Ask Rachel: How To Find Your Focus & Figure Out What To Do With Your Life

rachel ritlop the confused millennial

Woohoo! We have another “Ask Rachel” reader question! This one comes from my recent reader survey (thanks to all who filled that out!)

My biggest issue right now is finding focus and figuring out what I should be doing with my life. I'm so confused (literally a confused millennial!). A series/more advice/etc on this topic would be so helpful! There really aren't many resources out there for this kind of thing. Most of the resources out there are for people who already know what their calling is or what kind of career they want and how to get started. But what about those of us who have tried a few things, but haven't found anything that feels like we should be doing it our whole lives?

Oh dang, this one hits close to home… I honestly feel totally unqualified to answer this question as fully as I would like to. So I am going to do my best, but I enlisted some friends below to help answer too.

I constantly feel like the Universe is calling me into fifty million directions and I have no idea which path to lean into (also a big reason as to why my blog focuses on so many topics, I can’t decide! I believe we are all confused millennials in this together, looking for a well balanced and joyous life)!

I recently posted an article on Forbes that might be helpful, towards the end it gives some actionable tips and advice for finding your purpose in life. While it’s definitely not a complete answer, it’s a good place to start if you’re looking for some questions to ask yourself or movies to inspire you. Also check out this post I wrote about how I found, and continue to find, my life’s mission statement.

To go a little more in-depth to the last part of your question, “But what about those of us who have tried a few things, but haven't found anything that feels like we should be doing it our whole lives?”

I would say two things:

1) Drop the “whole life” mentality. The average millennial is projected to have 4 jobs by the time they are 32, and many career experts recommend changing jobs every 3-5 years after that. Which means that whatever you are doing today, is probably not what you will be doing five years from now.

2) Figure out what comes easiest to you. What do people constantly tell you you’re great at? What do you think you’re a total rockstar in? Too often we are taught in school that we need to focus on our “weaknesses,” taking all those extra classes in our poorest subject or tutoring time – when in reality people should focus on their strengths. That is where you are going to see the greatest develop, momentum, and returns in your life (IMO).

But since I am a totally confused millennial myself, I decided to not only answer your response but partnered with The Big Picture Life to give you some actionable advice (because, heck they wrote a book on this)! If you haven’t checked out their site, I highly recommend it. It’s totally interactive and helps you figure out what your purpose is, how to get there, and even how you can afford to make that dream a reality!  I would recommend starting here, a page specifically designed for those who don’t know where to start.  


Here is their response to your question:

Dear X,

Figuring out what to do with your life—or as you say, what you should do with your life—can drive just about anyone crazy. This is even truer as another year comes to a close; with New Year’s resolutions and a new start on the horizon, the pressure to decide what you’re doing can build and feel that much more overwhelming.

First off, take a deep breath. Thankfully, figuring out your life isn’t like a project with a deadline or a test graded by the professor you can’t stand. Second, take a step back and thank yourself. The fact that you’re thinking about purpose at all is a huge step in itself.

One useful way to start figuring out your next steps is to write about what contributes to your purpose. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? What are your core values? What kind of positive impact can you make on the world around you? Even if you’re not totally sure, writing down what you might want to do, or, at the very least, what you enjoy can spark ideas about what might come next.

If you want to take it a step further, there’s a book* that goes along with the site that provides even more opportunities to dream, journal, and advance towards doing something meaningful with your life. The Big Picture: A Guide to Finding Your Purpose in Life is a book is full of research-based ideas and activities to help you think through your next steps—and the bigger picture of why you’re taking these steps—all created by Dr. Christine Whelan, who specializes in helping young people find their purpose.

Looking for some more motivation?

Reading and listening to the stories of others is a great way to move towards a meaningful life.

Do you have friends or family who you think are living meaningful lives? If so, ask them about it: How did they get there? What decisions did they make? What decisions do they wish they hadn’t made?

The Big Picture’s Purpose Contest is an opportunity to share with the world what gives your life meaning. All you need is 300 words and a photo of you living your purpose—whatever you decide that is, even if it’s just your purpose for now—and you could win $500 (deadline: Dec 31, 2016).

Not ready to enter the contest yet?

You can check out  previous winners and get some inspiration. Past winners include millennials studying to become US Park Rangers, mechanics, social workers, and mentors to underprivileged kids on the streets. Paige Gamrat found her purpose as a teenager when she started teaching piano lessons. She writes, “Enabling kids to think and connect in the world of music is my passion and purpose, one that I pursue by continuing to teach piano lessons.” The first-round winner, Miguel Anderson, found his purpose studying medicine and one day hopes to open a practice with his mother, a nurse.

