Quarter Life Crisis


“OK”, I thought when I first heard the term – Quarter Life Crisis, “here’s another label we can give people, that may make things easier for those referring to a group of people and their problems, but don’t necessarily help those with the ‘problem’.

You see I am not a fan of labels.  Oh, I understand it can be useful to have a label.  In some ways it can make you feel less alone. If you have ‘ADHD’ then you are not a ‘trouble maker’ you have a recognised and understood condition.  However, in other ways this is not helpful at all.  One of my good friend’s teenage daughters has depression.  It is good that it has been diagnosed and she is getting help, but the issue with this is that she (the daughter) now feels there is nothing she can do about her depression.  She is a victim, and therefore she is powerless and it’s not her fault.  Clearly, the latter part of that sentence is true – it is not ‘her fault’ but she is not powerless. Therein lies one of the problems with labels.

So, let’s have a look at what the ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ Label means.  Well, apparently this is something that happens in your 20’s and is all about the transition to adulthood.  There are feelings of being ‘lost’, not being where you ‘should be’ by now, and feeling ‘trapped’ in a job you hate, a relationship that isn’t working or even a place you don’t feel at home in.  If you are currently in your 20’s and have ever thought ““What the hell am I doing?” “I was supposed to be a [dream profession of the week] by now…” then you may understand what the Quarter Life crisis is all about.

The problem has always been there – it’s not a new thing, however, I do believe it is exacerbated by social media and the pressures put on our kids nowadays by ‘the system’ to achieve good grades at school and be perfect – like everyone they see on social media.  Of course, that is not true at all.  What people post on social media is the bits of them they want and are happy for the world to see.  Those successful people who seem to have everything you ‘should’ have by now are probably feeling just as lost, questioning what they are doing with their lives and worried about their future.  Their way of coping with that is living behind the mask.  The mask they create and put out their on social media.

Ran Zilca, Chief Data Science Officer at Happify, explains that when you are starting out on your career you may be living alone and trying your best to pay your bills and be ‘grown up’, however, older people may consider you just a kid and you may get mixed messages from ‘society’.  It is hard to make a smooth transition to adulthood if people are saying you aren’t one.  And in your head, you may feel your ‘youth’ slipping away whilst you try to hang onto it, all the while wanting the security that you think ‘adulthood’ will bring.  You may feel like a ‘pretend adult’, trying to mature, making commitments (mortgage, career, car) but you aren’t reaping the benefits. 

What often happens then is that you – feeling that things will be better if you just get rid of the ‘problem’ – resign from your job, finish the relationship, move house to a different city. However, 9 times out of 10 this does NOT solve the problem and you still feel lost; not where you ‘should’ be; alone; confused.

And to make matters worse, these feelings often affect those who are driven to succeed the most. If you’re driven to succeed, have strong ideals, and set goals you want to achieve by certain points in your life, you’re a prime candidate for a quarter life crisis.  You have been told by society, by social media, by your parents, that you can be, do and have anything you want in life.  What they may have failed to tell you is the hard work and TIME it can take, and that you need to eliminate the word ‘should’ from your vocabulary.

So – is it all doom and gloom?  Are all people in the 20’s doomed to suffer from the QL Crisis?  Will you ever be happy?   Of course you will.  The chance of experiencing a crisis in your twenties is a bit like eating and drinking way too much at Christmas.  Will you feel a bit dodgy afterwards?  Almost certainly.  Will you survive it?  Absolutely.

So – here’s the thing.  Like any challenge in life this one can give you a massive opportunity.  The opportunity to look at what is really bothering you and develop a bit of emotional intelligence around it.  What I mean by that is:-

Accept there is a problem.  It is OK to feel lost.  It is OK to admit you are not happy where you aren’t.  The problem is most people don’t, because of that ‘should’ word.   You will be amazed how many of your friends feel exactly the same way, if you open up about it.  And there are few things that make you feel better about a situation than knowing you are NOT the only person going through it.

Analyse what the problem really is.  For example – you are sick of your boyfriend because he never wants you to out with your friends and therefore you feel your life is being smothered.  So you leave him.  And end up with another boyfriend who does the same thing.  Poor you?  How unfortunate?  Not really.  The problem here is not your boyfriend but your inability to be assertive and let your partner know what makes you happy and what you need in the relationship.  And until you do that you will continue to go through the same cycle.  The same applies to your job – don’t leave because they didn’t give you a payrise and you think you ‘should’ have one.  Talk to your boss about how you can improve your role, and the value you have to the company in order to be taken seriously when asking for a raise. Of course, if you have tried everything to sort things out, then you must not stay in a bad relationship or a bad job.  Make sure you have solved YOUR bit of the problem, and then walking away is the sensible thing to do.  If not – the problem will just repeat.

Adopt and Attitude of Gratitude and Acceptance. It is amazing how much of a difference this makes.  Everyone experiences stress.  Everyone’s life is light and shade.  If there was no dark, you wouldn’t know light.  If there wasn’t sadness, how would you appreciate happiness? You WILL get through it.  And adopting an attitude of gratitude really helps.  Instead of focusing on what is wrong, notice what is right.  And by that I don’t mean walk around in ‘lala’ land pretending everything is great and ‘being’ positive.  I mean REALLY NOTICE what is good.  The sun is shining, the autumn leaves are really truly beautiful, you best mate came round for a coffee, your Mum rang, your favourite film is on tele tonight.  Listen to the words you use – to others and more importantly to yourself.  Are they helpful or unhelpful?  Instead of saying “I’m not where I should be right now”  try “Perhaps I am exactly where I am meant to be right now”.  You see, when you look back in 10 years time, you may see the pattern that escapes you right now.

Ask better questions of yourself.  The questions we ask ourselves are crucial, as we cannot come up with answers to negative statements, but we can come up with amazing answers, if we ask the right questions.  So, rather than – “why is my life so shit?”, try “What specifically do I not like about X and what would be 3 ways I could change that?”  Your brain will work on the answers and you will feel in control of your emotions rather than them controlling you.  The best way to stop the inertia of stress and worry in its track, is to take action.  In order to take action you have to ask better questions so you can come up with better answers.

And above all remember these 3 things.

Be BRAVE.  The past is gone, what worked for your parents’ generation may not work for you.  Be brave enough to be you, to follow your OWN path, not the one you ‘should’ be following.

Be OPEN to making mistakes.  Mistakes are brilliant.  Too many people are frightened of making mistakes – conditioned in from school or home.  But I am telling you the ONLY way to be true to yourself and live the life you want, is to be unafraid of ‘making mistakes’.  After all, a mistake is just trying something that didn’t work.  And in that way, you eliminate what doesn’t work for you until you find what does.  If you don’t make mistakes, you don’t live.  Clearly – you have to learn from your mistakes, but please don’t be afraid to make them.  We wouldn’t have a light bulb today if Eddison had been afraid of making mistakes.  Modern mythology tells us it took 10,000 attempts to make the lightbulb.  That may be a myth, but the fact is he sure didn’t do it first go.  Many many attempts later, finally he got it.  Don’t fear ‘mistakes’.

Be Patient and Kind to yourself.  You don’t know everything yet?  Big deal.  You probably never will.  Give yourself a break.  Things that are worth it, sometimes take time.  But everything passes.  The hardest of times ends eventually and there is always tomorrow.  So, Live, Laugh and Love – every day, until the day you #FindYourWhy





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