Help! I’m Lost in My Mind, with No Sense of Life Purpose

I’m 28 years old and these days I feel like I’m floating in the middle of the ocean with nothing to grasp onto and no shoreline in sight. I’m just treading water trying to stay alive. I’m fortunate enough to be born into a situation where I have a supportive family, I was able to graduate college with an engineering degree, and I have a good job with benefits. On the surface my life looks great, but I feel a sense of hopelessness when I think about my life’s purpose. I know I’m privileged in comparison to most of the people in this world, but it’s mostly material privilege. How can I have so much of my life figured out and still feel as if there is just no point to any of it? Is this all there is to my life? Do I have another 40 years or so of paying bills and then a cold hole in the ground to look forward to? I know in my mind that I should be thankful for all I have at my age, but I just can’t seem to shake the feeling that I’m wasting it all as a worker bee. I’ll put a smile on my face, brush my teeth in the morning, and continue going to work, but what can I do to shake this feeling of no direction, no purpose, and no real human experience? Please help. —Lost in My Mind
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Dear Lost in My Mind,

I don’t suppose it’s much consolation, but you describe your situation very well—lost in your mind, indeed. You seem very much in your head, sort of like having an “out of body” experience of sorts. So the antidote might be to get out of your mind, if you will. I say that with a smile because I think if you get out of your mind and into the rest of yourself—body and soul, for example—you may feel less lost.

How to begin?

First, I’d pursue a therapeutic relationship with someone who will help you lose your mind and find yourself. Does that sound trite? Maybe, but the truth is often so simple that people overlook it. Based solely on what you have written, you sound as if you might be depressed. There are a number of ways to deal with depression, including, depending on the individual, psychotherapy (talk therapy is helpful), medication (in concert with therapy), body therapy (yoga therapy or some somatic therapy or mindfulness activity that you find to your taste), and participation in doings that have nothing to do with work. Such doings may include, say, yoga or art or sports or music or, maybe best of all, a volunteer activity that will exercise your compassion.

You write that you are privileged and have no purpose. Find one. Maybe you could tutor, garden, or help out at the animal shelter.

You write that you are privileged and have no purpose. Find one. Maybe you could tutor, garden, or help out at the animal shelter. I don’t know what kinds of things appeal to you, but find something you like that will enable you to contribute to our world and then do it. Having had the privilege of a good education, you have much to offer your community and the world.

You write that you “put a smile on” and go on. I applaud your “going on-ness” and it’s a good start, but remember what Henry David Thoreau wrote long ago: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” I hope you pursue and find your song and sing it. Sing several. Sing a cantata.

You say you have “no real human experience.” I’m not sure what you mean by that, but if there is some particular experience you are lacking, then this would be a topic to discuss with a therapist. What is it? Can it be achieved? How can you go about doing it? Perhaps your life’s purpose is to discover what is meaningful to you and then to manifest your meaning by helping others find what is useful and meaningful to them.

Maybe when you write “human experience,” you mean experiencing your feelings. If that’s so, I invite you to awaken your emotional life through action.

Changing the way you approach the world may change it. I wish you the best!

Take care,
Lynn

Lynn Somerstein
Lynn Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, C-IAYT is a Manhattan-based, licensed psychotherapist with more than 30 years in private practice. She is also a yoga teacher and student of Ayuveda—the Indian science of wellness. Her main interest is in helping people find healthy ways of living, loving, and working in the particular combination that works best for them, connecting to their deepest energic source so their full range of abilities can be expressed. Lynn's specialty is understanding and alleviating anxiety and depression.
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  • Logan

    Logan

    June 12th, 2015 at 11:49 AM

    stepping out on a limb here but to me it sounds as if you are depressed.

  • Petra

    Petra

    June 14th, 2015 at 5:40 AM

    I wish you all the best but I do agree that it is time for you to begin looking and find something that will help provide you with some sense of purpose and joy in life. These are not always going to be things that automatically come to you. Sometimes you must seek out those things and try them and discover what purpose that they can help give to you.

  • Lyn

    Lyn

    June 14th, 2015 at 6:26 PM

    I felt the same way as I approached 30. Iwas depressed, anxious & burnt out. I felt like a hampster on a wheel. Most suggestions to me seemed like distraction techniques- so in the end I’d still be going nowhere, but I’d be happy about it.

    Eventually I had to reassess what I believed about life & why. Having goals that have no purpose except enjoyment are a necessary part of good mental health, but it needs to be balanced with more long term purposeful goals- something that validates your values & skills, but also has value to others.

    Another aspect to considered is the “why am I here?” as a spiritual question. Personally I believe in God & therefore my existence isn’t a fluke or random occurance.

  • Vibha

    Vibha

    July 9th, 2019 at 11:41 PM

    I am intrigued. I am currently going through the same thing and I am turning 30 this month. How did you go about finding what your life vision and hence your life goals are. You can email me as well.

  • Parisa

    Parisa

    June 14th, 2015 at 10:32 PM

    hi,

    Time and patience is all we need in life, sometimes. I am a 31 year old therapist who hated my 20s due to different factors. Life changed for me in my 30. Don’t give up!

  • Sherisse

    Sherisse

    June 15th, 2015 at 11:37 AM

    Yes, i’m almost 30 and have had pretty crappy 20s experience. I am hoping the next decade provides me with relief and renewed hope. Glad to know i’m not the only one. :). Time and patience, indeed!