While there isn’t a three-step formula for figuring out what’s next (how nice would that be?), but by asking good questions, being honest with yourself, and taking firm steps towards something—whether or not it’s what you do for the rest of your life—you’re already on your way to a meaningful life.


Once you figure out your goals, you'll want to grab TCM's Goal Setting Guide!


*This post is in partnership with The Big Picture Life. Thank you so much for supporting brands who support TCM! *Anywhere you see a * after a link is an affiliate link in this post

90 thoughts on “Ask Rachel: How To Find Your Focus & Figure Out What To Do With Your Life”

  1. I love this!Such great advice- take a deep breath and remember there is no deadline. 🙂 Something I need to remember myself.

  2. I think figuring out what comes naturally is probably the most important thing! Once you have something, anything, that you feel like you have a good grasp of, it makes life so much easier!

    1. Agreed! That’s a concept talked about in “Trombone player wanted” and he basically says instead of schools focusing so much on the F, focus on the A because that area is where people will ultimately see the greatest growth in life

  3. This is so lovely. I’ve often felt like I’m flailing recently, so realizing that not only am I not alone but that there are things I can do to combat that feeling is so helpful!

  4. I’m in my early ’20 and I hate this phase when I’m constantly seeking “the meaning of life” and all that kind of deep stuff. Really not a big fan of it. 🙁

    Cristina | *janded

  5. This is definitely a question everyone has had at some point or another. I feel like we’re all just winging it and trying to figure out our next step.

  6. As a Gen X.. I would say that you never get it all figured out. It’s an entire life’s journey. So hold on for the ride..

    1. You’re welcome! I think one of the biggest wake up calls for me is that I don’t want to have it figured out for my whole life – because that means I got stuck somewhere and stopped growing and evolving.

  7. These tips are great. Especially finding someone who seems to have a meaningful life. I am so on this confused millennial journey. Does it ever end? say it’s so!

    1. I was actually wondering about that like a month ago! I thought you were in college, but then I was like, “how the heck does she manage all of this? And how was she in Cali so long?” haha when did you leave school?

  8. Yasssss! I have been struggling recently with figuring out what I want to do with the “rest of my life.” Do I pursue Biomedical Engineering, or focus on creating a brand with my blog? I’m so conflicted but just taking it one day at a time!

    1. Yeah one day at a time is helpful! I would also recommend looking back at your childhood. As a kid I had started 4 businesses by the time I was 11 – but then “Security” and “the real world” got to me so I got my masters, started working in my field and was earning 10k more annually than my co-workers who had been there for two years! but I was totally miserable and loved the flexibility and freedom that comes with being an entrepreneur. It’s what felt more authentic too me. It was a tough process (totally felt like I “wasted” 7 years on education) but ultimately I am SO much happier I took the road less traveled. If you ever want to chat about where your at just let me know!

  9. Just because Millennials are projected to have high job turn over doesn’t me we have to succumb to that statistic! Finding a company you can grow with and really put an investment into can be a good thing 🙂

    1. Yeah… but the stats and data actually show we shouldn’t be doing that anymore since you can usually only get a 1-5% raise each year at a company, but you can negotiate a 10-30% pay raise when moving to a new company. I think every situation is different though and as long as you are finding what you love to do none of that stats matter, but it’s good to know them so you don’t feel like a total F up when you have 5 jobs by the time you’re 30.

  10. Ahh Rachel, we must be on the same brain wave recently. I just posted a similar college focused version of the same question. Recently this has been a huge area of struggle for me, so thank you for your advice. -

  11. Good advice! I’m not so much a millennial anymore but definitely remember feeling really lost at times and not sure what I wanted to do with my life, career-wise. I was always really jealous of others who seemed to know their calling early on and that just was NOT me. I think it’s important to take your time and try a bunch of things until something feels right!

    1. Once you are a millennial you are always a millennial! If you were born between 1982 and 2000 you are stuck with the generational tag. But the trends and “Stigma” or “labels” are starting to change as the majority of them are now married, and starting families! – I totally agree with the idea of trying out a bunch of things!

  12. This is such a great post filled with great tips! My little sister is in college and is struggling with deciding on what to do with her life. Emailing her this!

    xo Ashley

  13. Breyona Sharpnack

    As a fellow millennial, this is very true. My husband has had the same job for about 5 years now and he is ready to quit and move on. He is almost done with school so he will be very soon. I have career hoped myself and each move has been better and better. BTW IDK wth I am doing either lol!

