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How to Deal with an Existential Crisis and Live a Happy Life Again

How to Deal with an Existential Crisis and Live a Happy Life Again

As human beings, we are capable of extraordinary things. We have the power to endure extreme physical and mental lengths while welcoming life’s most unexpected challenges, hardships, and check-ins. Sometimes life gets the best of us and then begins the long journey to rise up again.

These huge and deep revolutionary life check-ins happens to every single living person – all 7.3 billion people on this planet, which most of us call an existential crisis.

In this article, I’ll explain what an existential crisis is and what you can do if you face this crisis.

What Is an Existential Crisis?

An existential crisis is when you begin to question your life’s purpose or what the purpose of our existence as a whole. These moments tend to surface when we are feeling stacked up against the wall as the emotions of stress, defeat, and unfulfillment arises and the yearning to know life’s biggest answers continue to grow deep within us.

Other times, it’s the feeling of misplacement or when the thoughts of failure continue to dig into our minds, and the answers that we’ve been seeking for have not yet been found.

The thing is – the big answers to life are always subjective to a person, and that itself is perfectly okay.

There’s no right or wrong answer to go about this, but here are some ways in how to deal with an existential crisis and live a happy life again.

What Causes an Existential Crisis

There are different matters that provoke the heart that can then lead to emotional outbursts or distress.

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Always remember that people define having an existential crisis differently, and a variety of matters can trigger them. Here are some examples:

  • Feeling socially misplaced in an environment or peers
  • Domino effect of failures transcending at once
  • Over-exhaustion of mental energy
  • Losing a loved one
  • Not being “where you want” in life

One of the most common causes come from feeling invisible or unwelcome by a certain group or environment.

Part of life is being integrated within a community, and sometimes the feeling of our existence comes from the acceptance of outside forces. Our place in society is reinforced by the attention we receive from other people, and as a result, we being to question our successes, happiness, and even our purpose in the world. Little do we realize that those questions harden the compassion we have for ourselves because they are overruled by self-created pressure and stress. Stress is a response to threat in a situation, so ask yourself if the stress is self-inflicted.

Is Existential Crisis Takes Place Once in a Lifetime?

We do not only go through one, but multiple existential crisis in our lifetime.

By noticing that there may be an underlying pattern, you are able to take that control and lead a life fulfilled by happiness and ease. It just takes answering some internal questions and reexamining your trigger points that may help bring some answers to the surface.

Having an existential crisis weighs heavily on one’s mind and spirit. Although it can be subjective to a person, it’s safe to say that many people have come across this “check-in” not once but multiple times in their life whether it be because of a breakup, change in career, death of someone, and even in the midst of reaching milestones.

How to Deal with an Existential Crisis

1. Check-In with Your Ego

The ego has the power to navigate your mind

and your thought process only if you allow it. Of course, ego is a natural human element, and it comes down to how much and how loud that ego speaks.

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There’s a game that ego likes to play and that game is called the comparison game. It paints a picture in our thoughts into two things main things:

  • Where we should be and what we should be doing based on society’s standards.
  • Where we should be and what we should be doing based on our personal visions of success.

Understand that there is nothing wrong with setting goals and having high standards, but there is a difference between having an “ego-driven” vision versus a “value-driven” vision.

After spending some time thinking about what success means, ask yourself – are these successes aligned with my values or am I just running the rat race?

2. Surround Yourself with Positive People

They say misery likes company, but if you’re feeling down and defeated, it’s best to surround yourself with positive people with high vibrations.

This is not only to be exposed to high energy, but also to learn different coping mechanisms from others. Everyone deals with emotions differently and if something is not working in your favor, it never hurts to try to find an alternative route.

3. Dive into the 5 W’s

When dealing with an existential crisis, it’s best to tackle the root of it all. Try by asking yourself the 5 W’s – who, what, when, where, and why we you feel like you’ve come to this point.

  • Who – Who were you prior to this existential crisis (were you working out regularly, were you involved in a community sport, etc.)? Who did you surround yourself with? Who do you go to for advice or encouragement, who makes you feel negative about yourself?
  • What – What were some events that led up to this point both professionally and personally? What environment were you in? What’s the energy like? What values stay true to you and what has changed over the years?
  • Where – Where do you want to go from here? Where do you picture yourself in your happiest state? Where do you put most of your time and energy throughout the day?
  • When – When do you have free time for yourself? When do you get ready for the day ahead? When did you feel you started having an existential crisis? When did major events occur in your life?
  • Why – Simply and compassionately ask “why” for everything. This article can help you dig deeper

The simplicity of the word “why” is to help you become self-aware and learn more about yourself. We spend more time getting to know others by having dinner with people, coffee, or hanging out, but how often do we do that with ourselves?

Get to know yourself as if getting to know another friend. Ask these questions with compassion and thought, and the root may be much easier to find.