  • Lynn Somerstein

    Lynn Somerstein

    June 15th, 2015 at 12:29 PM

    Hi Sherisse- Time and patience always help. And the 30’s are often better than the 20’s because that’s when people start figuring things out.
    It gets better!
    Take care,
    Lynn

  • Talitha

    Talitha

    June 15th, 2015 at 3:20 PM

    Enjoy your life! You are too young to have to feel this way!

  • Bunmi

    Bunmi

    June 16th, 2015 at 3:54 AM

    Just accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour, give your life to Him and and he will give your life a meaning and direction. He alone is the purpose giver. May God help you as you make the most important decision in life in Jesus Name

  • Marie

    Marie

    October 19th, 2017 at 2:57 PM

    I used to find comfort in Christ. I received Him as Savior In 1978. I do all the praying, reading, yadda yadda. Follow the Prophets? Did it all. There is hope in leaving this planet? That’s what Christians say. Seriously? There are no answers.

  • kirona

    kirona

    July 6th, 2015 at 10:56 PM

    I think I understand your hopelessness regarding your job, we are in this place where we think we are privileged if we have a job with benefits but is just a trap in our spiritual evolution-this thought, not the job. I am wondering about your friends system, your family and your role in it, where you may feel appreciate as a human being not as a professional. Most of the time we are just fragments, elements, robots that are replaceable in a workplace. It is sad but true most of the times. A place, a role in the community can makes us feel more alive but even that is not available anymore. Our communities are fragmented too and they seems to have their own life without our contribution. A special interest or a hobby could help but feeling you have a sense in life is your mission to discover and after that to live according to your life mission will makes you feel more alive than ever.

  • r

    r

    November 23rd, 2015 at 5:26 PM

    time never

  • Maryann

    Maryann

    July 18th, 2016 at 10:23 PM

    I believe you are depressed probably overworked and wonder what the hell’s this all for. I’m 53 have been a workaholic my whole life and feel that way. So my advice to you and me, is we need to break the pattern slowly. See that friend who we haven’t called. It is hard to break the habit of work. some type of hobby to break the habit of constant working.
    PS I found this site by searching help I’m lost in my head. Believe it or not.

  • helper

    helper

    July 16th, 2017 at 6:16 PM

    There are millions of people who have the same feeling right now and reach this page at this moment .. they’ve no sense of life because they don’t know what they’re doing in life…. the most important thing is know what exactly are we doing here in this short life,.. it is short because nobody can know when death comes to steal his life.. returning to the purpose of life, it’s gotten from all well known religions, in other words, the meaning of life always come with the idea of there is another life that waiting for us, which means this life is just like a period of an exam that have a fail or success, based on what we do in it from good acts, being nice, and the most important is to BELIEVE in One God that created everything, you’ll pass the half way to the safety when you believe in one God and pray for him and ask him all the time the forgiveness and mercy…, the rest will be to chose the suitable religion that based on this, the trip of searching of the meaning of life is just in front of us all the time.. we just need to open our eyes on it….
    *** the purpose of life is to enjoy it by praying for one God, and ask him mercy and forgiveness , following what Prophets brought to us from God ***

  • Marie

    Marie

    October 19th, 2017 at 2:59 PM

    There comes a point where you have tried it all. And there you are. Or……there you aren’t.

  • scared stiff

    scared stiff

    February 12th, 2018 at 12:20 PM

    I was the same but with different emotions. Think back from childhood, what was something relating to your character you would always do? For me I would protect my friends and strangers from danger. i.e. bullies, thieves, or whatever… this led to countless fights, but I would never fight anyone weaker than me, I didn’t feel right doing that. To be more efficient I studied yoga and kickboxing. Now I am relaxing in my old age, I am a bit sore from the beatings I received and gave :) I have a feeling there is one huge fight to come hence my grooming, I feel its near. As far as religion goes I believe in all religions because they are the all same. but churches are corporate propaganda- all of them. Be glad your alive stay calm it will come to you. P.S. Do not listen to any medical terms above. they are misleading descriptions. I agree with going to see a psychologist just be careful, but not a psychiatrist they are very dangerous.

  • Anony

    Anony

    March 27th, 2018 at 9:39 PM

    You’re not depressed. You’re normal. You feel this way for a reason–because there is a problem. Pain means something is wrong. Your wonderful brain is smart enough to process its environment and offer up an output in the form of bad feelings. Problem is, the brain is like Lassie, it speaks in “woof”. It’s hard to figure out exactly what is causing the bad feelings, but they should not be ignored, and it often takes years of reflection to get to the bottom of things. Your job probably is pointless, and probably doesn’t contribute to the world in any positive way, like 99.9% of jobs in modern day society. It’s not your fault, there are not other options. Our society needs an overhaul. Don’t seek fulfillment from your job, it is an unfortunate necessity that will inevitably take up 40 hours of your week, for the purpose of providing bio-survival tickets in the form of paychecks. There will not be other options until the revolution begins. Spend your evenings working towards something else: building up your local community, reading, meditating on what should change, how you can contribute, developing your special skill (whatever that may be) and becoming a rock star in that one thing. That will be your real job. If people continue to push down these feelings, get sucked into the psych system and medicated/diagnosed, it will only get worse. This is assuming it’s not already too late to change things. There is nothing wrong with you, only with the morons who manage to be happy with our current state of affairs. Lots of us are here with you, free-falling in the abyss.

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