If you’re in your twenties or thirties right now and you’ve been feeling like you’re in a persistent negative funk that won’t go away, I’m happy you found this post. (If it is just a temporary funk, click here.) You’ve likely been feeling uncertain, confused, stuck or sad about what to do regarding one or more areas of your life. First, here is some quick relief for you: You’re not alone. This is what is called a Quarter Life Crisis. And it’s normal.
Though, it’s easy to feel alone. The truth is, most of your peers have gone through, are going through, or will go through this feeling at least once (or more) between the ages of 20 and 40. It’s called the: Quarter Life Crisis.
Keep reading for some guidance and simple cognitive tools you can use to gain clarity and feel better fast.
What is the Quarter Life Crisis exactly?
Google the term and the definitions you’ll find are incredibly vague. There are many reasons for this. Here’s the gist:
1) The label “quarter life crisis” is misleading
It suggests you’ll go through it around age 25. Not true. It can occur once or more anywhere between the ages of 20-40. Also, the word “crisis” is very subjective. So you may be going through it but you wouldn’t necessary describe it as a total crisis”. Instead, the trademark symptom is that you’re uncertain about what to do in one or more areas of your life.
2) The experience is subjective and unique to the sufferer
Some individuals describe the experience as feeling lost and confused. Some describe it as being frustrated and angry. Depending on the nature of the exact circumstances you’re going through the Quarter Life Crisis can look a bit different. What’s true for everyone is a feeling of uncertainty about what they are doing now and if it will get them the future they want.
3) The generation going through it is only starting to understand and talk about it now
Millennials are the first to be hit hard by the quarter life crisis phenomenon. There are many reasons for this: 1) having come from Baby Boomer parents, 2) having to make serious life choices earlier than previous generations, and, 3) the Internet has changed the corporate landscape entirely. So there is very limited research on it, which is only starting to emerge.
4) Lack of willingness to share
When people are in the midst of a quarter life crisis most aren’t willing to share about. They could be they are embarrassed, have trouble putting words to how they are feeling. Many people aren’t sure if what they are dealing with is normal. Most people would rather show the world they’ve got it all together. This only perpetuates the feeling that what you’re going through is not normal. It can feel very lonely.
Most people will experience a quarter life crisis
According to the research that is out there, 86% of individuals will experience a quarter life crisis (this is true for Gen Z’ers too). And due to the subjective nature of the problem and challenges researching it, the number is likely closer to 100%.
So, here’s the best definition (okay I’m a bit biased but I’ve done a ton of work and have coached many people going through a quarter life crisis, including getting out of one myself). This will help you identify if you’re going through it:
A Quarter Life Crisis is a period of inner struggle experienced by an individual anywhere between the ages of 20 to 40. It can last as little as two days or as long as two years, and can occur once or multiple times in your life.
While the nature of the crisis is subjective and varies between sufferers the period for everyone is characterized by a feeling of “uncertainty” about one’s direction in life.
This uncertainty then causes the sufferer to feel confused and lost. It leads to the avoidance of making decisions and results in staying where they are. They may also react by completely quitting everything and running in the opposite direction.
I’ve come up with four categories of quarter life crisis that’ll help you identify if that’s what you’re dealing with.
The four types of Quarter Life Crisis
There are the four types of Quarter Life Crisis I’ve identified. You can discover which version you are dealing with by taking the quarter life crisis quiz that I designed CLICK HERE (it takes 2 minutes)
There might be more but this is what I’ve identified from coaching many individuals:
QLC #1: The “OH SHIT! I’ve wasted time and/or money” Quarter-Life Crisis
You’ve put in a lot of effort building the life you have now, but now that you’ve arrived at what you thought you wanted, you’re starting to realize that you’re not 100% happy with one or more aspects of your life.
Perhaps you’re in a career that you spent years (and maybe thousands of dollars) working towards. But now you’re starting to learn that you don’t like what you do.
Or, you could have a slightly different version of this. Perhaps you married young and did the family thing and now you’re realizing: “I’ve spent all my time focusing on my family. I want to do something with my career”.
