You’re in your mid twenties. You’re a couple of years into your “career” (whatever that means). You’ve considered quitting your job to travel the world. Your friend circle is getting smaller. Sound familiar?
For myself and many of my twenty something peers, there is a phenomenon affecting us as we begin to inch closer and closer to our thirtys. It is marked by a bunch of anxiety-inducing thoughts and realizations like:
Daydreaming about doing something crazy like packing up and moving halfway across the world.
Reminiscing about your high school days.
Realizing that your current social circle is beginning to bore you.
Not knowing what to do next.
Recognizing that life isn’t what you imagined it would be once it became “real life.”
These thoughts, my friends, are indicative of a potential quarter-life crisis… or at least as far most folks are concerned.
These types of thoughts are certainly normal but they are derivative of one fact that is causing people to fall victim to the belief that they are having a quarter life crisis… you are comparing yourself to other people and are feeling inadequate as a result.
I am of the belief that there really shouldn’t be a thing like a quarter life crisis. It is a figment of pop culture. Why do I say that?
Well, I say it because society says that the above types of thoughts are ones that you should be concerned about and to be perceived as negative and indicative of a crisis. This line of thinking unites people and is easy to relate to.
I believe, however, that instead of fighting these thoughts and identifying with them as a normal symptom of a quarter life crisis, that we should embrace them. There is only a quarter life crisis if you create it.
Self-comparison is completely normal and, in my opinion, actually essential to self growth. In fact, I created this very publication with the idea in mind that if you were to become more aware of the successes, failures, and experiences of others, that you would be more inspired to change and grow. AKA… the more perspectives you are able to appreciate and experience, the more incentive you have to change.
BUT, this is where most people, including myself, get hung up and where it might feel like you are experiencing a quarter-life crisis.
Watching movies, surfing your Facebook feed, meeting new people, and learning about the amazing things people are doing in life offer incredible perspective in your life that previous generations had very limited access to.
Perspective should be the spark for inspiration in your life… but it must not end there. Its purpose is to inspire you to realize that you yourself are the biggest catalyst for change in your life.
That is the difference between believing you are stuck in a quarter life crisis and embracing those thoughts as impetus for change.
Here are 5 ways to become the biggest catalyst for change in your life (and avoid a life crisis in your 20s in the process).
1. Realize that it is all up to YOU
Society does not encourage you to realize this quickly. It really doesn’t. Childhood, highschool, college… everything is structured and designed. Even your first couple of years out of college are structured – first job, pay off debt, first apartment, etc. These are all moves by design that you have been told you need to complete since you were little. And then BOOM! Suddenly there are fewer things to check off your list. Suddenly it is entirely up to you.
But, some people struggle with this realization. We hold the idea that our lives have been totally designed for us and that our destiny awaits because of the steps we have put in prevously… and therein lies the frustration. We use this thinking to put off what many call real life and then BOOM a quarter life crisis creeps up on you.
The writer and philosopher Albert Souza sums this up best when he said:
“For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin… real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid…”
Your 20s are a time to embrace a radical shifting in thinking. Realize that you are the biggest catalyst in your life and that your life checklist is something you create… it is not created for you. There are no more hurdles to jump over. The time is now.
2. Embrace the process
Once you realize that there are no more steps to take or things to do before “real life” kicks in, it’s time to embrace everything that life throws your way.
To do this, I have come to realize that it is OK to not have all the answers, it is OK to ask for help, and it is OK to not know exactly what you want.
Embrace Souza’s line of thinking that obstacles are part of life… in fact, obstacles are life. They are the meat and potatoes of life. Knowing this will help you embrace life as a journey and not a destination. This is an incredibly popular cliche but I think it is true.
Happiness and fulfillment comes from the process… not the destination. I am coming to realize that there really isn’t a destination.. ever. There will always be more distant paths to travel and a longer journey to embrace. Having this mindset will help you embrace the struggle and appreciate happiness along the way.
3. Work backwards
Embracing the journey is great, but, if you’re like me, you’ll always find yourself comparing your journey to that of others. Especially in the day and age of instant information, social sharing and the internet, it is easy to make assumptions based on what you perceive from others.
The most impactful realization I’ve had in regards to comparing myself to others is that I am often comparing my “behind the scenes” with someone else’s “highlight reel.” As a result, I assume that their success has come easily and that I am stupid or slow because I haven’t attained it yet. I have no idea what their “behind the scenes” looks like, but I don’t care. I feel inadequate.
We can all relate to this feeling.
More so, because of the structure that has always been part of our lives – grades, evaluations, tests, etc. – we are ALWAYS comparing and evaluating ourselves.
Yet, the “real world” doesn’t have grades, so we resort to assuming that our efforts and results are lacking based on our views of others’ “highlight reels.”
The way I combat this thinking is to work backwards. If you can tangibly recall how far you’ve come in any sense of the term (fitness, career, life, relationships, etc.), you can create your own measure of success that is truly yours and is not relative to anyone else.
I encourage you to do this. Think back and recall how far you’ve come. This will help you adopt a mindset that life is whatever you make of it and that the only opinion that matters is yours.
More importantly, working backwards like this will instill a sense of gratitude in your life… gratitude for the things in your life that have enabled and pushed you. Doing this and being sincerely grateful helps us resist the urge to let some bad things ruin our days or get in the way of further development.
To move forward and fight the sense of indecision that many of us feel, you have to know where you’re going. I heard someone the other day refer to life as a “choose your own adventure” book – you remember those? Based on decisions you make on certain early pages, you would end up with different results later in the book. In those books, it was difficult to know where your decision would lead you because you were at the whim of the author’s decisions. But life doesn’t have to be that way.
I’d encourage you to adopt a visualization mindset to envision what the perfect journey looks like to you.
Take a moment to think through what your perfect day would look like. The sights, smells and underlying accomplishments that enable this day. Then, work towards that by taking action. Indecision is a marked trait of your twentys and contributes to your feeling of a quarter life crisis. The only way to escape it is to envision and then act on it.
5. Take action
It’s time to rock n roll!
Whoa… not so fast. By following the above steps, you’ll have a decent idea of where you want to end up and a vision of the journey that will take you there. You’ll hear a lot of advice about how you just have to commit, go all in and just act. While I think that having this confident and committed mindset is necessary, I think there is a smarter way to help push your self-development.
Most of us don’t know what our ideal destination truly looks like. As a result, it is easy to stray from our path as we work towards it. If you commit all in towards this hazy destination, you can truly fall into a mid life crisis. You might realize too late that it wasn’t what you wanted or it wasn’t what you envisioned in the first place.
With big life decisions, and to help you move you from where you are towards somewhere you think you want to be, take small steps – not big ones.
With creating PRSUIT, I could have just up and quit my day job because I was frustrated at the time and knew I wanted to create my own entrepreneurial platform. Instead of going that route, I committed to small steps. I created v1 as a side hustle and then inundated myself with networking. With those small steps, I was able to meet a ton of different people who were involved with online publishing, marketing, etc. Over the course of 2 years I gained a clear vision of what my ideal destination looks like – and it was quite different from my initial vision. This was thanks to the interactions, perspectives and actions I had over those years.
Had I taken a huge headfirst commitment, I doubt I would have ended up here.
I’d love to hear how you handled a quarter life crisis or how you approach the subject in general. Join the PRSUIT Community group on Facebook and let us know!