Everyone has heard of the concept of a mid-life crisis, but what about a quarter-life crisis? You might think it sounds like a joke, but it's a real phenomenon and it's actually extremely common. Arriving at some time between your mid-20s and 30s, a quarter-life crisis can be just as destabilizing and distressing as a mid-life one. However, it also presents an opportunity for growth, and for learning more about what will truly make you happy.
This guide will explore the nature of the quarter-life crisis, canvassing some of the main warning signs that you are indeed suffering from one. Next, we'll move on to consider the five powerful steps that you can take to overcome your quarter-life crisis. We'll consider issues like how to find your passion, ways to build confidence in your own judgment, and how to stop caring so much about what other people think of you.
Some people experience a quarter-life crisis at around age 25, while for others it doesn't hit until closer to age 30. An estimated 75% of young people struggle with this type of crisis.
Regardless of when in this period it strikes, it is characterized by a deep sense of unease about most (if not all) areas of life. For example, you might feel out of step with your friends, uncomfortable in your job, worried about your romantic prospects, and unsure of how to define yourself.
Quarter-life crises are often triggered by peers “moving on” in life, e.g. by starting families, getting married, or receiving large promotions.
There's no one way that a quarter-life crisis looks, so yours might feel quite different from that described by other people you know. However, there are certain key warning signs that almost everyone having a quarter-life crisis experience in some form or other.
Here are seven of the most prominent, along with some examples of how they might manifest in your life. Once you have a clearer idea of whether you are in fact having a quarter-life crisis, we can then move towards finding a solution that boosts your emotional well-being in the longer term.
A quarter-life crisis typically prompts a period of intense self-reflection, in which you question just about everything.
So, if you're constantly mulling over the following questions, the chances are high that you've entered a crisis period.
All of these questions indicate that you're not feeling fulfilled and that you have a nagging sense that there could be more out there for you.
While it can be scary to face these uncertainties, doing so also gives you a fighting chance of finding the answers that will make you happy.
We all daydream from time to time. However, if you're spending more time engaged with your imagination than you are with your everyday life, a quarter-life crisis is one of the leading explanations. It suggests this idea that you want a different, more fulfilling life than the one you currently have.
Perhaps you fantasize about what it would be like to find your dream job. Or, you picture yourself having children. Alternatively, you may try to imagine the kind of partner who would be right for you or dream of traveling the world.
Regardless of where your mind goes, this is an indication that your imagination is revved up and ready to help you make more of yourself.
When discussing the quarter-life crisis, almost everyone who has been through it describes an alarming worry that “this” (i.e., how life is now) is all there is. People are probably constantly telling you that these are the best years of your life and that you'll never be in such great shape or have so much potential ever again. This kickstarts anxiety about whether you're really using your time in the best way.
If you're not very happy, it leaves you feeling like the next decades of your life are bound to be miserable (or at least incredibly unsatisfying).
Feeling stuck in life often manifests itself as restlessness, so it's little wonder that the quarter-life crisis also comes with insomnia, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty staying still. On a larger scale, the restlessness that's characteristic of a quarter-life crisis also makes it hard to commit to something for very long; relationships, jobs, social groups, and hobbies may all be abandoned as quickly as you pick them up, as you keep trying to find what actually feels right for you. While this can be disheartening and panic-inducing, it's also a necessary evil as you work to discover your true self.
Most of us are on social media in one form or another, as it can often feel like we'll be left out or forgotten if we don't use it to stay in touch with friends.
Unfortunately, being in the throes of a crisis makes it pretty much impossible for you to feel anything but jealousy, resentment, anger or anxiety when confronted with stories about other people's successes. Every photo of an engagement ring, baby bump, wedding venue or brand new business leaves you feeling worse and undermines your faith in the idea that you'll ever reach such milestones yourself.
On a related note, another one of the major signs of a quarter-life crisis is constantly comparing. You'll find you're always looking at others to see how you measure up, trying to find out whether you're where you're “supposed to be” at this point in your life.
In addition, you'll almost always find a way to interpret the facts to support your fear that you're coming up short. And even if you're not 100% sure that you want the things that other people in your peer group have, you wonder if you're really an adequate adult if you don't have these things in your life.
Finally, any kind of life crisis can lead to a lack of motivation. Lacking motivation in life is often an indication that you're uninspired, drained, and clueless about where to go next.
In the case of a quarter-life crisis, your lethargy can partly come from the underlying belief that no matter how hard you work, you'll never achieve the things that could make you feel excited, fulfilled, and vital.
Thankfully, it is possible to turn this lack of motivation into a genuine drive for positive change. We'll look at how you might do that in the next section.
Remember, having a quarter-life crisis doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It may be just the jolt you need to reset the way you live, leading to a better and happier existence. After all, a quarter-life crisis is really only an indication that you're not living up to your potential.
So, if the above signs seem eerily familiar, don't be too worried. You have plenty of time to turn things around and find your true purpose. Take control of your future and employ the following five steps to get through your quarter-life crisis intact. In fact, you may emerge better than ever!
First thing's first: you need to ditch the addiction to comparisons.
When asking “what is my purpose?”, you need to look inwards, not outwards, and if you're too busy looking at other people then you're not really learning about yourself.
Accept that there are many valid, satisfying ways to live and that just because your life doesn't look the same as the life of the people you went to college with doesn't mean you are less than they are. Plus, they may be at the end of a difficult journey, while you're in the middle of yours. We all find our purpose at our own pace.
It's no use bottling up all the anxieties and questions your quarter-life crisis has caused.
Instead, be honest with people you trust. Let them know that you're struggling. This will relieve a lot of internal pressure, allow you to get some much-needed feedback, and possibly make your friends less ashamed of their own difficulties.
By talking about your problems, you help to normalize them, both for yourself and for the people you care about.
And if you really struggle to open up to anyone in your peer group, have a few sessions with a therapist. This could be the ideal start to your brainstorming process and could identify hidden insecurities and issues in your life.
We all have limiting beliefs that hold us back; assumptions about the age by which we should have done certain things, or preoccupations with the idea of overnight success.
Let go of your old ideas of what your life should look like, and instead accept how it is and embrace all you've learned so far.
Meanwhile, acknowledge that anything good takes work, and cultivate both patience and determination. While it's not good to compare, reading honest (i.e. warts and all) success stories can help you get a feel for where you need to go and can give you the confidence to try to find new paths to fulfillment.
A lot of people just let life “happen” to them, and then seem surprised when it turns out to be underwhelming. Learning how to find your passion is all about actively interrogating your desires, needs, and talents.
In other words, you need to ask yourself tough questions to figure out who you are.
For example, start with the following:
Finally, once you detox your mind, it becomes so much easier to find your purpose and passion in life. The thought here is simple: reduce your exposure to “noise” in life. Spend less time on social media. Limit the number of random things you lookup online. Cut out television that you don't find genuinely edifying or inspiring.
And with the time you free up, figure out positive things you can do to feel good. Examples include mindfulness, exercise, creative writing, reading for pleasure, and taking up new hobbies. The more positive things you do, the easier it is to live a satisfying life.