What To Do With Your Life: An Antidote to Wasting Your Life14 min read

Share With Friends On:

If you’ve ever found yourself pondering, “What do I do with my life?”, “Why do I waste my time?”, or “I feel I am wasting my life”, chances are that you are a mindful person who is looking to make the most of their lives. While pondering such questions can be difficult and unsettling, it’s normal; and arguably good. 

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a fresh graduate, a hard-working professional, or someone who just retired, the quandary springs up from time to time – egging you to make the most of your time alive.

The truth is that, until your daily activities and endeavours are congruent with your unique values, interests and goals, you may keep feeling like you’re wasting your life.

In this blog post, we will explore this issue from different perspectives to help you figure out exactly what to do with your life.

What If the Answer to What to Do with Your Life Is Tied to Others?

Felipe de Leon Jr., a Professor of Art Studies at the University of the Philippines, noticed something interesting about Filipinos: they all seem to have a strong sense of community and help each other out, no matter where they are in the world. They also elegantly capture this lifestyle and life philosophy in a single word: “Kapwa.”

While no single English word fully conveys its essence, Kapwa is all about a person’s relationship with those who share the same space with them. It’s about seeing oneself in others and treating everyone like family.

This idea is reminiscent of the South African concept “Ubuntu,” which means “a person is a person through other persons,” and the Indian greeting “Namaste,” meaning “the god in me greets the god in you.” All these concepts point to the idea of oneness or togetherness – a world of shared purpose and meaning, where the individual is an integral part of the whole (and the whole is an integral part of the individual).

This approach to life has been adopted by many cultures for centuries, with most people who still hold on to this approach to life often finding themselves versatile – helpful in many different capacities, developing numerous skills and passions, and ultimately finding meaning and purpose in a lot of things.

So, what does this mean for how you should live your life? Well, for a start, it suggests that purpose isn’t always about personal success. It can be found in service to others – seeing/treating others not as separate entities, but as an important part of yourself, simply because they share the same space with you.

It suggests that you can decide to be useful to your community – in whatever capacity you can at this very moment – and that might just be enough. 

Why It Matters to Know What to Do with Your Life

While ideas like Kapwa and Ubuntu are inspiring, they can sometimes feel impractical or out of reach for many people in today’s world, which is filled with countless options and fierce competition.

To contribute meaningfully and feel fulfilled, you need to be good at what you do and love it to a reasonable extent. Those stuck exploring the limitless possibilities end up overwhelmed, and without actually doing something they enjoy, often suffer from dissatisfaction, restlessness, or frustration. This is why finding the answer to the question of what to do with your life is crucial: it allows you to focus on something you can excel at and meaningfully contribute to society.

For a young graduate, this dilemma can manifest as doubts, fears, and pressures about the future. For someone just going through the motions, whether at work or home, it can feel like boredom, emptiness, or a yearning for more. For a retired person, it can feel like drifting aimlessly, almost nihilistically.

Though the context changes, the underlying issue remains the same. It’s your soul’s cry for more – meaning, authenticity, and fulfilment. Those who ignore this for too long end up with a gnawing sense of regret, feeling they’ve wasted their lives.

They regret not having experienced the transcendence, purpose, or joy that comes with truly living rather than just existing and drifting through life. They regret missing the opportunity to reach self-actualisation, feel the excitement, and fully express themselves in their day-to-day lives. 

Get our free eBook on how to live a happy and meaningful life when you input your email now.

Is There Really Something Worth Doing With Your Life?

Some philosophies, like certain interpretations of Buddhism, suggest that attachment (even if it is to something as core as what we intend to do with our lives) leads to suffering. They propose that true contentment comes from accepting the impermanent nature of life and focusing on the present moment with mindfulness.

Even philosophers like Thomas Nagel argued that the absurdity of life doesn’t necessarily require a response. He argues that we may not even need an overarching reason for living.