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4. Measure Accordingly

Look at how you’re measuring your goals and successes. Are they time-sensitive?Are they achieved by a certain age? Or are they set by financial limitations?

Goal setting is important to achieve the things we want in life, but it’s always important to not only get attached to the time-frame, but stay focused on the goal itself.

Most times, people are pressured and attached to the idea of time that then translates to stress and unfulfillment.

5. Quiet the Chatter

Quieting the chatter goes beyond moving away from physical distractions and inner dialogue – it’s also about quieting the things that consume your energy.

If you find yourself emotionally drained from listening to gossip, then stray away from it. If you feel your energy is depleted when you find yourself working on projects that aren’t aligned with your values, then challenge yourself to find other projects that you find joy in doing.

Your time is valuable.

6. Give Yourself 10 Minutes

“If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life,” – Tony Robbins

Your personal time can get washed away in the long day-to-day listing of things, and 10 minutes can seem like a long amount of time.

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How often do we also spend 10 or even 30 minutes mindlessly scrolling on our phones or spending that time on tasks that are of less importance?

Prioritize your time and find a hobby that can be integrated into a daily routine and away from the screens. It can be meditating, journaling, drawing, listening to music, or gardening.

While we live in a world where information is constantly at our fingertips, we’re quick to indulge in a huge amount of information without letting our brain digest. Having at least 10 minutes to let ourselves breathe can ground us for the rest of the day ahead.

Final Thoughts

An existential crisis is something that happens to the best of us, but there’s always a way out of it. It’s a matter of taking some time for reflection and surrounding yourself with people who can bring you back up again.

Always remember that your time is valuable and that you should only be going through life at your pace and your pace only. It’s also a point in ourselves to reset and start fresh with a new perspective and a new brewing friendship with ourselves.

After all, one can’t be happy with others and external outcomes without first being happy with ourselves.

Featured photo credit: Jake Melara via unsplash.com

More by this author

Akina Chargualaf

Akina Chargualaf is an entrepreneur, writer, and the content creator of travel and personal development blog Finding Fifth.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

How to Get Unstuck in Life and Live a More Fulfilling Life

How to Get Unstuck in Life and Live a More Fulfilling Life

We all know the feeling—when you sense that you are not completely happy and fulfilled with your life—things are not where and how you envisage them to be. You go through the motions everyday, angry with yourself and the universe for throwing you such an unfavorable dice.

You can’t help yourself but feel a perennial envy towards those who are smiled upon by karma—the lucky individuals who seem to have the Midas touch and everything they undertake ends up with success, recognition and greater opportunities. Life must be so exiting.

Unlike yours.

We call this sensation many names: I’ve hit a wall; I’m not making progress; I’m stagnant; I’m moving in loops; Something is off in my life; I’m off balance.

Or simply: feeling stuck.

In this article, we’ll look into the reasons behind this feeling and how to get unstuck in life and live a more fulfilling life.

Is Being Stuck Really Such a Bad Thing?

Is it really so bad to be stuck in the status quo? After all, not everyone can be a super-star, right? What’s wrong with living a quiet life, with not many turns and twists and just going with the flow?

True—there is not much fun in this, but there is not disappointment, anxiety, stress and ill-ambition either. Life is easy and uncomplicated.

So why do we keep hearing over and over from the greats that staying is one place is not a good thing?

Tony Robbins gives us an elegantly simple answer to this question:

“If you are not growing, you are dying. “

“Progress equals happiness,” he says. “That ’s because reaching a goal is satisfying but only temporarily. Life is not about achieving the goals, life is about who you become in pursuit of those goals.”[1]

There you have it—staying in one place makes us unhappy.

We all know that the comfort zone can be great. It’s like a warm old blanket you wrap yourself around on a cold winter night, cuddled in front of your favorite TV show.

But just because something feels comfortable, does it mean it’s ok to stick to it forever?

Progress equals happiness, remember.

You may not even fully be aware of the small voice in the back of your mind that’s been bugging you, but you better learn to listen carefully—because you may wake up one day and realize that your productive life is gone and you haven’t achieved many of the things you wanted for yourself.

Pretty gloomy picture, indeed.

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Simply put, what the wise men advise us of is not just some self-help fluff for them to gain more popularity or sell more books. It is true—as you will learn below—that not moving forward, not even making the effort to do better or become better—even if you don’t always succeed in these endeavors—is a mental demise and a waste of your potential.

The Common “Stucks”

There are many reasons why you may feel stagnant in your life—some may be completely out of your control even. The main thing, though, is to be able to identify the reasons and then try to take some remedial actions.

But it starts with an awareness—because you can’t fix what you don’t know about, right?

