what is it called when someone does not know their true purpose or role in life?

  • 7
    I think you'll find it's called "normality". Apr 24 at 19:40
  • There are many words that could express that. Can you give the sentence where you would use the term?
    – fev
    Apr 24 at 21:11
  • It's one hell of an achievement. Somebody's been telling you what you should do since day one.
    – Phil Sweet
    Apr 25 at 0:27
  • It depends. Shiftless is an adjective that means lazy and not having much determination or a clear purpose (Cambridge). Apr 25 at 9:53
  • @PhilSweet - Many people will indeed tell you how and what to do, based on their own experiences and agenda. But what they tell you doesn't necessarily comport with your own personal feeling and motivation. Millions of people end up 'finding themselves' in a field or occupation far removed from what they've "been told what they SHOULD do" and were adrift until they "found themselves" on a personal level doing something else entirely.
    – Vector
    Apr 25 at 15:51

3 Answers 3


AHD has adrift in that sense:

AHD adrift

  1. Without direction or purpose:
    "The report is about people in their twenties and how alienated and adrift they feel" (Tom Shales).

One term you can use is

without any clear intentions, purpose, or direction

From Cambridge Dictionary, and Merriam-Webster has

without aim or purpose : not having a goal or purpose


Opting for a figurative manner of saying that, one could use "rudderless".

(Collins) rudderless adjective

A country or a person that is rudderless does not have a clear aim or a strong leader to follow.

  • The country was politically rudderless for almost three months.
  • ...a feeling in the country that the Government was drifting rudderless.

(Andy Kaufman Revealed!: Best Friend Tells All - Bob Zmuda · 2000) For Andy such rejection was tantamount to a Roman Catholic being excommunicated. Suddenly he was rudderless, cast adrift by his own religion at the lowest point in his life.

(Growing Up - Frank C. Strasburger · 2012 ) Until the shot, nothing in Josh's life was compelling; he was rudderless. The illusion that all things were possible paralyzed him—he had no idea which way to turn, and it didn't seem to matter. His work for the suicide hotline gave him, for the first time, a sense of direction, a cause that fully engaged him.

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