People who feel lost in life and lack meaning often display these 20 subtle behaviors

Remember the time when you never felt more alive.  

It’s a remarkable feeling, and its exact origins are often difficult to identify. But we can probably be certain of one thing: it was when you felt purposeful, joyful, and enthusiastic all at once.  

Now imagine quite a different feeling – aimlessness, meaninglessness, boredom. It’s quite the comedown, and yet so many of us fall into this abyss at different times in our lives.  

And it isn’t something that’s obvious when we see someone. In fact, someone extremely close to us could be grappling with these feelings right now and hiding them.  

So, how can we tell if someone is struggling with this feeling of mental and emotional paralysis?   

Well, there are some signs to look for.  

People who feel lost in life and lack meaning often display these 20 subtle behaviors.  

1) They have zero motivation for anything positive

Feeling lost and lacking meaning is the mental equivalent of the air being sucked out of your lungs.  

This is when people have no goals to aim towards, no structure to schedule our time, no meaningful tasks to alleviate our boredom.  

As a result, they’re starved of motivation for anything positive or productive.  

2) They have no healthy hobbies (anymore)

And this lack of motivation cannot be compartmentalized.  

People will even neglect positive hobbies and activities they once loved when they feel lost and lacking in meaning.  

They won’t be able to help it, their loss of enthusiasm extends to all things.  

3) They slowly become more isolated

And as they lean away from their work and hobbies, increased isolation becomes inevitable.   

It is usually such a gradual process it can remain undetectable until it’s considered in hindsight.  

4) They’re more defensive

People who are struggling with feelings of aimlessness may not know the root of their pain, but they do know that they’re not in a good place. 

And this realization makes them extremely sensitive to criticism.  

So, they may show signs of snappiness, defensiveness, and plain old irritability.  

5) They’re indifferent about what’s ahead

Someone who is actively working toward their goals will have definite plans for their future or at least know what they would like it to look like.  

So, if someone isn’t interested in making plans, or demonstrates apathy at the mention of what the future holds, this is a subtle but definite indicator that they feel lost and purposeless.  

6) They dread making decisions

It stands to reason that it’s difficult to be decisive when we don’t know where we want to go.

So, someone who is lacking meaning in their life will inevitably dread making decisions because they know they’re not in the right frame of mind to make a good one.  

7) They lack self-awareness

Some people can go from being extremely mindful and present to being a thousand miles away mentally.  

Beginning to ignore their feelings and disengaging from any self-reflection (and consequential lack of self-awareness) strongly points to hidden feelings of purposelessness.  

8) They begin to deprioritize themselves

How we feel on the inside inevitably shows up on the outside.  

So, if someone is feeling stagnant and lacking enthusiasm for life, it will begin to show in their self-care.  

They deprioritize their health and wellbeing, a clear signal they’re really deprioritizing themselves.  

9) They procrastinate

Procrastination isn’t merely the result of a lack of motivation, it’s more associated with the negative self-beliefs that people hold.  

It can also be the result of mental stress. 

So, if you notice someone is procrastinating, chances are they are feeling lost and aimless.  

10) They go with the flow

When we’re disciplined and driven to achieve our goals, we use our time to the maximum. 

So, it stands to reason that when people lack enthusiasm and direction, they tend to just go with the flow and begin to coast through their lives.  

Standards, objectives, and values can often disappear.  

11) They’re more emotional (in a negative way)

We can always rely on our emotions to expose what we’re really thinking.  

So, it’s understandable that feelings of stagnation (and the suppression of them) will make people more emotional than usual.  

Negative outbursts can indicate they’re stuck in a rut and feeling helpless.  

12) They neglect relationships

You’re familiar with the saying, “Keeping your cup full”. Or, in other words, take care of yourself or you’ll have nothing left to give to or share with others.  

One of the truest things ever said! 

This is why people who are lost in life will begin to neglect their relationships.  

It’s not that they don’t still love family and friends, it’s just that their cup is so empty, they have no energy or enthusiasm to pass on to others.   

13) They can’t get excited

No purpose, direction, and motivation equal no passion, enthusiasm, and joy.  

It’s that simple. 

That’s why those who feel their life lacks meaning will find it impossible to be genuinely excited about anything. 

Even if they receive wonderful news, they won’t feel elation because it is incompatible with their mindset.  

14) They become easily led

Carl Jung said, “The world will ask who you are, and if you do not know, the world will tell you.”  

People who have lost their passion for life lack direction and personal conviction. 

They begin to lose their strength of character and are easily led and influenced by others.  

15) They’re restless

No one enjoys feeling numb about life.  

This lack of fulfillment leaves people feeling restless, frustrated, and increasingly irritable.  

 A subtle sign someone is struggling with feelings of purposelessness. 

16) They obsess over what’s past

Not living in the present moment or taking ownership of the future means there’s only one place left to go… and that’s backwards.

People lacking meaning and direction will obsess over former relationships and decisions.  

And they will find themselves consumed by regrets as opposed to taking lessons from their former mistakes. 

17) They are totally disconnected

Disconnection from their loved ones, communities, colleagues, and the world in general is a sign that someone is totally lost in life. 

Because they’re not engaged with their own existence, they can’t possibly engage with anything else.  

Until they regain their lust for life, their enthusiasm for everything will be nonexistent.  

18) They constantly need to escape

Escapism is the refuge of people who lack meaning in their lives. 

And whatever method they choose — entertainment, alcohol, drugs, food, etc.— chances are that if someone is constantly indulging, they are probably feeling frustrated and bored with their lives.  

These types of activities provide them with the distraction they need to avoid their feelings of listlessness.  

19) They tolerate superficial relationships

And staying with distractions… 

When we’re not using our time for important or valuable goals, it becomes less precious. 

So, tolerating and squandering time on superficial relationships is another subtle sign that someone is feeling lost and lacking meaning in their lives.  

And finally… 

20) They become envious and resentful

We’re usually happy for those that are happy, right? 


That is, not people that are feeling lost and lacking meaning.  

Their perception of other people’s successes with family, career, and personal development really grates on them (understandably). 

This can make them envious and resentful of others who appear to be living their best life.  

Final thoughts 

Clusters of these behaviors can give you a pretty good idea whether you or someone you know is struggling with the feeling of stagnation in their lives.   

But, remember, this feeling doesn’t need to be permanent.

For some great advice to help you find your purpose in life, check out this article.  

Niamh McNamara

A freelance writer fascinated with human nature and social dynamics, Niamh read literature, history, and philosophy at university before spending time in journalism and PR. Armed with a passion for words and ideas, and a healthy appreciation of the ridiculous, she tries to make sense of it all. Connect with Niamh on X @NBMcnamara123

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