Nevertheless, studies have found that having a higher sense of purpose is predictively powerful, with more purposeful people reporting better physical, mental, social, and even financial outcomes.

Besides, we/humans are hardwired to think in stories, and this profoundly shapes how we seek meaning in our lives.

When I look back at my own life, I realize that the most vivid and meaningful memories are the ones that form coherent stories. For instance, I recall the stage fright I felt every time I had to address the entire classroom and the times I got called out as one of the top students in class. Everything else is mostly a blur. But those high moments – like the climax in a story – are what got etched in my memory.

This is no coincidence. Studies show our memories aren’t perfect recordings, but rather reconstructions influenced by emotions and schemas (mental frameworks). We tend to remember experiences in a narrative structure, with a beginning, middle, and end, even if they weren’t originally like that. Our brains actively shape our memories into stories for better understanding and recall.

It’s no surprise it feels like we’re drifting through time if nothing exciting is happening, and we feel unsettled when our day-to-day existence doesn’t seem to fit into a larger, purposeful story.

So, when you’re asking yourself “What should I do with my life?”, what you might really be asking is “What story do I want my life to tell?”

Writing The Story of Your Life: This Is What You Should Do With Your Life

The bad news is that there is no predetermined thing to do with your life. The good news is that there is no predetermined thing to do with your life. This means you’re the one who decides what’s worth doing in your life. 

So, where do you start?

Decide To Author Your Life’s Story

Remember how we said humans think in stories? Well, every story needs an author. And, the more you settle into this role, the better you can make the most of your life.

Existentialists argue that there is no inherent meaning in the universe. Sartre (one of the key figures in the philosophy of existentialism) once said, “…man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet is nevertheless at liberty, and from the moment that he is thrown into this world he is responsible for everything he does.”. In other words, (according to existentialists) you’re responsible for creating your own purpose else you risk drifting into nihilism. 

But, this is not a small task. Neither is this just some philosophical nonsense. There’s a rich body of work, from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to Self-determination theory, that shows we need a “why” beyond basic survival in order to thrive as humans. It’s what drives us, and gives us a sense of autonomy and self-determination. 

Just like the author of a story sits and then decides to at least finish a story (or series) before moving on to a different one, so also your first task is to decide to commit to something – to commit to writing a story of your life, and see how it goes.

I have once been a gospel preacher, home painter, graphite artist, and door-to-door salesman. Today I’m an SEO content writer. While I am currently enjoying this present story of my life, it is still within my power to change the narrative and become something else. 

“Your life is your story. Write well. Edit often.”

– Susan Statham

While there may be challenges (both internal and external) you must not give up that power to someone else. There are always obstacles in every good story. Don’t blameshift, or play the victim. Decide to take full responsibility for all that goes on in your life (whether it’s your fault or not).

Aim To Be Your Best Self, Rather Than Just Feeling Good

The ancient Greeks had a concept called “Eudaimonia”. Eudaimonia is often translated as “Happiness,” but it goes much deeper than just feeling happy or good in the moment. It rather refers to a state of flourishing or living well.

For Aristotle (a major Greek philosopher), Eudaimonia is about living a virtuous life and fulfilling your potential as a human being. He believed this was the ultimate goal of human existence – to strive to be the best version of yourself and live a life guided by reason and good character.

I share Aristotle’s perspective. Even modern psychologists like Maslow echo this with ideas like “Self-actualization” – which is about becoming the best version of yourself – a version that is authentic and deeply satisfied with the life they are living (despite the vicissitudes of life).

The harsh truth is that – no matter who you are – there will be times when you will be in great pain (pain that you may not have anticipated or that is worse than you imagined). Worse, it doesn’t always happen as a result of something you did wrong; nor does it mean you aren’t living your purpose. Sometimes, painful things just happen – you lose money, lovers, loved ones, your health, and so on. And, this is exactly the reason you shouldn’t aim to be happy because happiness vanishes easily in the face of these sorts of things, but rather aim to be your best self.

