Is there such a thing as a quarter life crisis and could it be the cause of you experiencing a lack of happiness and fulfilment in your life or career right now?
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What Is a Quarter Life Crisis?
According to popular psychology, a quarter life crisis is a period “involving anxiety over the direction and quality of one’s life” which is most commonly experienced in a period ranging from a person’s twenties up to their mid-thirties.  It tends to occur after we have finished our schooling and study, when we have settled into everyday life, often at major points or life changing events when we feel we are at a crossroads. We know something must change but we don’t know what or how to begin. It can feel confusing and lonely.
The good news is this is quite a normal experience. With some insight and small steps, you can gain clarity and direction on a way forward.
Firstly, it’s important to realize you are not alone. LinkedIn surveyed thousands of 25 to 33 years olds; the data showed that 75% had experienced a quarter life crisis with the average age being 27.
Our twenties and thirties are nothing like they used to be. There are so many pressures now for people in this age group including having a well-qualified career, a secure relationship and possibly a family. The prospect of owning a home of your own becomes important, yet each year seems to be getting further out of reach, putting further pressure on your income earning capacity and career choice.
Personally, I have experienced both a quarter life crisis and a mid life one and there are similarities between both. The change was instigated for me both times by a difficult life-changing event because I didn’t understand what I was experiencing or how to change it. Hindsight is a great thing and I sometimes wish I’d had the insights back then that I have now.
When you become aware of what you are experiencing and acknowledge your feelings as perfectly normal, change and transformation flow with more ease as you begin to take the steps to find a new direction, happiness and fulfillment.
Here you will find what I consider to be the complete guide. It contains the essential steps I have identified to get clear on your way forward and move through this period of your life with more certainty.
What Causes a Quarter Life Crisis?
What leads to a quarter life crisis varies from person to person. It’s normally an event or a certain action that young people or adults are taking or how they’re thinking. Some of the most common ones are stressors in our lives. Stressors such as:
- Excessive job hunting, career planning, or interviews.
- Struggling with being on your own for the first time.
- Navigating a new and/or serious relationship.
- Having to make long-term personal or professional decisions or dwelling on those decisions.
- Being scared of major life changes or experiencing a lack of them.
Signs of a Quarter Life Crisis
A quarter life crisis is experienced when a person is highly driven and smart while experiencing transitions in their lives. It is through these transitions where these individuals can be in prolonged states of limbo which results in feeling uncertain, questioning decisions, and experiencing emotional pain.
There is something that would occur recently that triggered this, however, to know for sure these are signs of experiencing a quarter life crisis:
- You feel a lack of direction with your career path, relationships, and life as a whole.
- Trouble making decisions
- Can’t figure out what is missing in your life.
- A lack of motivation.
- Struggling with fatigue, stress, depression, or anxiety.
- Sense tension between what you want to pursue in life and settling down and accepting what you have.
- Worry over peers having everything figured out with their lives.
- Fear of being left behind.
How To Survive A Quarter Life Crisis
1. Put Your Life in Your Hands With a Plan
Chances are, if you’ve ever planned anything important, you’ve had a written plan. Starting a business, planning a wedding, a project at work…it all gets written down. How much more important is this for your life?
Imagine holding a document in your hands containing the plans for the next 5 years of your life. Identifying your top 3 values is a great start. From there, you could go on to create your bucket list. Then, pick the top thing from there that you would like to prioritize for achieving in the next 12 months.
Then, jot down a list of everything that you would need to do to make it happen. What are the major stepping stones for achieving that thing? What are the specific tasks that you would need to do to achieve each of those steps? When will you do each of these steps?
These are some of the basic questions that you would need to ask yourself to give yourself a great chance of making that thing happen. If you take a little bit of action on each of these steps on a regular basis, you will reduce your risk of being hit by the quarter life crisis. You’ll also increase your ability to deal with it, if that is where you already find yourself.
2. Stop Comparing Your Own Quarter Life Crisis to Your Friend’s
Comparing yourself with your friends and peers is never a good idea. This crisis is a period where you want to be changing and healing and not comparing your life to others.
It’s understandable why we compare though. You wonder what your friends and peers are up to while you feel lost. So you jump onto social media for five minutes and scroll through your newsfeed to see images of couples with children, career and life announcements and they all seem much more satisfied than you.
It’s terrible for your mental health.
The truth is that often what you see is someone putting up a front. Sure, their lives could be better in certain cases, but behind the screen, their lives are a trainwreck and they’re not airing it.
Young adults and people in their early 30s do this all the time.
If you want to make this easier for yourself, stop accessing social media platforms. Remove apps from your phone so you have to physically log in if you ever want to check it out.
If you need to access certain platforms for work or business, stay away from your newsfeed, even unfollow connections until you have worked through this period of your life.
When you stop comparing, you will notice that the pressure decreases and you will feel more comfortable in your current situation. This allows change to unfold at its own pace.
