Sometimes in life, we all feel a little lost. I don’t mean literally lost (Google Maps is curing us of that). I mean existentially lost–like we’re not sure where to turn or what to do. Whenever that feeling strikes you, here are three simple steps I suggest you take.
1. Keep calm and prepare to walk on
For a variety of reasons, our culture creates the expectation that competent people should always be in command and in control, that we should always know exactly where we are (both literally and metaphorically), and that we should never be uncertain or confused. As a result, we go around pretending to know more than we do, acting like we’re utterly on top of things, and denying our own weaknesses to others and ourselves. This is, of course, a recipe for ongoing frustration and ignorance–not to mention mounting terror if and when we begin to feel truly lost.
Such fear, however, is ultimately unfounded. You aren’t the first person who ever felt lost, and you certainly won’t be the last. What’s more, while being lost may bring discomfort and danger, it can also create opportunity. No one ever found a better way–or even their own way–without first feeling a little lost.
2. Find a guide (or at least some traveling companions)
In my experience, the feeling of being lost is often compounded by the feeling of being alone–more specifically, the feeling that no one really understands me and my predicament. And, in my experience, the latter feeling is always a little misleading.
We all live our own unique lives, and no one can see all the way into yours. But we also tend to face the same sorts of challenges and to deal with the same sorts of feelings: joy, sadness, hope, fear, love, anger, etc. The similarities among our problems and our passions provide sufficient grounds for both sympathy and empathy, even among relative strangers.
Again, many of us have felt lost before, and some of us are glad to give guidance. All you have to do is ask. (Heck, I might even try to guide you without being asked!) Of course, the fact that many of us have felt lost before doesn’t mean that we now know the way–especially not the right way for you. But it does mean that you’re not alone.
3. Get going
Ideally, we would always begin in the right place and head in the right direction to get to the right destination. In practice, many of us are regularly unsure where we are, much less where we’re going, existentially speaking. To feel existentially lost is, among other things, just to catch ourselves in this common human circumstance.
And under this circumstance, it’s generally best just to pick a path and get going, attempting along the way to determine if the road is the right one–by asking ourselves (and others) where it’s leading, by continuing to peer down alternative highways and byways, and by risking a wrong turn or a U-turn now and then. After all, you have a better chance of getting where you want to go by starting out lost and heading in the wrong direction than you do by just standing still.
In the end, there are going to be times in life when you come to a crossroads, and when no one can tell you which way you should go. But there are also going to be people who will walk with you whichever route you choose. And together, you’ll find a way. Maybe not always the best way to the perfect place. But one that’s good enough to get you where you actually need to go.
I’ll be happy to join you on the journey, of course, and to give whatever guidance I can.