Karolina Numminen
A person typing on a laptop at a pink desk with a coffee mug.

Why You Can’t Figure Out What You Want: 5 Common Struggles

Finding your true career path is one of the hardest parts of adulting. While some seem to figure out their calling effortlessly, many feel clueless and lost. It can be overwhelming to wake up every day and not know if the next 8 hours of your life will make any sense to you long-term. As a career coach, I’ve heard my fair share of ‘I don’t know what to do with my life.’ Let's dive into the most common struggles I’ve collected. Keep reading to discover how to overcome them, empowering you to find your path.

1. Quick and easy solutions don’t work

Discovering your life's purpose is a complex process that goes beyond quick-fix personality tests and generic advice. It sounds tempting that all you need to do is fill out a quick test with a friendly UI, which will spit out what you should do with your life. 

As a recruiter, I was amazed at how many high-profile companies still base their hiring decisions on personality tests. Here are the main problems with such tests:

  • Their validity sucks (the information they collect can't capture the depth and uniqueness of your personality).
  • The results are incredibly generic and superficial.
  • Lack of recommendations on what to actually do with your result.

Even some forms of free career coaching that, for example, trade unions provide, can fall short. They often don’t offer enough sessions to really dig deep. Also, the focus is usually on your past (education and experience) and what would be a realistic next step in your career instead of discovering what you are passionate about.

2. Finding your life's purpose isn't a magical revelation that happens overnight

When we are freaking out that we don't know what to do with our lives, we can comfort ourselves by thinking that we haven't just figured it out yet. Surely, it will happen someday. And here's the thing, that might be true, but are you honestly willing to wait for years or decades, doing something you know is not what you truly enjoy? 

I am also very skeptical about the promise of 'escaping the everyday''. I mean retreats, sabbaticals, and gap years. We tend to think that at some point, after spending the evening getting drunk with ten random dudes and dudettes from all over the world (who are equally clueless about their lives), we will wake up in the dogy hostel room’ bunk bed and our whole life vision will magically appear right in front of us. 

Getting clear about your future requires deliberate effort, introspection, and planning. If you need time off, use it wisely to dive deep into your desires and ambitions.

3. The world is too fast and uncertain to expect a crystal clear career plan

As a clueless fresh graduate, I thought I needed to know exactly what kind of job I wanted to do before even entering the working world. What if I apply for a job that’s not my true calling? Well, by sitting at home complaining about the job market, I sure wasn’t getting any closer to having any sort of idea of my future. 

Instead of chasing the perfect match for your next 40 years, focus on identifying the building blocks of your ideal career. Accept the fact that your path may (and will) evolve. Try to think about which fields interest you, the type of work you enjoy, and the environment that suits you best. Any 'guiding light' will help you navigate your career in the sea of options.

4. The comparison trap is keeping you stuck

Maybe you found this article through the wonderful land of 'everyone else is doing better than me,' aka LinkedIn. It's easy to believe that everyone but you has their shit together. That’s because most of us spend a good portion of our days pretending we have it all together- at work, on social media, and often also in front of our friends and family. 

I am not writing this to give you permission to chill because everyone else is the same mess as you. But you should know that even those who seem to have it all figured out experience doubts and question their choices. Nobody is ever at 100% clarity, and neither will you. The best you can do is to keep moving forward and accepting doubts and uncertainties as a part of the process. Less time spent on LinkedIn and a little more time thinking about your career might be a good idea too. 

5. You already know it but you are not admitting it to yourself

Plot twist: I've actually rarely encountered a person who genuinely has no clue what career path they would find fulfilling. In my experience, the most common struggle stems from knowing deep down what you want but hesitating to admit it. 

I bet you, too, have a pretty clear idea of what you want to do. But the fear of judgment or perceived obstacles may hold you back. And so it feels easier to just stay in comfort rather than take risks. There is only one solution for this: acknowledge your dreams, take the leap, and challenge those preconceptions. You'll often find that they were not even true, and the rewarding feeling of going after something you want will outweigh the risks.

Karolina Numminen

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Conclusion

Especially early in your career, you can feel completely lost and overwhelmed by the number of choices. But I assure you that everyone has a life purpose, and everyone has the ability to find it. There are few things more rewarding and meaningful in life than deciding what you want to do and going after it. So ditch the quick fixes, comparisons, and waiting for clarity to strike. Instead, invest in self-exploration and expect the process to be often messy and ambiguous.

I recommend investing some proper time in getting to know yourself. You can do this with books that help you map out your strengths and define your goals (my favorites are Defining You by Fiona Murden or Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans). Or hire a coach who will take you seamlessly through the journey. At the very least, try to dedicate some time to thinking about what's currently working and what’s not. You can easily incorporate some reflection into your work day. When commuting from work, ask yourself: when did I feel competent today? When did I lose track of time because I was so into the task? Where did I make an impact?

Remember, the cost of staying in confusion or unfulfilling jobs is much higher than the investment in finding your true purpose. So take charge of your life and start the journey to a more meaningful and rewarding future.

Karolina Numminen
Author:
Karolina Numminen

Hi there!

Thank you for reading! I'm Karolina, a career coach with a passion for helping people have fulfilling and successful career journeys. I love writing about all things work and sharing the insights I’ve gained from years of coaching clients.

I would love to connect with you on LinkedIn and continue the conversation. I’m always curious about different professions and career paths!

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