back up, but I gently re-focus on my heart.

I ask my heart: What is important right now? And I wait. I don’t always get an answer, but I try to listen every day.

I’ve noticed that whenever I’m stressed, it’s not because life is stressful; it’s because I’m entertaining stressful thoughts.

Becoming quiet and reconnecting to my heart helps, especially when I don’t know what to do.

2. Explore through writing.

Something else that I’ve found immensely useful is writing.

I don’t use prompts. I don’t have a structure. I open up a notebook and start writing what’s on my mind.

I clear my mind by dumping it all on paper. This seems to give me better access to my heart. So I begin by writing what’s on my mind, and I end up writing what’s in my heart.

Some call this journaling. Some call it freewriting. Julia Cameron calls it writing your “Morning Pages.”

The label isn’t important. What’s important is the result.

After writing for ten to fifteen minutes, after getting all the craziness from my mind on paper, clarity emerges. I can feel my heart becoming warmer.

I sometimes ask my heart questions. I don’t always get great answers, but sometimes I do. Sometimes I feel like I’m connecting to an intelligence greater than me. And who knows, maybe I am?

The bottom line is that it works.

3. Take micro steps.

Once I reconnect to my heart, and clear some of the mind chatter, I begin asking myself: What tiny step can I take to reconnect with my desires?

You may want to rephrase this question. If you do, make sure you keep the focus on ridiculously tiny steps.

Sometimes the tiny step is to lie down. Relax and recharge. Stop trying to figure everything out. Stop stressing about the imagined future.

Micro steps are not only useful in reconnecting with your desires. I use them in everything I do.

The reason they work so well is that they bring you back to the present moment. Micro steps help you focus on what you can do with what you have.

You can’t predict the future. You can’t control outcomes. But you can do the best you can, right here, right now. When this realization sinks in, you relax and life becomes brighter.

The biggest mistake I make over and over again, even though I know all this, is getting stuck in my own thinking.

I notice my thinking trying to figure it all out. But all my thoughts are assumptions about life. They aren’t reality. Just thoughts.

This doesn’t mean we should condemn thoughts. It means we need to take our thoughts less seriously.

Because what if you let go of the story that you didn’t know what you want? You would simply enjoy what’s right here, right now. And if you felt drawn to do something, you’d do it.

When I watch my son play, he doesn’t know what he wants. He’s completely in the present moment, enjoying life. He’s almost three years old as I write this, yet he’s showing me how to live and enjoy life.

You see, I’ve noticed that I tend to take life too seriously. I take my thoughts, my fears, and my future seriously.

Yet what I’ve realized is that I’m always experiencing my life through my thoughts. I don’t feel the outside world. I feel my thoughts.

So when I help people find and follow their passion, even when they don’t know what they want, I discover that the spark never went out. It simply got obscured by their thinking.

I’m not going to tell you to make a radical change in your life. I’m going to tell you to take the tiniest step, and to bring your attention back into this very moment.

You only need to notice a tiny thing you enjoy doing, and follow it. This isn’t about picking the right thing.

Right now, it’s about simply learning to follow your interests, and reconnecting to your heart and joy.

Thinking man image via Shutterstock

See a typo, an inaccuracy, or something offensive? Please contact us so we can fix it!
Announcement: Tired of feeling stuck? Learn to let go of the past & create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • Fantastic article Henri and I agree with so much of what you have written. Writing, for me, has become my therapy to unleash my thoughts and make some sense from them and in the process I seem to be helping others which is a wonderful bonus.

    I’ve actually written an article about why ‘should’ is one of the worst words in the English language – it puts us under immense pressure when there doesn’t always need to be.

    Great work on this 🙂

  • Peace Within

    Hi Henri, your advice is great. It is easy to apply to our lives and anyone can do it, which is why I like it. My way of being quiet is taking nature walks, they are therapeutic. Great for the mind, body and soul. Sometimes I come up with solutions to problems that I am facing. Sometimes I pray/ meditate. Sometimes I just enjoy the moment and practice mindfulness; I enjoy the scene of the ocean, the birds, and other animals. It depends on what I need, like you suggested. When my mind is cluttered and there is too much going on, that’s when I write. It’s a great way to get it out and it helps make sense of things. My way of taking micro steps is just to make small goals and take the little steps I need to fulfill the goals. The more we follow our hearts and souls, the easier it becomes. After a while, it becomes second nature, we don’t even think about it, just happens. Just wanted to say I love your advice and I am glad you are helping other people out. Take care! =)

  • Extremely well said. Thanks for sharing that 🙂

  • Writing is almost like magic 🙂

  • Wow! I really connected with this article. In fact, it targets an issue that I’ve been struggling with for the last few months. I have some things in my life figured out now (my passion for writing) but other things (when to move and where?)…not so much and as soon as I start to focus on what I ‘have’ to figure out, I end up getting overwhelmed and frustrated. This was a terrific article and I plan to save it in my favorites to review again:-) Thanks so much for sharing!

