Just what is this thing called the Quarter Life Crisis anyway? Dictionary.com defines it as “a crisis that may be experienced in one’s twenties, involving anxiety over the direction and quality of one’s life,” or, “an emotional crisis in one’s twenties with anxiety and self-doubt after leaving academic life.” The term has only recently become popularized in relation to the current generation of 20-Somethings who collectively answer to the term: “Millennials”.
Typical features of the Quarter Life Crisis are:
- an overwhelming dissatisfaction with the direction of one’s life
- feeling as if life has no specific purpose
- feelings of self doubt and confusion
Left unchecked, these feelings can trigger a downward spiral from anxiety to depression…or worse. Recent research has shown suicide as being the leading cause of death for young adults in both the UK and Australia, and the second leading cause of death amongst 25-34 year olds in the US.
If the Quarter Life Crisis is responsible for playing any part In these troubling stats, then finding ways to overcome it early on could be incredibly important.
Here are 7 simple steps that an individual at risk can take to give the Quarter Life Crisis a side-step:
1. Know Yourself – Identify Your Top 3 Personal Values
Really knowing what makes you tick, what turns you on to life, is incredibly empowering. This information can act like a compass for you as you go through life, giving you a sense of clarity in your decision making. This clarity will eliminate a lot of the mental fog that can cause self-doubt and confusion.
Your Personal Values are the things that are at your core, that make up your essence, and which you consider to be highly important across every aspect of life.
Examples of personal values are: Creativity, Growth, Honesty, Responsibility, Persistence etc. Getting down to just 3 values can be tough, but when you do narrow it down, you will have a clear focus for everything you do. Darren Hardy has a great tool on his site (available for free, via the link) that can assist with the process of identifying your own top 3 Personal Values. Curious? Check it out here: http://thecompoundeffect.com/downloads/english-core_values_assessment.pdf
2. Detox Your Mind – Go on a Mental Diet
On an average day, most of us are overloaded with more information and communications than we can handle or process. Sometimes the clutter of all this information and mental noise can fog what’s really important to us, and for us. In the same way that our physical bodies can benefit from a good detox – eliminating the bad, and flushing out our systems with the good – so too can our minds feel refreshed and renewed after consciously deciding to monitor the information we let into it for a period of time. Try one week without Reality TV, soaps, gossip magazines, news, social media (I know, it will be tough!) and radio etc. Try flushing your mind out with a combination of silence and carefully selected positive material designed to boost your mental well-being. There are lots of free resources available on the Web, but sites like www.knowledgeisking.co.uk are focused on providing you with the best mental food available.
3. Adopt a new Attitude – 100% Personal Responsibility
This is one of the easiest tips to implement… if you are mentally prepared to take it on. Your attitude is nothing more than a choice. This piece of advice puts you fully in the driving seat of everything that happens around you. 100% responsibility means that even if something isn’t your fault, you still take responsibility for how the outcome has impacted you. This gives you the opportunity to open your eyes to how you might actually be affecting things that you previously thought were outside of your control. This is especially important if the effects that you have been experiencing have been less than positive. 100% responsibility means always asking, “What could I have done differently? How can I change my behaviour in the future to positively affect the outcome?” Ask these questions, instead of looking at what other people have done wrong, or how they are to blame for a given set of circumstances or outcome.
The next time you feel some frustration or anger building up inside you towards someone or something else, just ask yourself, “How might I have contributed to this situation? What would I do differently if it were to occur again?
4. Practice Responding, rather than Reacting
This tip is actually pretty closely linked to the previous piece of advice, but worth mentioning in a different light. For most of us, most of the time, when we speak or act, we are reacting instinctively to something that has been said, or 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, that 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.
5. Pick a Destination and Enjoy the Journey there
Now, this doesn’t necessarily relate to a holiday destination. Although it might be if that’s a big goal of yours. This tip refers to the principle of having a specific overall purpose to your life, and learning to enjoy the process that will help you to achieve it. Once you are clear on your values, it becomes much easier to identify what direction you want to take your life in, and for what specific purpose. That is your destination. Doing the things that will take you towards that destination will be what makes up a substantial part of your life, so it is important that you see it all as part of a process that you can enjoy. Take pride in this because you know it is all contributing to you achieving your purpose.
One activity that can help in identifying what destination, or purpose you want to have in life, is to go through the process of writing your own obituary. What would you like your life to look like on paper if someone was writing it up after your departure? To do this exercise justice, you need to set aside some specific time to sit quietly. Maybe you could start by reading the obituaries of one or two well known people that you have admired for inspiration. Upon reflection, begin jotting down how you would want your own obituary to read.
6. Balance, Balance, Balance – Keeping it all in check
Balance here refers not to balancing all the different roles and responsibilities that you need to fulfill on a daily basis, but rather balancing the 3 elements that make it possible for you fulfill those roles in the first place – your physical body, your thinking mind and your guiding spirit. Balancing them doesn’t necessarily mean spending equal time on each, but being aware of each and giving them acknowledgement of the role they each play in your life. For your body, this means eating right, resting well and getting some exercise. For your mind, this could mean that after your Mental Detox, you adopt some new habits about what goes into your mind, and the space you give it to process the information overload each day. Depending on your beliefs, your spirit may be as simple as your gut feelings. The emotions that we feel can be a guiding voice, regarding a particular situation. This is not to say that you should be ruled by your emotions, but equally, don’t ignore your inner voice – it’s often giving the wisest advice.
7. Put Your Life in Your Hands – Have a written 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 you 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. There are lots of goal setting programs and apps out there that can help you with the process of achieving specific goals.
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’llalso increase your ability to deal with it, if that is where you already find yourself.
The Quarter Life Crisis is not an inevitable transition into full blown adulthood – you CAN find a way to Beat it!
Featured photo credit: pretty hippie girl playing guitar via shutterstock.com