What to do when you feel lost

lotus flower

When we are feeling lost, it is hard to believe that we will ever find our way again. But, it is that very feeling of being lost that is part of the process of self-discovery. As Henry David Thoreau said “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”  Masaru Emoto describes beautifully what is possible when we feel lost.  “If you feel lost, disappointed, hesitant, or weak, return to yourself, to who you are, here and now and when you get there, you will discover yourself, like a lotus flower in full bloom, even in a muddy pond, beautiful and strong.”

What makes us feel lost?

A life transition

It is perfectly natural to feel lost at times in our lives. This often happens in the transition from one phase to another – becoming a teenager, becoming a parent, facing menopause, divorce or the loss of independence that comes with illness or old age.  When our children leave home and we no longer have such a hands-on parenting role, this is one of the times when we may feel lost. Our roles are no longer as defined as they were.

Many mornings after going through a divorce and experiencing an empty nest at the same time, I just wanted to pull the covers over my head and stay in bed. Everything I tried to do felt like such an effort and I could hardly force myself to keep up with routine tasks, let alone attempt anything more. The former script of my life was shredded and the days when I would spring out of bed with a ‘bring-it-on-world’ attitude and a sense of purpose seemed to have deserted me altogether.

When we are moving from one stage of life to another, we are like ships who are no longer anchored and have sailed out of a safe harbor. Many times our destination is unknown. At this point people may find that they begin to drift about in the ocean of life. They lose touch with all the goals and dreams they once had. They cannot even remember what they wanted out of life anymore. Nothing seems to motivate them and make them feel alive any more.

Incoming overload

We are faced with floods of information, noise, consumerism, and technology on a daily basis. In the midst of all of this, it is easy to start feeling as though we’ve lost our way. We cannot see a clear path in front of us due to the confusion and cognitive overload we experience. Life is changing so fast, technology is progressing by leaps and bounds and we have forgotten what it is like to experience silence.  It is easy to be overcome by fear  when we are constantly bombarded with news about terror attacks, rising unemployment, global warming, economic downturns and more. Living in a state of fear gives rise to anxiety and easily results in a feeling of being disconnected and lost.

Lack of meaningful relationships

We all need meaningful relationships in our lives. When we surround ourselves with supportive people who encourage us, we have less chance of feeling lost. Sometimes it is not easy for us to open up to others and nurture deep relationships but it is very important. Even one meaningful relationship is better than having a vast number of casual acquaintances. Some people are surrounded constantly by others and yet they may still feel lost.

Even if we are surrounded by others but they are people who tend to have a negative attitude towards life, it may rub off on us and eventually we lose sight of our own dreams and goals.

Always following the advice and opinions of others instead of trusting our own is another way to end up on a dead-end path.  Common opinion may dissuade us from taking up opportunities to which we feel drawn. I had firmly set my sights on earning a living from my writing online. I must admit I did not know how much hard work it would take but if I had listened to all the detractors, this website would still exist only in my head.

Searching

I am sure there are very few people on earth who haven’t felt lost at some point in their lives, even if they are celebrities or people who seem to have it all together.  It is absolutely fine to feel lost but it is definitely not okay to stay lost. When we are physically lost, we may meander around in circles in our attempt to find our way again. We may not find our way immediately but we have to keep searching.

We need to actively search for a new sense of purpose and ways to create a meaningful life.  The searching itself is part of the process of transformation.

We may have to backtrack and reconnect with our past dreams. What was it that made us excited? What impossible dreams did we once have that may just be possible now?  For those who have kept journals, reading past entries may help to re-awaken dreams.  For those who don’t journal, now is the time to start!

Getting quiet is important if we are to find meaning again. We have to create time apart from all the influences flooding our lives to find out what truly matters to us. We have to allow ourselves to value the silence rather than indulging in a flurry of activities to try and avoid feeling lost.

We have to be prepared to move beyond our comfort zones. Life transformation doesn’t happen if we are not prepared to stretch ourselves and move out of our ruts. If we stay where we are, we stay lost. As we begin to search, we may move forward very slowly but at least we are moving. Even if we take small steps and don’t know where we are going yet, we are making progress. I have begun the journey towards making a living from my writing – a few years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed that I could do something I love and make money at the same time!

It may even take doing something completely out of character to help us find our way again. I was asked by a friend to go to puppy training with her and I accepted. She had bought two puppies on impulse and needed help as she couldn’t manage both of them. I had never done anything like this before but I had such fun and found that there’s nothing better than running around after a puppy to lift your spirits.

We may need to take a closer look at the lives of those who are doing what we might be interested in trying and ask them a lot of questions.  When we have the opportunity of making changes in our lives, we may have to consider some possibilities we have never even entertained before.

Transformation

Life circumstances change and we have to change with them. We may feel lost for a while and change is never easy but embracing it is essential.  No transformation is possible without it. I personally found that one of my turning points was to rediscover some of the activities I loved doing in the past – writing, going to theater, gardening. I began to enjoy my freedom and my own company instead of feeling so lost and dreading being alone. We have to find a way to embrace the feeling of being lost as a step in the journey towards our transformation.

I would love to hear if you have ever felt lost and how you managed to get through it.

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