Finding my path

Feeling stuck, lost or confused?  

Who are you? What do you want? Where are you going? How are you going to get there?  If answering these questions feels like you’re hitting a brick wall, it can be distressing. But these feelings are totally normal – most of us feel like this at some point in our lives. And you won’t always feel this way. Here are some things that can help you get out of a funk.  

First of all, you don’t need to ‘find’ your path – you’re already on it; you might just need a little redirection. 

When feelings of being lost or unable to move forward becomes overwhelming, you can start to experience problems with your mental health, like; depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, disordered eating and loneliness. Your emotional distress is an invitation from your troubled heart to abandon everything that is not meant for you, so that you can find peace. 

It’s time to take back your power – here are eight keys to finding your path: 

1. Check your mindset

Sometimes there are things in life blocking our way. We might blame our ‘stuckness’ on our circumstances: if only I had more time, if only I was a millionaire, if only I didn’t have to do this thing… And that makes sense. There’s a lot we can’t control in life. Add on top of that all your responsibilities, life stress, expectations, cultural pressure, peer-pressure, social media – no wonder you can barely hear yourself think! 

Forging a path ahead can feel like trying to hold back the tide. And it might feel easier to just give up. But don’t lose hope. Wherever you are in life, remember,  you’re at a necessary stage in your journey, and you won’t stay like this forever. 

Things may have happened in your life that feel unfair – it’s ok to be upset about that. But don’t let the past cloud the limitless possibilities of your future. You weren’t born to suffer – you were born for greater things. Maybe you don’t know what they are yet, but know that the best is yet to come. 

“What! Did you then think that We had created you in vain…?” — Qur’an 23:115 

Remember, an acorn doesn’t stress about how it will become an oak tree. It just does what comes naturally.

Everything will happen for you, all in the right order, when you’re ready. You have to start believing it – have faith. If you don’t, chances are you might stay feeling ‘stuck’ a little longer. That’s because if you’re shut down to the possibility of change, you’re less likely to notice, let alone respond, when opportunities come along.  

“When I feel anxiety I pray two rakats [units of prayer] just asking for help or istikhara [guidance]. It calms me down knowing my worries are in the hands of The Most Merciful.”

“My dua when I feel stuck is: ‘Oh Allah, You parted the sea for Prophet Musa (pbuh) when it looked like he had no escape. Please part the waves and open up a path for me, and make it easy for me to follow it. You are The Opener, The All-Powerful, The Mighty, The Wise. I believe in you and I put my trust in you. Ameen.’” 

2. Identify your blocks

Very often, when you can’t see any way forward in life it means that – for one reason or another – you’ve learnt to stop trusting yourself. But the truth is, the only person who knows what you want is you. No one can decide for you. There’s always a next step, and it’s right in front of you.

Confusion and mind-fog could be a result of some hidden emotions, or trauma, you need to process and deal with. 

You might have heard of a stress response known as ‘fight, flight, or freeze.’ Sometimes we can want something very badly, but on a deep subconscious level we’re actually scared of getting it. So we run from it, or try to fight it, or just totally shut down when it appears. The reason we’re scared of getting what we want is often because, frustratingly, at some point growing up, we learnt that getting what we want is not a good thing. And our subconscious mind is still hanging on to that lesson, even when we’re old enough to know that it isn’t true.

Remember, when you were little you knew exactly what you wanted, when you wanted it, and you were not shy about trying to get it. But at some point, you may have learnt to associate your power to choose with feeling ‘bad’, ‘unsafe’, ‘selfish’, ‘stupid’ or something else. For example if you were punished for drawing on the walls at home and learnt that it’s ‘bad to have fun’. Or if you accidentally injured a friend while playing football and people blamed you, making you feel ashamed and so you learnt that ‘your joy hurts people you love’. 

These types of subconscious lessons could be making you second-guess your instincts – because maybe you hold beliefs that tell you that doing what you want and making your own decisions, will cost you our peace of mind. But the good thing is once you recognise this, it becomes easier to move forward.    

You can usually figure out if you have any subconscious blocks, and how they manifest, with the help of a good therapist. If you’re unable to access therapy, it is also possible to make progress by chatting with friends, mentors, and with the right self-help tools.

You might find it helpful to read about healing childhood trauma, or take a look at some recommended mental health resources, if you want to explore what might be holding you back in life.

3. Increase your self-love and improve your self-care

Feeling lost and confused is a pretty big sign you’ve been ignoring your own personal wants and needs for such a long time you’ve forgotten how to listen to your heart. But that’s ok – you can come back home to yourself any time. All you need to do is focus on deepening your feelings of self-love and ensure you are practising good self-care.  

Love is to the soul, what rain is to the desert.

“A shaykh once told me that God puts unique qualities, passions, talents and interests in us on purpose, and they are your ‘Divine compass’. If you follow them, you won’t get lost. But if you don’t, you’ll feel sad deep in your soul. To me, self-care is about gently removing the barriers that stop me following the direction of my personal compass.”  

4. Be mindful of what you give your attention

There’s a saying: where attention goes, energy flows. Dwelling on the road blocks and negatives makes them even bigger in our minds, increasing their hold over us. 

“The words you speak become the house you live in.” — Hafiz d.1389

If a big question-mark is looming over you, and it seems impossible to find an answer, then maybe it’s time to change the question!

Remember, this isn’t about burying your head in the sand and ignoring your problems, but recognising that your life, right now, is not just about having problems.

Consciously shift your focus away from the thoughts that are stressing you out and towards things that tangibly benefit you mentally, physically, emotionally or spiritually. Loop yourself out of conversations that fuel your negativity. Mute or unfollow social media accounts that are bringing you down. Say no to things that drain you. Spend more time with people who encourage and bring out the best in you.   