Here are some of the main contributors to your feelings of stuck-ness:

You Lack Purpose in Your Life, or the “Why” of What You Do

Simon Sinek, the best-selling author and motivational speaker tells us in his famous TED talk that every successful endeavor—be it related to an organization, your career or personal life needs to begin with defining the “Why.” You need to be able to explain to yourself why you do what you do and what drives you.

It is the thing (s) that gives meaning and inspires you to wake up in the morning and to want to take on the world. It is your reason for being.

You Like the Status Quo

You may like your comfort zone. After all, it’s…well, comfortable. But as we established, the good old blanket is not necessarily going to make us fulfilled in life. You can watch so many TV shows wrapped in it before you get bored.

We, humans, still carry our ancestors’ fighting instincts—for hunting, for self-preservation, for taking actions to make our lives better. Inaction is not what made the mankind create all the innovations we enjoy today.

The Good-Old Fear of Failure and of the Unknown

Admittedly, it’s not an emotion to be taken lightly—it can be quite real and powerful for many of us.

According to a Gallup poll done a while ago among U.S. teenagers, the fear of being a failure and not succeeding in life was at number four.[2] More specifically, this feeling was described as “making mistakes that will mess up my life,” “not measuring up,” “not leaving a mark.”

So, fear can be a powerful paralyzer and can elicit a “safe-mode” response—i.e. stuck-ness.

Your Crowd

We all know the famous adage that we are the average of the five people we rub shoulders with. So, if your in-crowd is similarly stuck as you are, although it may be consoling at times, you won’t be motivated to make much progress yourself.

It’s called a social proof bias—if everyone around you is doing (or not doing) something, then it is ok for you to follow suit.

Comparisons to Others

While comparisons are not always bad, according to the Social Comparison Theory,[3] they have to be handled with caution.

Faring against others can make you very unhappy with yourself. Failing to recognize that your path is not the same as others’ and that there are many ways to get to an end-point (goal) can be very discouraging to taking the first step to unstuck-ness.

Personality

Our temperaments can also contribute to a sense of feeling stuck. For instance, you may be more of a passive, dreamy kind of person who prefers observing to taking action, pensiveness to gregariousness, solitude to venturing out in the world.

That is, you have more of a slow-burn personality vs. a fiery one—therefore, it takes you longer to contemplate all alternatives before taking the plunge.

And that’s ok. But you need to recognize that this may also be the reason why you are not progressing as fast or as much as you would like towards your goals.

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And while changing who you are is hard (impossible even, according to some psychologists), there are things that can be done to make it so much better for yourself, which I will discuss a bit later.

A final point to note here is that, paradoxically, it is possible to feel both stuck and unstuck at the same time. For instance, you can have a great career, but your family life may feel a bit stale, or wise versa.

As our personal and professional lives constantly fight for the top spot on our attention list, the feeling of stuck-ness may also depend on where you are on your life’s trajectory.

For someone who is younger and single, stagnation may be felt more vividly in their professional lives, as opposed to someone who is in their mid-life, where family takes priority—such individuals may not feel as down-hearted that they are not progressing quickly enough professionally.

How to Get Unstuck in Life

The neat thing about your path to becoming unstuck is that it follows the so-called Principle of Equifinality,[4] which states that the end state can be reached by many means.

It’s not just one thing that can help you to start moving forward again. There are many avenues you can explore to find out what works for you and with your own story and personality.

1. Show up and Be Willing to Do the Work

Woody Allen has famously said that “80% of success is showing up.” That is, you need to begin with the right motivation and willingness to take action towards unstucking.

You must want to improve your current state. And you must follow through.

2. Self-Reflection

Spend some time alone. You need to figure out why you are stuck—that is, what is the root of your discontent. Meditation may help here too. But this step is essential:

Packing on some self-knowledge and awareness on why you are where you are in life can help you discover a whole new universe of ideas on how to make it better for yourself.

It is as the saying goes: Identifying the problem is half of the solution.

Start to do self-reflection with the help of this article: The Power of Self-Reflection: Ten Questions You Should Ask Yourself

3. Break a Sweat

There is an avalanche of research on the benefits of exercising for the body and the mind. The latest research tells us that if you want to put your mind in the best possible focus shape, a 15-minute jog will do the job better than 15 minutes of relaxation and meditation.[5] It also clears your thinking, improves your attention spans, and can generally make you feel like a “brand new person.”

4. Find a Purpose

As I already touched-upon, the “Why” behind your actions is a prime driver of self-progress. If you link your goals—be them personal or professionals—to a “bigger-than-me” aspiration, then it will be so much easier to convince yourself to keep moving.

According to recent research,[6] we all have a specific purpose-seeking style—similar to our own way of writing, dancing or speaking.

There are four types or “Whys”—creative, prosocial, financial and personal recognition. The prosocial approach to finding meaning, though, which is based on kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others, is the best one in the long-run—it was shown to lead to greater caring, integrity and personal growth.