  14. Great post, Rach! I think everyone has been in that boat and I’ve had conversations about it SO many times. There’s so much more possibility now than ever before when it comes to what to do with your life. I think it’s just finding what makes you happy!

  15. Thank you for this post. I feel like I say that a lot after I read posts on your blog – perhaps I’m more confused than I originally thought. As my last semester of college is quickly approaching, I am feeling stuck in place while also drowning in the middle of an ocean. How am I supposed to know what I’m going to do after I graduate? I barely can figure out what I want to eat for dinner, how can I solidify a career path? I’m freaking only 22! I appreciated this post and it has helped to ease my insecurities about this topic.

    1. Hahaha to your opening! Love it!

      “I am feeling stuck in place while also drowning in the middle of an ocean” 4 months after finishing my masters I got fired twice in under a month! I had never been fired! I was on a path I wasn’t supposed to be on and TOTALLY miserable doing it!) I took a step back and wrote out what my dream work-life balance looked like and what skills or gifts I could offer/build on and then started coaching and consulting for business, which then turned into the blog a year and a half later.

      The point of all that is – even when you thing you have it figured out, things are going to catch you off guard. Chances are those insecurities come from others (parents or teachers or others telling you what you “should” be doing) – focus on what brings you joy even if they don’t understand it.

  16. I love this. So honest, so truthful, so SPOT ON. The whole “my whole life is ahead of me” mentality leads to forgetting that that does NOT mean that the whole life needs to be the same stinkin’ thing! It’s OKAY to change your mind, your plans, your path…change is OK.

    Coming Up Roses

    1. Yasss! If we aren’t changing than we are stuck! If we aren’t moving forward than we are moving backwards! *insert fifty million cliches that – dangit – turned out to be true!*

  17. Wow this is an awesome post and something that I can totally relate to right now. Thank you so much for this because it has helped clear a lot of things up for me.

    xoxo, Hannah

  18. Love love love this. I’m graduating in May and have no idea what i’m going to do with my life, which is terrifying. I’m so terrified of change but I’m trying to learn to accept it with open arms. Thanks for sharing this!


    Amy | Pastel N Pink

    1. You’re welcome Amy! you are totally not alone in those feelings! But your twenties are all about change and where you are at is just the start! It get’s easier though. You’re baseline adjusts and you basically become okay living in a state of limbo for a while haha

  19. Heather Gullett Denniston

    I love your stuff!!! This is great. How did you find the reader survey went? I have never done one an was curious what kind of response you got.

    1. Awe thank you! I think the reader survey went well! I got more responses than I thought I would and since my content is SO diverse and all of the place, it was good to see that over 80% of the responses really liked and appreciate the diverse. I thought that it would give me some clarity on what topics to cut out, but honestly the responses on “favorite” topics were just as diverse and evenly split as the content is.

  20. Currently reading a book by the same title by Po Bronson. I’m not actively trying to answer this question right now but I find the search for meaning interesting philosophically. I find listening to other people’s stories is really helpful.

  21. I love this thanks for sharing it! I often struggle with what to do or what I will do once I get out of college this gave some perspective

  22. This post is amazing! Sometimes I honestly feel this way and have no idea what I would do with my life. I love your tip of forgetting the “whole life” mentality. One step at a time, it is! Have a great weekend and Merry Christmas 🙂

  23. Alanna Martine Kilkeary

    wonderful post. would recommend you check out ; would definitely see something like this published there !

  24. Great post Rachel! I really struggled to find purpose for a while, when I realized what I’m BEST at is organizing and motivating… From there the jump to project management was a breeze and I’m soooooo much happier. So,etimes you don’t Ned to seek out your calling as much as let it hit you over the head with a frying pan until you understand it!

    Laura @

    1. Thanks Laura! That’s so awesome! I totally agree with you about letting it hit you over the head! I think sometimes we get so focused on “finding it” that we don’t realize it’s right in front of us!

  25. I love this post, Rach! It’s so important to focus on what you’re good at – which is how I realized what I wanted my business to be.

  26. I’m a bit more relieved to see someone else saying this. I have been trying to get this into my head the past few months but it’s hard. I just graduated and I’m more lost than ever. The questions won’t leave me alone! But I’m less stressed now about figuring out ‘my whole life’. Let’s see where this will lead me.

    1. Sorry I just saw your comment! I am so happy you’re feeling less stressed though! trust me, every time I felt like I had it all figured out, life slapped me over the head and flipped my entire plan upside down. I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with feeling lost and being in the unknown. Cheers to the lost souls <3

Comments are closed.