  • DB Hoster

    Um, wow. Thank you for writing this. This was precisely what I needed to hear right now to get out of this endless mind chatter I have been going through, where I’ve literally been creating problems for myself out of thoughts. Thanks for talking me down!

  • You are most welcome. Glad I could help!

  • Thanks for reading, and commenting, Michelle. If you have any questions, you know where to find me!

  • Nisha Sharma

    I can relate to the things you wrote…..right now I am in a situation of total anxiety and frustration…..and these suggestions are really commendable….writing really works…also helping others and just watching chichildren playing are sort of things that soothe me alot.

  • I needed an article like this, thanks!

  • David

    I loved this. Thank you.

  • Carla Spark

    Beautifully written! Thankyou very much. I needed this 🙂

  • Chip Kelly

    Hey Henri, if you could recommend one book on spirituality, what would it be? 🙂 Thanks in advance!

  • I’ve always had a fondness for The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. It’s the book that got the ball rolling, if I remember correctly.

  • Chip Kelly

    That’s an amazing book. I need to re-read it once more. I could definitely see a published book from you one day and I’ll of course buy and read it!

  • BenAssayag

    I’m so confused lately and this is one of the best articles I have read…
    So simple and straightforward

  • sho

    Hello . Ive just read your article and i like it so much . Wish best for you and your son

  • Sushi73

    Wow, you’re right! Thinking that I should know what I want, was blocking me and I have just been torturing myself for days. Your advice helped unlock me and get me moving forward. It’s really helped. What a relief. Thank you so much.



  • Diane

    Hi Henry…I am having feeling the same thing at this stage of my life.
    Its a great article. Thank you so much for posting this. I am looking forward to read more of your posts.

  • randy jones

    i don’t have a job it moved to mexico no job no money i am 53 no one will hire me what do i do ?

  • Ina

    how about making wooden kayaks or canoes and rent these out to tourists (living near a lake etc)? You don’t need to pray, but to take charge; there are more opportunities for you than you now think. But you need to get of the beaten tracks. People WILL support you – open up new perspectives for you – if you follow your gut feelings and passions.

  • Just to start your imaginative thinking going: how about making wooden kayaks or canoes and rent these out to tourists (living near a lake etc)? You don’t need to pray, but to take charge; there are more opportunities for you than you now think. But you need to get off the beaten tracks. People WILL support you – open up new perspectives for you – if you follow your gut feelings and passions.

  • Dark_Wolves

    Thx to you I finally noticed what I wanted to do with my life that the answer was in front of me the whole time, I was just clouded by my fears of what I wanted to do and what people expected of me that I finally opened my mind and heart to follow my path and I am determined to stay on it and can finally enjoy the things outside of it while walking forward instead of being confused and not moving forward at all.

  • Raiha Ahmed

    This is an amazing article! I can really relate. I use to write to figure my own mind out too, I use to say “writing is my therapy”. I entertain my stress full thoughts too and I feel so drained. I end up envying people who are just living in the moment. I think I might just go back to the habit of writing again after reading this. 😀

  • Ruqaia Fareed

    Wow ! Thanks Henri ! Just a great article and inspiration words . Thanks a lot and have a good and fantastic day.

  • Stephanie J

    I appreciate this so much.. “I ask my heart: What is important right now? And I wait. I don’t always get an answer, but I try to listen every day.” I really needed to hear that reminder, thank you for sharing your approach (:

  • Jerimae Perje

    Hi Henri, your advice is great. I’m currently experiencing that right now. I don’t really know what I want right now, and it sucks. I don’t know where to start. I don’t know if this job I have right now is really the job I want, I always feel out of place and I don’t see my purpose here. Everyday, I just sit in front of my computer and do nothing. I just wait for my immediate supervisor to give me something to do. Help me, what should I do? Am I on the right track? This is my 2nd job by the way. Your response would be a great help. Thanks!

  • Ambika Ray

    Hi Henri,
    You are so right. It is not worth freaking/ stressing out over the future because it will come ,but in the meantime you will miss the little moments that are occurring now (for your case, enjoying your son growing up). This article helped ease my mind so thank you for that 🙂 As long as you are doing something you like and not hurting others in the process, you are doing good to the world 🙂

  • Jen

    What if we are hurting others? What if what our heart asks us to do is going to hurt someone very important to you? what then?

  • Nandhini

    Now My heart says to follow these…Thank you…I feel much better after reading these…

  • Kiran S

    Hello Man

    If this is your experience, you should be enlightened!

    One gets inspiration from you, when they don’t know what to do and look for genuine advise / help. I came across your article in such a situation. It rings a bell and makes sense. Thanks a lot.

    Thumbs up!