QLC #2: The “WTF! WHY DON’T I HAVE WHAT I WANT?” Quarter Life Crisis
You are extremely frustrated and you have the right to be. You’ve been working really hard to get what you want in one or more areas of your life. Maybe you started an online business or you’re an entrepreneur. Maybe you are working really hard, but still you’re not quite “there”.
It might be that you’re looking for a level of career success and working hard to achieve it but the success you want hasn’t “arrived”.Or, maybe right now you’re focusing on a finding a partner to settle down with. You have met some great people, but you haven’t hit on the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. You’ve been intentional. And, c’mon, you’ve been working hard! It feels like you’ve been taking action after action after action but nothing is producing the results you want!
QLC #3: The “I COULD DO THIS, I COULD DO THAT” Quarter Life Crisis
You’re in a period of indecision with your life. You have lots of ideas of what you could do. You likely have lots of talents. Your greatest problem is that you don’t know what to do, which way to proceed.
You’re paralyzed by all the possible paths you could take. You’re confused about what to spend your life doing. And, you’re afraid of making the wrong choice. This leaves you stuck. There’s likely a lot of “no action” going on for you right now. You’re trying to think your way to a resolution of what to do.
This might also look like what can be termed as a failure to launch. You live in mom and dad’s basement and haven’t been able to generate enough momentum to get your life moving is a direction that excites or inspires you.
QLC #4: The “Have I wasted all my adult life?” Quarter Life Crisis
“Life is to be enjoyed” might be your mantra, and that’s great. That is true! It is to be enjoyed! Though, lately you’ve been seeing your life only as fun, which leaves you wanting more meaningful experiences.
You’re someone who has been enjoying life until now. You have likely had many great experiences and a lot great times. And, you may have even spent a lot of time traveling. But now, you’re realizing you’d like to do something that makes a difference for others, for your community, your city or state (or province or region) or country. You’re starting to think more seriously about your life. You want to leave a mark.
None of these situations are a thrill to deal with.
Still not sure which QLC you are dealing with? Take this Quarter Life Crisis Quiz.
How about some quarter life good news?
But enough of the moaning and groaning. Let’s get to some some really good news…
If you’re in a Quarter Life Crisis, there are two ways to see your current struggle, no matter what the challenges are that you’re dealing with.
You could see it as:
- A horrible life-crushing crisis. Which likely means you see yourself as spinning out of control and you’re a huge failure and you’re worried that you might be forever. Or…
- That a Crisis is inevitable, but it is also a massive opportunity. And how fast this happens depends on you.
You get to choose which belief you’d like to hold on to. Once again your options to see your life as:
- A disaster.
- A breakdown, but what comes next is a breakthrough!
Remember this: Breakdowns cause breakthroughs.
How to turn a breakdown into a breakthrough
Step 1: Shift your perspective
You’ll feel better immediately, if you stop referring to your situation as a “crisis”.
Changing your thoughts about your situation won’t solve the specific issues at hand but it can give you some immediate mental relief. This’ll help to lessen the emotions you’re feeling. Which, will then allow you to calm down and think more rationally about what to do.
You might be thinking: I can’t just change my thoughts on the spot. It’s not that easy!
I’m not asking you to slap a smile on your face and start telling yourself your life is all sunshine and fairies right now. But I will ask you to nudge your way into a new perspective.
I’d rather you cling to this idea about what you’re going through, which takes a more OBJECTIVE stance on it:
You’re dealing with a complicated situation in your life right now and you haven’t decided what to do about it yet.
Not as bad as a crisis right? And it’s true. It’s simply another way of explaining the nature of your current quarter life struggle.
Notice your mental chatter
It’s important you start to notice your mental chatter and the language you use to describe your negative situations to other people. Semantics matter. They are tied to what you really think is true about a situation. And, what you think dictates what you do and the results you get.
During my Quarter Life Crisis, I was working as an event planner. I worked years to get the job, but I discovered I didn’t love it. All I could see (and talk about) was everything that was WRONG with the job. I kept saying things like: “I HATE this job”, “I need a break”, “This job is killing me”. It overshadowed everything good about the job. And then I quit it prematurely, which caused more issues, including a lot of financial stress.