Here are some questions to help you think about where you could refocus your energy: 

  • What do I really enjoy doing, and why specifically do I enjoy it?
  • Who or what makes me feel inspired?
  • When do I feel most energised – what is it specifically about this that makes me feel this way?

If you’re struggling to answer these, that’s ok, tips below will help. And remember not to be too hard on yourself. It can take time to get out of a funk. 

If you do find yourself getting into a negative spiral, just gently remind yourself that your feelings are valid, and that you have other thoughts and feelings which are valid too and also deserve your attention. 

Take a look at the mental health resources page to help you figure what you need to feel mentally well enough to focus your time and energy on things that nourish and fulfil you.  

5. Practise active gratitude

Gratitude helps us find pleasure in the present moment and gradually shifts our mindset. 

“If you’re grateful, I will give you more.” — Qur’an 14:7

We’ve all heard the phrase: some people are never satisfied. Think about it, if a person refuses to fully appreciate what they already have, why would suddenly appreciate having even more? Gratitude is called a ‘practise’ because we have to practise it to get good at it!

Gratitude does not mean ‘put up and shut up because other people have it worse’. 

Being grateful simply means that when you receive a blessing, you enjoy it to the full, and it lights you up inside.  

Find out how to boost your gratitude practice

6. Keep exploring

Knowledge is power. Sometimes we can’t visualise the future we want because we have never seen or experienced the thing we are looking for. So give yourself permission to pursue your interests. 

You can’t develop a passion for ice-cream making if you’ve never set foot in a kitchen. You can’t know you’re the next Ronaldo unless you join a football club. 

And sometimes exploring means you have to put yourself out there, take some risks, and do that thing that feels ‘eeek!’. Incredible things can happen when you leave your comfort zone – and it’s much easier to do that when you let go of the idea that you can fail.

Failure is always a lesson and a redirection – it’s a necessary part of finding your way to success. 

Try setting aside at least 30 mins a week to start doing that thing you keep telling yourself you’re going to do one day. Whether it’s joining a gym, drawing a picture, or starting a new book. If you’re struggling to do something new – that’s ok! Make tiny little changes to your routine – take a different route to work, buy a different cereal, say ‘yes’ to that invitation instead of ‘no’, let someone recommend a TV show you’d never normally watch… 

Pay attention to the little choices you make – they all add up.    

“And never give up hope of Allah’s mercy…” — Qur’an 12:87

Get tips on self-help or on exploring your spirituality page if you’re not sure where to start. 

7. Pay it forward

When you’re stuck in a rut it is so easy to get wrapped up in your immediate struggles. That’s normal – and it’s good that you’re paying attention to your wants and needs. But sometimes making a little bit of space to find ways we can give back and help others deal with their roadblocks can not only benefit them, but help us feel more energised and confident. It can remind us that we are powerful problem-solvers who can use our resources to make real positive change. 

Your actions make a difference in the world – and that’s beautiful. 

8. No plan is a plan!

“…no soul knows what it will earn tomorrow, nor in which land it will die.” — Qur’an 31:34 

Take the pressure off. Who cares if you haven’t figured out what you want to be, or where you want to be, in five or ten years’ time? In fact it doesn’t even matter if you don’t know what you want to do this weekend.

It’s ok not to have a plan. 

Life unfolds unexpectedly. Plot twist: if you ask older people who you admire how they got to where they are now, you’ll most often hear that life did not go according to plan!  

Remember, just because people around us look like they have it all figured out, don’t be fooled. What is meant for them is not meant for you. So just stay focused on you. 

It’s ok to enjoy not having a plan. 

Give it time. 

“A colleague wrote some advice in my leaving card: ‘relax into your greatness’.  I didn’t get it then, but I do now.”

Finding your path to Jannah 

“And your Lord says: Call upon Me, I will answer you.” — Qur’an 40:60

When we feel stuck, lost, confused, we sometimes need a gentle reminder, and reset of our priorities. The roadmap to the final and best possible destination is laid out in a famous hadith, known as the hadith of Gabriel. It is reported: 

Umar ibn al-Khattab said: One day when we were with God’s messenger, a man with very white clothing and very black hair came up to us […] 

He said, “Tell me, Muhammad, about Islam (submission).”

The Prophet (pbuh) replied, “Islam (submission) means that you should bear witness that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is God’s Messenger, that you should perform the ritual prayer, pay the alms tax, fast during Ramadan, and make the pilgrimage to the House if you are able to go there.”

The man said, “you have spoken the truth.” 

We were surprised at his questioning him and then declaring that he had spoken the truth. 

He said “Now tell me about faith (imaan).”

He replied, “faith means that you have faith in God, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day, and that you have faith in the measuring out, both its good and its evil.”

Remarking that he had spoken the truth, he then said, “Now tell me about doing what is beautiful (ihsan).”

The Prophet (pbuh) replied, “doing what is beautiful means that you should worship God as if you see Him, for even if you do not see Him, He sees you.”

Then the man said, “Tell me about the Hour”

The Prophet replied, “About that he who is questioned knows no more than the questioner.”

[…] 

Then the man went away. 

After I had waited for a long time, the Prophet (pbuh) said to me, “Do you know who the questioner was, ‘Umar?” 

I replied, “God and His messenger know best. “

He said, “He was Gabriel. He came to teach you your religion. “

So remember, wherever you’re going next, the path to jannah is always open to you, and here are it’s road signs: 

Submission, faith, beauty/goodness. 

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Islam. Imaan. Ihsan. You can’t have one without the other. 

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