Here’s How to Find Purpose in Life and Make Yourself a Better Person.

5. Find a Passion

It’s barely a secret that if you enjoy something, you will want to do more of it and it won’t feel like an obligation. You will have an internal motivation to keep going despite setbacks, despite the stress or the tiredness you may experience at times.

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So, find what thrills you and makes you come alive and strive to become better, the best even, at it. The more progress you make, the more confidence you will have that you can apply the same passion and dedication to all other parts of your life that feel stagnant.

Learn How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life.

6. Nudge Yourself

The Nudge Theory[7] has been around for a while and has shown some wonderful results in positively influencing people’s behaviors—from making us conserve more energy, to improving the payment rates of fines, to making job-seekers more engaged and involved.

Small things as daily reminders in terms of micro-goals you can set on your phone, for instance, can have a profound favorable effect on becoming unstuck.

Nudging can also help overcome some of these personality traits we talked about—like passiveness or acute proneness to procrastination.

7. Seek Different Experiences

Even if you are in a happy relationship, you may still feel stuck—i.e. you may be unfulfilled, uninspired, or bored even of doing identical things over and over. The same rings true for your professional life.

The end-point is that you need to feed your brain different experiences if you want to get unstuck. If you repeat more of the same thing, you will end up with more or less similar outcomes. Change requires taking the path less trodden, experimenting, learning new ways, seeing new places, reading, travelling—it’s an endless list, really, to personal growth.

According to research covered in Psychology Today,[8]

“Activities that lead us to feel uncertainty, discomfort, and even a dash of guilt are associated with some of the most memorable and enjoyable experiences of people’s lives. Happy people, it seems, engage in a wide range of counterintuitive habits that seem, well, downright unhappy.”

8. Leave Behind the Things That Are Not Constructive for You

Arianna Huffington put it in a great way:[9]

“You can complete a project by dropping it.”

Assessing the things that make you feel stagnant is important. But equally valuable is to recognize that just because it may be hard or even impossible to get something that you really want, it doesn’t mean that you’ve failed or that you are necessarily stuck.

Maybe it’s simply not your thing. For instance, you may want to become a professional golfer. You practice and practice but you can’t quite reach the level of Tiger Woods that you aspire to. Perhaps it’s time to take stock of your life and shift your focus.

9. Compare Wisely

Comparisons can often make you feel down and create a sense of stagnation, which may not always be valid. You must realize that your pace of progress differs from your friends’, neighbours’, siblings or even significant others’.

Just because you are not a millionaire by the age of 30, or haven’t started your own business, or written your third bestseller yet, doesn’t mean that you are not moving forward.

So, mind how you measure your progress and your state of stuck-ness. Your perceptions may differ from reality.

Besides, it’s never ever too late to start things over! Here’s how:

How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

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10. Ask for Help

Finally, remember that you don’t have to do it all alone. If you feel stuck in your personal life, you can speak to your close ones and find a solution together. Maybe they feel the same way.

At work—raise your hand, speak to your manager, volunteer to do things that can help you learn and become more valuable.

You don’t have to come up with all the answers right now. The most important thing, going back to the first idea, is to be willing to make a change.

When Is Enough Enough?

Seeking progress is a great thing. Who wouldn’t want to become a better version of themselves after all?

But the pursuit of growth should be handled with caution. It can become very addictive and sometimes even be counterproductive.

It’s true—you may experience a “runner’s high” and success can make you overflow with dopamine, but the constant chase of “more” can toss you into a never-ending spinning wheel.

You will never be happy with the status quo and won’t accept things as they are—which, naturally, can open a Pandora box of mental health issues.

That is, too much of a self-improvement drive may leave you unable to enjoy your life, to be fully present in the Now and to appreciate the person that you are.

And this is not necessarily a good thing.

So, should you strive to improve yourself, so that feel unstuck and free again? Absolutely.

But remember to take a breather and be grateful for what you have.

Summing It All Up

The feeling of being satisfied or unsatisfied with one’s life is very personal. Similar to its cousins—happiness and success, it is best measured by and depends on our individual histories, personalities and paths—i.e. my trajectory is different than yours and what makes me feel content may not create the same feeling for you.

For instance, you may be happy to be in a position where you help others and their gratitude is sufficient enough reason for you to wake up in the morning. But for someone else, this situation may create a sense of stuck-ness.

The main take-away here is that you shouldn’t compare your story to anyone else’s because you may end up feeling constantly stuck. And this, speaking from experience, is not the best place in the world to be.

Progress is great, but don’t forget that your life is here and now.

So, try to enjoy yourself some too, while making your grandiose plans to take on the world, will you please?

Featured photo credit: Camila Cordeiro via unsplash.com

Reference

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