Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: I have a really hard time with choice and action when it comes to finding my direction in life. I want to do something I love and I'm passionate about, but I haven't figured out what that is yet. In the meantime, I'm not willing to compromise my ideals to choose what is practical. School and work felt meaningless to me, so I dropped out of college and spent a year not working, not going out, basically just reading books on spirituality and psychology in hopes that I could find myself. That one year allowed me to go deeper in my spirituality, but in my practical life I have not accomplished anything.
I want to trust that I am on my own perfect path and everything is as it should be, but sometimes I feel very lost. I'm working now and I'm considering going back to school, but I have no great vision or aspirations for my future and I feel dead. I don't know why I'm here and what my purpose is. I haven't felt that spark of inspiration. Action doesn't come with ease. I don't feel at one with my choices. I'm so lost. What can I do better? Thank you so much.
— Nancy D., Diamond Bar, California
Your letter gets more and more negative as it goes on, culminating in a startling statement: I feel dead. So what started out as one thing—a letter from an idealistic young person who has postponed her identity crisis—winds up sounding like a letter from someone who is acutely depressed. Therefore, the only way you can get an answer is to go inside and find it. You've read a lot of spiritual books. The seed is sown. Now it's time to let some seeds sprout.
To find out which ones, here are five questions to ask yourself. Write them down and keep the paper available, because you will need to ask each question every day until it is answered. I'll list the questions first and then tell you a special way to answer them, because the method is as important as the answers:
Am I depressed and sick of my life?
Am I drifting because I know something perfect is waiting just over the horizon?
Is today going the way I want it to?
When I look around, does my life tell me who I am? What do I see in the reflection of the outer world?
If I could jump ahead five years and meet myself, who would I meet?
These are questions that get asked during the identity crisis of one's early 20s. They are always asked in confusion because late adolescence isn't quite over and fully fledged adulthood has not quite begun. People experience their identity crisis in very different ways. It tends to bring out what we most fear and what we most dream of. This is a time for love, ideals, a career, growing confidence and the excitement of taking flight.
That's the ideal, but of course, many people experience other elements of the identity crisis: a paralyzing sense of indecision, loss of self-confidence, panic that old behaviors that worked in your teens no longer work and a frightening sense of emptiness. Right now, you are mired in the negative side of finding your true identity. So let's eliminate the negative and let the positive part of your life start to guide you.
That's where the five questions come in. Pull your list out in the morning. Read each question, then close your eyes and wait for an answer. Don't force; don't expect anything. If you hear a lot of mental chatter, exhale and ask this chatter to stop for a moment so you can have a clear mind. Whatever answer you receive after a few minutes, that's today's answer. Move on to the next question.
Once you have your five answers, go on and enjoy your day. Don't think about the questions again. Don't return to them. You have done your job for the day. The rest is for enjoyment.
Repeat this procedure every day. One day—no one can predict when—one of the answers will seem totally right to you. This means that your true self has delivered the answer. Don't jump for joy just yet. Come back two more times and see if the same answer returns. If so, cross that question off your list. Proceed for as long as it takes until you have five good and true answers. What have you done? You've caught up with where you need to be. Being young, your answers may change next year, but what you want is answers for right now. They will serve to get you out of your rut.