Striving to be your best self provides a sense of purpose and direction even in difficult times, helping you navigate life’s challenges with greater resilience and depth of character.

Contribute To The World (On Your Terms)

Being the author of your life and aiming for eudaimonia doesn’t mean being selfish or impractical. 

There is a beautiful Japanese concept that elegantly captures what one ought to do with their life. They call it Ikigai. Ikigai simply means “a reason to live.” Just like Kapwa, it is very nuanced, profound in its impact, yet simple in its application.

Ikigai exists within the intersection of:

  • What you love
  • What you’re good at
  • What the world needs
  • What you can be paid for

It is by no means selfish, and neither does it stress on some grand life goal. In fact, someone’s Ikigai can be as simple as making great coffee every day. If you love making coffee, are very good at it, and people love your coffee and are willing to pay you enough to afford a decent life, then that is Ikigai.

It shifts the focus from the idea of Success that is mass marketed to us on social media and TV to the individual being authentic yet in alignment with the whole.

Studies show that people who have found their Ikigai tend to be healthier (both physically and mentally), more resilient, and more satisfied with life. In fact, Francesc Miralles and Hector Garcia wrote an entire book exploring this idea in depth.

I’ve also written an in-depth article on Ikigai a few years ago.

Focus On Doing Your Best, Every Day

The Romans had a saying: “Carpe diem“, which translates to “Seize the day”. It’s like a charge – an order to make the most of every moment because life is finite. 

It is easy to get lost in thoughts – wondering what might be or what might have been. The reality is that you are alive and still have the opportunity to write the next chapter of your life.

If there is one thing you definitely shouldn’t be doing with your life, is wasting it worrying about wasting it. The Stoics will say, “Live Immediately!”.

“Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.” – Seneca

Modern research on mindfulness backs this up, showing that being fully present and engaged leads to more positive emotions, a greater sense of purpose in life and fulfilment.

Don’t be afraid to fail. Try your best. Don’t waste any more moments worrying about the future or regretting the past. You can at least do this. You can at least try.

Conclusion: You Are The Author of Your Own Life Story

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to what you should do with your life. Your ikigai, what eudaimonia means to you, or what your best might look like is all up to your unique self and unique circumstances. But here’s the universal truth: you have the power to choose. You can decide to try, to rage against the challenges and odds, to not let life go by in a blur.

That nagging feeling that you’re wasting your life isn’t bad. It’s a call to action. It’s pushing you to uncover your passions, to express your deepest yearnings, to contribute in a way that only you can.

Will this feeling ever completely go away? Probably not. It’s like surfing – you don’t want to be at the bottom of the wave (or else it’ll come crashing down on you in the form of regret), but you also don’t want to fly over it (being ungrateful and allowing ambition to consume you). You just want to be on the edge – pushing yourself to do the best while relishing each moment.

You’re the author of your story. So make it a story worth telling. Make it a story that’s uniquely, authentically yours. Because that’s what doing something worthwhile with your life is all about.

Best Book Recommendations On Finding What To Do With Your Life

Here are my top book recommendations for finding what to do with your life.

  • Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, by Francesc Miralles and Hector Garcia
  • So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, by Cal Newport
  • Mastery, by Robert Greene
  • You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
  • The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho


Did you enjoy this content or have a question? Let us know in the comments section. Also, share this content with friends because you’re a good human.

Here are some other content you might find helpful 

Dick David is a freelance SEO content writer and editor with over 7 years of experience in content writing, digital marketing, and sales. He is the founder of Pawns Digital Agency. Throughout his career, he has authored over 4 books, published hundreds of SEO articles attracting thousands of monthly visitors, ghostwritten numerous works, and edited hundreds of content pieces across various industries. Currently, he works with Robert Taylor Media and has also worked with Tobi Digitals and Branditechture Design Agency, among others.

Get our free eBook on how to live a happy and meaningful life when you input your email now.

Leave a ReplyCancel reply