As fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien famously wrote, “not all who wander are lost.”
But some are.
So: what does it mean to be lost in life? Lost from what or where? Lost according to who?
Many people would have different interpretations about this, or even say that none of us have the right to judge who is lost and who isn’t (even ourselves).
I’d say they have a point. Up to an extent.
But I still believe there are certain objective truths we can point out about what it means to go astray and feel like your life has no point.
What are the signs you’re lost, why does it happen and how can you resolve it?
Let’s dive in.
1) Often feeling sad, anxious or empty inside
This is one of the worst aspects of being lost in life.
Even if everything seems fine on the outside and you have a job or partner, your inner life is a mess.
You feel empty, stressed, sad and you see no hope in sight.
The smallest things make you anxious and the only reason you continue is because of a tiny, vague hope that this can’t be all there is.
Surely things will be better someday, right?
(Well actually, yes!)
2) The future seems like an awful black hole
When you’re lost in life, the future seems totally unappealing.
Even thinking of the day to come gives you a feeling of dread. You have the opposite of a spring in your step. It feels like you’re walking in molasses.
This is one of the toughest parts about losing your way in life is that it isn’t just in your mind.
Your actual body feels lethargic and slow to move. You find it hard to get excited about anything.
Doctors say it’s a chemical imbalance, and sometimes it is. But it can also be a case of losing your direction of where you want to go in life.
3) Feeling exploited and mistreated by life and others
When you’re lost it’s hard to take any injustice no matter how small.
You find the exploitative behavior of other people really hard to deal with and can’t tolerate it.
Whether it’s at work or in a personal sense, you find that everyone seems to be on your case and you’re not sure why.
If you or somebody else feels like you just can’t get a break you’re lost in life.
4) Intentionally pushing away anyone who gets too close
It’s sad, but when people feel lost in life they often push away those who care the most.
I know because I’ve been there.
Those who appear with compassion and empathy are rejected and pushed away, because the lost individual feels like they could never understand.
When you feel unworthy or left behind it’s very hard to believe that anybody could really get it or really care about you without an ulterior agenda.
Letting down your guard is very hard.
5) Feeling very lonely but also resenting most people
It’s strange that you could feel lonely but also really want to stay away from most people, right?
But this is exactly the sensation when you’ve lost your way in life.
That’s because you’re not suffering from a lack of people around you, you’re feeling that the people you meet and interact with don’t really get you on a deeper level.
You’re feeling that your time is wasted and that any effort you do put in is useless.
6) A strong sensation of meaninglessness and lack of purpose
When you’re lost in life, you don’t feel that you have a purpose.
Your life seems directionless, like you could just do anything and it would all turn out the same anyway.
You feel like your passions are unrealistic or won’t really end up materializing in the real world.
This often comes about from a lack of self-confidence as well as a lack of having really reflected on the purpose that you have that’s unique to you.
7) Lack of interest in social activities
The lost individual starts to tune out from social activities.
If that’s you or somebody you care about then you’re aware of all the signs:
- Unanswered messages
- A wan expression and listlessness
- Not laughing at jokes
- Reacting to bad news with a shrug
- Living in a sedentary bubble
When this happens it’s a clear sign of feeling lost, at least in the sense of lost as to how you should connect with those around you.
You’re in this world, but how do you meaningfully become part of it?
8) Being glued to devices and screens
Are you or somebody you know addicted to smartphones, laptops and screens?
These days it’s certainly a common affliction, and there are even an estimated 3,000 deaths per year due to distracted driving in the US alone.
Not to be too morbid, but screens aren’t a substitute for living, breathing life.
If they help connect you to other people, jobs or communication then they’re an excellent tool. But we all need to be careful not to let them become our life in a totalistic sense.
9) Living a sedentary and boring lifestyle
Sitting around isn’t good for our body, but it’s also very bad for our soul.
If you find that you or somebody you know spends far too much time getting to know their favorite armchair, there’s likely a feeling of fear and being lost present.
The world can be scary and full of heartbreak, there’s no doubt about that.
But those who feel lost in life and cling to the safety of inactivity often come to regret it, especially in older age.
10) Feeling constantly restless and confused
Do you feel like you just can’t find satisfaction?
No matter where you go, who you meet or how many great times you have, you’re left the next day feeling kind of … nothing.
Well, life has highs and lows and it can’t all be a giant party.
But if you do feel constantly restless and confused it’s definitely a sign of being a little lost. It’s a sign that it’s time for some soul-searching.
Maybe hitting the reset button and living in a different way by different principles could be just what you need!
I’m a rollin’ stone, all alone and lost…
Many of the symptoms above are commonly associated with depression, anxiety disorders and psychological struggles. I fully understand that.
But they are also symptoms that can show up in a very real way when you are not living up to your potential and your life has left you feeling unneeded and alone.
If you feel lost in life, don’t worry.
Knowing you’re lost is the first step to finding your way. Many wander their whole lives and wonder what’s missing without realizing they’ve lost a path that’s meaningful to them.
There is no one path, but it is possible to find a purpose in your life and live that out with the decisions you make and relationships you cultivate.
If you’re lost in life, it’s all part of the process to finding your way back to the road that was meant for you.