3. Let Go of All the Should’s
If you hear yourself say, “I should be” or “I have to”, you are attempting to live your life by other people’s standards. And now you are aware of this, you will be amazed at how often you use this language.
Trying to live to others’ standards will never bring you true happiness or fulfillment. Even the use of this language brings a feeling of self-judgement and stress without even taking the actions associated with it.
And over time, continually living this way, you will start to feel like your life isn’t your own; and you will lead yourself deeper into crisis as your self-esteem suffers.
If you hear yourself using this language in this stage of life, stop in your own tracks.
When you let go of all the “I should’s” and start to replace them with your “I wants,” you will notice the feeling of lightness as your self-esteem rises again.
4. Get Clear on What Is Important to You
As you begin to let go of what you thought should be important, you create space to get clear on what is important to you.
Most of the time, like the majority of people, you are living your life unconsciously and unaware of what is really important to you. This means you will find it difficult to make choices that will light you up from the inside.
Dr. John Demartini, a long-time educator and international expert in human behaviour states in his book The Values Factor, that true motivation is inspiration and is present when we are fulfilling our values. And when we are living according to our truest and most important values, people feel the most fulfilled in that state of mind.
This means it’s important to get ultra clear on your most important values. You can do this simply by looking at what you put most of your time and energy into currently, and the moments in your life when you have felt the most fulfilled. Those moments may have been at any stage in life and could involve digging up childhood memories in the process.
As you get clearer on what is important to you, you will gain even more clarity on what you truly want for yourself.
Another method to look at this is to identify your top 3 personal values. Being able to identify these means you’re creating a compass in your mind.
It’ll give you direction and clarity and remove a lot of the mental fog that leads to self-doubt and confusion.
Looking for personal values is helpful because these identify our core and make up what we consider the most important in our lives. These are what push to perform actions.
Examples of these personal values are things like: Creativity, Growth, Honesty, Persistence, Responsibility, and many others.
Identifying three of them can put into focus everything you do.
5. Change Your Environment & Detox Your Mind
Feeling stuck can often be exacerbated when we stay in the same place too. The reason for that is that our environment can have a huge impact on our state of mind.
This doesn’t mean you need to sell all your belongings and flip your entire life on its head to solve this.
Things like going on a holiday, going away for a long weekend or a trip into nature can make you feel a real connection with yourself.
When you change your environment, you can change your state and your mindset. You shift yourself out of focusing on feeling dissatisfied with your life right now and shift yourself into thinking about how your life could be.
Along the same lines, detoxing your mind on a regular basis can also help too.
Stressors come in all kinds of shapes and sizes so finding healthy ways to filter out information and calm ourselves is important. Going for walks in nature or walks in general can help.
In other cases you could spend a week or a day avoiding something that you know affects such as reality TV shows, social media, news, gossip magazines, and more.
Giving yourself that mental break and replacing it with something more productive and meaningful for you is the idea of detoxing.
6. Enter the Dream Room and Ask Yourself “What If?”
There have been many great stories created in The Dream Room.
Walt Disney has been named one of the most remarkably creative, and as you may know one of the most successful individuals of the 20th century.
The methods he used for all his creations are still being used today. Each of his creations began in the place called The Dream Room, the place where anything is possible; where there is nothing too absurd, there are no limits and no judgement. This was a place for brainstorming or dream storming as it was called. 
I always like to call it the “What if” room, which is a place where you ask yourself the “What if?” questions. This is the place where you can create your own outrageous wish list of what you really want.
Unlike Disney’s, it doesn’t have to be a physical room; it’s a room you go to in your mind’s eye.
This dream space is expansive and the expansion can be increased when you also change your physical environment by going to a place outdoors where you can see the horizon.
Find your space, arm yourself with a journal and pen, and find the truth in yourself.
Dream as you did when you were a child when you knew without a doubt that anything is possible.
When you embrace this and allow yourself to dream, you will begin to create the most exciting picture of your next chapter in life.
7. Practice Responding Rather Than Reacting
For most of us, most of the time, when we speak or act, we are reacting instinctively to something that has been said, or something that has happened immediately beforehand. Responding means that we allow a little pause, some space, between what is said or done, and what we choose to say or do as a result.
It doesn’t have to be a big dramatic pause, just enough time for us to give brief consideration to the things we do and say. In this pause, we can do a quick mental check, which will eventually become automatic, to see if we are responding in a way that aligns with our core values and is in line with us taking 100% responsibility.
Try using that space in your next conversation, and see if you don’t feel a great sense of calm about your communications and interactions.
8. Be Patient, Trust The Process, And Accept Responsibility
Human beings waste so much time trying to control how their lives evolve and if you attempt to rush the dream process, you will find it difficult to gain the clarity you are looking for.