Tune into what you’re saying about your situation. Then try to see it from a more objective stance. It will help you think more rationally about what you need to do next to get out of the situation.
You’ll need to take action to get yourself out. BUT, before you do something drastic, there’s more thinking you’ll want to do…
Step 2: Get to the root of the problem
When you have an issue with one or more areas of your life. something that’s not going the way you’d like it to, it’s important to take the time to analyze what’s really going on.
In most cases, the problem you’re experiencing is a symptom of a deeper issue. Here’s what’s not good about that: You could end up treating the symptom, not the true problem. If that is the case, your problem will be back.
Solutions that solve the symptom of a problem, a “painkiller solution”. That is because they work the same way a painkiller medication works. Painkiller medications (ie. Tylenol or Advil) make the pain go away so you don’t feel it, though it’s not actually gone. The pain is chemically masked, and temporarily undetectable by your brain.
Avoid painkiller solutions
Here’s a great way to understand what a painkiller solution: You gain 20 lbs. So you diet and exercise to get the weight off. It works. You feel good and you look good. Problem solved, right?
Well, for many people, what doesn’t get addressed is how you gained the weight in the first place. Therein, lies the real issue. It’s in your mindset, your thought patterns, and your behavior.
That means, you’ll likely put the weight on again. This is because when you treat a symptom of a problem, you have not yet eradicated the problem.
How to get to the root of the problem
So, how do you get to the root? Identify your problem and write out everything that’s wrong about the situation. Write down everything you don’t like. Then look at your reasoning for why those things aren’t working for you. Ask yourself questions like why isn’t this working? Or what’s missing? This will lead you to identify and get clear on what does matter to you, you’re core values. Usually there’s a misalignment between your core values and the life you’re living.
If you want guidance on how to do this, grab this free ebook. There’s a simple exercise in Step 2 that will give you instant clarity.
Once you have clarity, you’ll see the actions you need to take to move your life in the direction you want it to go. But, it’s not that simple. Sometimes you’ll have many options of what you could do so you need to make a confident decision on your course of action.
Step 3: Make a choice about what to do
In life there are easy choices and tough choices. Anything you deem a “tough choice” is even tougher when the stakes are high, in other words, when it’s a decision that affects the trajectory in your life.
So it’s easy to find yourself confused about what your course of action should be to get you closer to what you want and out of your quarter life crisis situation.
Now most people when confronted with a “tough choice” around what to do in their life will ponder it, trying to figure out what the best or better choice is of all the options. Sometimes considering choices lasts for months or years. It’s often quite stressful. Many people lost sleep over struggling with a touch choice.
There’s a way to make it really easy. It doesn’t work to consider what is the best choice because scientifically speaking there is no best. A better way to look at the options of what to do is by grading their quality on a risk scale and evaluating what you’re willing to do at that choice in your life.
Grab the ebook and you’ll learn a simple process for making a tough choice easy. It’s exercise three in the process.
Step 4: Take one action, then take more
By the time you’ve done all this thinking work (which doesn’t take long, btw) you’re free to take action. Small incremental actions are the key and will have you maintain lasting change in your life.
If you’re paralyzed and unable to take action, it’s because you have a fear of failure. There are many ways to solve that. The simplest way is to take action, even if you’re scared. This is like a going on a roller coaster when you don’t want to. Training yourself to act alongside your fear will benefit you. Successful people commit to an action and then take it even if they are scared.
Step 5: Be brave and unapologetic
Consider that in early life, you learned to be a follower. Now it’s time for you to be a leader.
When we are teens, we learn and develop by following others. It is our job as a teen to be a follower. It is important for learning and growing and developing relationships.
But when it comes to living the life you want, that takes courage. The best advice is: You do you. The more you do what you need to do for You, the more you’ll feel self-expressed, whole and happy in your life.
If you loved this guidance and want more – read my new book (get it free for a limited time). It will lead you through the five-step process for overcoming a Quarter Life Crisis and turning it into a massive opportunity for the life you want. Includes three Neuro-cise worksheets that help you overcome your crisis and get what you really want for your life.