Have you been asking yourself these kinds of questions?
- What am I doing with my life?
- Is this what the rest of my life is going to look like?
- What’s the point of everything?
Have you been considering quitting your job, selling all of your possessions and moving to another country? Do you feel unsatisfied in your life and feel stuck and unsure of how you’ll find your way out?
If so, you may be going through a quarter-life crisis. The concept of having a crisis in your mid-to-late twenties isn’t new, it’s something young people have been going through to varying degrees for several decades.
While there are certainly very different definitions for “quarter-life crisis,” here’s the Wikipedia definition: “A crisis involving anxiety over the direction and quality of one’s life which is most commonly experienced in a period ranging from a person’s early twenties up to their mid-thirties.”
It’s hard to give a clear definition of what a quarter-life crisis is because it’s different for each individual and can happen at different ages for young adults, as well. There are no universal “symptoms” or one-size-fits-all diagnoses. But one thing is certain: if you believe you’re going through a crisis, then you probably are.
While the idea of a crisis might feel scary, if you recognize what’s happening now and address how you’re feeling, you’ll not only feel happier and more confident in yourself and your decisions, you’ll prevent yourself from going through a midlife crisis twenty years later.
How Did I Get Here?
As strange as this sounds, this crisis is a good thing. It’s your opportunity to reflect upon the choices you’ve made in your life and examine if those same choices align with the person you are today. Children are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and there is tremendous pressure to have an answer. Colleges expect you to declare a major by your junior year when most young people are around 20 years old.
Our society expects you to know what you want to do with the rest of your life before you’ve even had a chance to get to know yourself well enough to know what you want to do with your life. It’s through the process of making your own decisions, working various jobs, getting into different relationships, moving and traveling that you really figure out who you are as a person.
Once you understand who you are and what you value and how you want to live your life, then you can start to make decisions about, “What you want to do when you grow up?” Unfortunately our society has it backwards, which is why so many young people are feeling lost and unsure of how to create a life they want to live. Enter stage left: the quarter-life crisis.
What Do I Do About It?
Usually once someone realizes they’re going through a crisis, they want to start “fixing” the problem by quitting their job, ending a relationship or moving to another city, but this isn’t the time to make drastic changes, it’s a time to slow down and hit the pause button so you can reflect and better understand how you got to where you are today.
You Can “Pause” By:
1. Learning About Yourself In Real Time
In order to better understand yourself and why you’re feeling unhappy you have to learn how to become more mindful. Mindfulness is simply taking a moment to stop and become aware of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and your environment in real time. It’s through the process of learning how to identify your thoughts and feelings in the moment that you can start to better understand your motivations, patterns of thinking, and what drives your behavior.
Make this a daily habit. Every day take time to check in with yourself and observe your thoughts and feelings several times a day. Check in with yourself and ask, “How am I feeling?” Start writing down what you’ve noticed so you can see any patterns.
2. Going Back To The Beginning
Your thoughts and beliefs about yourself and the world around you came from somewhere. Think about what your parents and caregivers said to you growing up. Reflect upon what you saw as a kid and how that affects how you see yourself. This is your opportunity to look at your life with realistic expectations and define how you’re going to be in it separate from everything you’ve learned.
3. Understanding You Now
Now that you have a better understanding of where the thoughts and beliefs came from, start to think about, based on your own experiences as an adult, what you value and how you want to live your life. Identify what it means to be successful. What it means to you to live a happy and healthy life. It’s OK that what you thought would make you happy when you were a kid, doesn’t make you happy now.
4. Letting Go Of Judgment And Being Kind To Yourself
Throughout this entire process it’s critical that you let go of any judgment you have for yourself or for the people around you. Looking into your past isn’t about placing blame on your parents or caregivers. And it’s not about blaming or criticizing yourself for choices you’ve made. Very few people know exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives when they’re young. The process of learning about yourself is life-long and no one knows exactly what they’re doing so accept your humanness and be kind to yourself.
Here’s An Acronym To Help You Remember What To Focus On During This Process:
P – Practice mindfulness.
A – Acknowledge your past.
U – Understand you now.
S – Stop judging yourself.
E – Enjoy the process.
How Long Will This Take?
There’s no concrete answer to this question, which is why it is so frustrating! It’s important to remember that getting through a quarter-life crisis isn’t a race, it’s a process. When you’re unhappy with your life and unsure of what will make you happy, it’s uncomfortable. That discomfort will make you think you need to “figure it all out ASAP” but don’t make any decisions just to feel better at that moment.
Instead of focusing on “when will this end!” focus on your personal growth. Every three months, carve out some time to reflect upon what you’ve learned about yourself, what you like and don’t like, what changes you’ve made and how you feel each day. This will help you stay focused on your ultimate goal, which is to feel better and feel like you’re moving in the right direction. Before you know it you’ll look up and notice your whole life has changed.
While right now it may feel like you’ll never find your way out of this crisis, you will. If you acknowledge there’s a problem, practice PAUSE-ing and focus on understanding yourself and what you want for your life, you’ll get to the other side of this crisis and reap the benefits.
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