Learn patience, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and you are creating your own private empire of what you want for yourself.
This means that your dream room vision may be created in one day, two weeks or even a year. However long it takes, makes it okay for you.
When the time is right and you have a plan in place, you want to be adopting an attitude of personal responsibility. What this means is even if something isn’t your fault, you are still responsible for how the outcome impacts you.
It gets you to open your eyes and see how you might be affecting yourself and your mindset when previously you thought those things were out of your control.
Always remember that something at some point has put you into this position and that things can be built on as long as you are open about it, and are looking around.
Furthermore, trusting that everything is going according to your plan is key. Our paths do take twists and turns but in the end, doing things that will take you towards your destination will take up a lot of time.
You need to trust the process and believe that you are on the right path. If not, you can make adjustments as more information comes to light.
9. Ditch Your Perception of Life Always Being Perfect And Be Proactive
Even if we create an exciting vision, we can often get in our own way by our fear of things not working out perfectly.
We see failure before we have even started and hesitate on something that powerfully lights us up on the inside. This is natural as we convince ourselves that somehow it’s not the perfect time.
The problem with that thinking is we stop and it becomes years later when we realize that we should’ve done what we told ourselves to do months or years ago.
Life is always happening perfectly for us; the problem is our perception of perfection is imperfect.
Over the years, we have made perfection mean everything it really doesn’t.
As a society, we have chosen to see perfection as no mistakes, flawlessness, and always getting the right result and the outcomes we want.
Here’s the thing: the opposite of this is absolutely true.
Life happens perfectly for you all the time. This means all the mistakes you make, all the outcomes you don’t want and not getting things right the first time are absolutely perfect for you at the time. As you make these mistakes, the lessons and growth you receive are vital to you living the life you truly want in the long term.
If at any point, you feel your need for perfection is possibly holding you back, comfort yourself with knowing that whatever the outcome, it’s happening perfectly. You will be exactly where you are meant to be to enable you to eventually live the life of your dreams.
By extension of that, taking a proactive response to things is better than reacting to everything that happens. With our original perception of perfection, it’s more likely to react to everything. You’re more prone to asking what went wrong or how things turned out so bad.
By being proactive and realizing that perfection is about making mistakes and getting messy, you’re asking different questions and you’re more focused on how you can grow.
10. Keep It All Balanced
Balance in this case doesn’t refer to balancing every role and responsibility on a daily basis. Rather, it’s balancing 3 elements that make it possible for you to fit into your roles:
Your physical body;
Your thinking mind;
And your guiding spirit.
Balancing also isn’t about spending an equal amount of time on each one. Rather, it’s being aware of them and acknowledging them for the role they play in your life.
Your body means eating properly, getting enough rest, and exercising.
Your mind is about detoxing, picking up new habits, and taking better care of what goes into your mind.
And for spirit, it’s about the emotional aspect. Think of it as your gut feelings. Whenever it arises, don’t just dismiss it as it’s our inner voice and it’s often giving the wisest advice.
11. Make a Stand for You
Often when we make a decision on our future, we can find those closest to us object to our plans, because they want what is best for us; they want us to be happy.
The thing is what they think will make us happy isn’t necessarily what will really make us happy, because their dreams and values are different to ours. This can often make us apprehensive and delay actioning our plans since we don’t want to disappoint them.
This brings to mind something an amazing mentor once said to me, he said, “dogs only bark at what they don’t understand”. To me, this means that if a dog barks, they are not quite sure what is happening and in that uncertainty, they sense danger.
Your loved ones are exactly the same. They don’t understand where you are heading because it’s possibly something they are not familiar with themselves. Or maybe it reminds them of past experiences of their own where things didn’t quite work out the way they wanted them to. They won’t be disappointed in you when you make a stand for what you want. They just love you and want to protect you.
Proudly make a stand for you and your dream. Reassure them that you love them and you will be okay with whatever happens, because life is always happening for you and you are grateful for their support in the life you are choosing.
At the end of the day, no one else’s life, desires or dreams can bring you happiness and fulfilment; only what is important to you and what you really want can do that.
By being patient and kind with yourself as you move through what can be your most exciting life-changing period, you will feel this crisis point end and find clarity on exactly what will light up your life.
More About Life Crisis
- How to Survive a Midlife Crisis in Men (the Definitive Guide)
- Midlife Crisis for Women: How a Midlife Crisis Makes You a Better Person
- How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late
Featured photo credit: ZACHARY STAINES via unsplash.com
|||^||Wikipedia: Quarter-life crisis|
|||^||LinkedIn: New LinkedIn research shows 75 percent of 25-33 year olds have experienced quarter-life crises|
|||^||Reflecting on Walt: Walt Disney the man and the things which made him one of the most remarkable and creative individuals of the 20th Century.|
|||^||The Center Consulting Group: Leadership Skills: How To Respond (Not React) To Conflict|