Everybody has a dream of who they’ll be at a certain age. We tell ourselves, By 23, I’ll be married, or, By 25 I’ll be set in my career. Then one day, you look up and you’re 28. You’re single, starting a new career, rooming with a 22-year-old and wondering where your dream life went.
It’s been dubbed the “quarter-life crisis,” that horrifying wake-up call that ’80s babies get when we realize we’re not as special as our parents led us to believe. And unfortunately, these crises can hit at any age in your 20s and stay long after the quarter-life mark. But what’s really at the root of these depression-inducing life hiccups? And most important, how do you make them stop?
Somewhere down the line you made a list of who you wanted to be by now, and you’re not that. Good or bad, you’re something other than the dream. Or maybe you achieved the dream you dreamed, but it hasn’t brought you the happiness you thought it would. Whichever the case, you had expectations for yourself that you didn’t meet, and now you’re dealing with the crush of defeat, the sting of failure. And it happens to all of us.
But what if I told you that—for better or for worse—you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be in this moment? That everything in your life has been working together to lead you right here in time? Your crisis of consciousness is happening, there’s no point in denying it. But there are four ways you can take this moment and let it steer you towards purposeful living.
1) Re-Examine Your Life. As I mentioned, the quarter-life freakout happens when we look at our lives and find them lacking in some way. But take a closer look. As you re-examine your relationships with friends and family members and the work you do professionally, you may be surprised to find how much of an impact your life has on the people you love and the world at large.
But what if you’re still not satisfied? If you’ve looked at the impact that you’re having and decided that you procrastinate too much, you’ve been very lazy or you haven’t been doing your best, then those are very good reasons to be disappointed with yourself. However, these mistakes don’t have to be permanent! There is still plenty of time to curb bad habits.
2) Dump Goals, Pursue Passions. Stringent goals and checklists are the stuff quarter-life crises are made of. The best-laid plans can easily end in tears when life happens. So, dump the goal sheets, trash the checklists and start living for something higher: your passions. If you must make a to-do list, write down what you’re passionate about and come up with a plan to pursue those passions every day.
The goals we assign for ourselves usually come from societal expectations or what will impress the people in our lives whom we seek validation from. But passions are all ours and ours alone. It’s within our passions that we find God in us—our purpose for being. When we consciously pursue our passions, we are seeking out our own happiness that we define for ourselves. When we love what we’re doing, traditional ideas of “success” and the stress that accompanies the need to achieve can quickly fade away.
3) Reposition Yourself. Once you’ve re-examined your life and decided to pursue your passions instead of other people’s goals for your life, you may find that you’re not properly positioned to live the life you want. Change that. If your circle of friends is dragging you down, seek out peers whose passionate pursuits inspire and motivate you. Find mentors who are excelling at what you’re passionate about doing. Read books, enroll in school, do whatever needs to be done to put yourself on the path of your passion and purpose.
4) Repeat. Quarter-life crises have no expiration date. It’s possible they can keep coming and going in waves until there’s another appropriate term for it: the midlife crisis. There aren’t any hard or fast rules to this. But know that this is normal. And when they strike, start this process all over again. Re-examine your life. Decide: are you living for goals or for passion? Then reposition yourself back to living on purpose.