  • Joe kovolis

    Growing up I was the guy that everyone said”he see’s the good in everything and everyone”.now I’m 52.and for 4 or 5 years I’ve found myself only seeing the’s like something is trying to destroy my lifelong peace of mind.ive never wanted much in this life.except the basic necessities.ive never longed for anything material.ive actually avoided situations in life where I could’ve succeeded monetarily.not wanting to sacrifice my spiritual being for life’s temporary pleasures.i can’t figure out what happened to me.why I see all the negative instead of the positive.anyone out here understand me.i could use some input about my situation.God bless.

  • Andrea

    Hi Henri. Wow, I was astonished with your article because what you have been through is exactly what I have been through. I just hope I can really find my path. Thank you.

  • Cynthia

    Henri, dat was amazing,
    U r awesome and God bless u.
    I love ur teaching. Uve made me feel fulfilled and I really appreciate u for dat.

  • martin izzo

    I just want to take the time out of my “raining in my head” moments and express that you are appreciated. I am going through allot of tough times due to my thoughts over running my head. Its so hard to teach your self all over when you never been taught how to in the first place… I am going to try to reach for my heart again, and try to take these tiny steps in life. I thank you for writing this.. At times i just cry randomly because i am so overwhelmed…

    Thank you very much martin

  • Lynn

    Brilliant article – exactly what I needed right now. Thank you

  • Valerie Gonzalez

    Hi Henri, I’m 15 and I don’t know myself at all. I don’t know what I like or who I am anymore. I became numb and I haven’t felt anything for over a year..I don’t know what to do. Should I just start going out more and find what I like?

  • Danielle

    Amazing indeed ! God bless

  • Shari

    Hi Valerie, Once I was 15 and felt the same as you expressed. I relate to the issue of overthinking. Now I’m not 15, in fact I’m a little over 3 times that age. I wish I knew then what I know now. What I know now is that meditation and mindfulness could have saved me so much anxiety over the years. I only just discovered these concepts. Meditation and mindfulness have changed my life. But it takes practice. Lots of practice, before you see and feel results. Baby steps. Instead of trying to solve everything concerning you right this very moment … know that it will take time to stop the overthinking. It will take time to stop the numb feeling. My personal feeling for a solution of going out more …. what does this mean really? If it means joining a yoga class I can see that being helpful. Socializing is important too, but my guess is you are allot more intellectually mature than other of your peers. And so be smart and purposeful. I don’t believe being at every party held in the neighbourhood is the answer. And, although you aren’t saying that, you said going out more and find what I like. As I don’t know what you mean, but I have raised 3 amazing daughters, I stress healthy choices. Another thing is find an adult in your life, a counsellor at school, a relative, or your family doctor, and/or an adult you trust, (I hope your mom would be one), and talk. If you don’t keep a journal that might be something you could start. Pouring your overthinking down on paper is therapeutic. You get it out of your head. I write this because of all the comments to this article, yours hit me in the heart. I saw the author, Henri, hasn’t had a chance to reply and it’s been 18 days. I just didn’t want you to think, what you were brave enough to express, was missed. You are important. 15 can be a tough age. In fact nobody could pay me enough to go through the teen years again; they can be challenging. But you will succeed. Right now your education is paramount. In this world, education is the key. How about start your purposeful journey by picking an area of study you like. Focus on it and ace it. Find out all the occupations that can come from this area of study, and go for it. Talk to a school councillor for help on this. That will give you a goal and purpose. I hope this helps. I’m no psychological professional but I’ve been where you are coming from and as I say I’ve helped navigate three daughters through tough times. You can do this Valerie. Read Henri’s article again. He has some great suggestions. Take care.

  • Valerie Gonzalez

    Hey Shari. I cried reading this. You’re the first person to be upfront with me. To not tell me this is just some phase, a passing cloud. Whatever you call it isn’t the point. Just the honesty and I thank you for that. What I meant by going out more is exactly what you said or typed. I guess some part of me wanted to be saved by going to all the neighborhood parties. At this point, I’m just very vulnerable, but hey, I did post that comment that then led me to you so I’m very grateful. Bless your heart for understanding and responding. When I saw that Henri wasn’t responding, my very first thought was that he may have seen my comment and believed it to be just another depressed teen who had no clue what they were saying. Anyway, thanks.

  • Dahmir Dennis

    Im 15 years old also i feel the same

  • Jaydoe

    This was amazing and truly touched my soul. I am working on transforming my life and being more comfortable and confident in myself, it is a work in progress but I have started to work out again and hydrate constantly. I will be a senior at University this coming fall and I am not sure what I want to do with my life. But I am starting to realize that I do know, I am just psyching myself out, every time I have a good thought or idea I get all excited then kinda brush it to the side. But I have to realize It is just about concentrating on the presence and being the best version you can be because it domino effects into your future. Our future is non existent, it is what we make of the moment that creates the future . THANK YOU HENRI. It all makes sense