02/ 03/ 16
I don’t believe in the quarter-life crisis. Although once upon a time, not too long ago, I did — intensely. I questioned whether my first job out of college was what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life. I compared myself to others — prodigies who had started their own companies, friends who had made it to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, overachievers who were already making six figure salaries. I had a constant voice in the back of my head telling myself I should be “further along” than where I was.
And then, I grew up. 2015 was a year of major soul searching for me. I traveled a lot, and spent time immersed in cultures whose values are completely different than the ones I grew up with. I learned to meditate, to sit still, and to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I contemplated what I want out of life, and what my personal definition of “success” was. I thought about what truly makes me happy.
I realized that there is no “end-goal” in life. You shouldn’t wait until you become CEO, or you’re happily married with three children, or you finally buy your dream car — to start living. Life is happening NOW, in the present moment. And once you realize that this is it — that you’re IN IT, that you’re already living life, and you’re exactly where you need to be — the quarter-life crisis instantly becomes invalidated.
Newsflash y’all: It ain’t true. Most of us are hardwired by social media charades, cultural norms, and expectations of peers & parents to think this way. But believe me when I say that the only values that matter in this situation are your own. The definition of success and happiness is deeply personal, and only you have the authority to dictate what it means to you.
It took me some time to reach this realization, but the chase was well worth it. I feel liberated to live life on my own terms. Empowered to make decisions unapologetically. And since I want all of you to feel the same, I’ve put together this guide of 6 ways to conquer the quarter-life (or mid-life) crisis. Plus, there’s a free worksheet at the end to help you find clarity on your journey.
I’d pinpoint social media as the culprit for why we compare ourselves to others — even when we don’t intend to. How many times a day do you scroll through your Facebook feed, aimlessly consuming posts about the most exciting updates of people’s lives? According to the latest research, it’s on-average 17 times a day, or once every waking hour. This is no bueno, my friends.
The next time you find yourself swooning over someone’s “perfect” life, remember that the majority of content placed in the public realm is curated to highlight the most glamorous snippets of people’s lives. That guy who you think has it “all figured out” because he just graduated medical school and got engaged under the clouds in Patagonia? I bet you he has no idea what he’s doing.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, start figuring out what’s meaningful to you. And, the beautiful thing about meaning is that there’s no singular answer. My definition of meaning is different than yours — making comparison fruitless, and even toxic.
Think back to the last time something stirred your soul, or you genuinely felt fulfilled. Most likely, it had nothing to do with acquiring a material possession, or chasing someone else’s dreams. Most of us are convinced from an early age to strive for material success or social status, when in reality, these superficial achievements will only provide temporary satisfaction.
In order to nourish your true happiness, spend some time reflecting on what makes you tick. What are your unique gifts? What kind of impact do you want to have on the world? These answers will help you find direction and purpose on your path.
Another great way to find clarity on how to live a fulfilled life is through meditation. Choose a quiet place and grab a pillow to sit on. Close your eyes and breathe deeply — even if it’s just for five minutes a day. Meditation has been scientifically proven to decrease stress, boost creativity, and even increase gray matter and lengthen telomeres (say what?!).
Another benefit of meditation is that you’ll find clarity around the true needs of your soul, and have a better understanding of what you’re supposed to do with your life — which will prevent a quarter-life crisis from happening.
I love this quote from Gadadhara Pandit Dasa, meditation teacher and chaplain at NYU:
“Just taking care of the needs of the body and ignoring the needs of the soul is like watering the leaves, fruits, and flowers of the tree and forgetting to water the actual root.”
Water your roots peeps! And if you need guidance with getting started, check out this nifty app called Headspace.
When I was working at my last job, I found myself complaining a lot — even though I had it pretty good. Free food, free iPhones, 401k matching, healthcare coverage, generous stock options…the pinnacle of benefit heaven. Looking back, I realize that one of the reasons why I was being such a wet noodle was because I was interacting with other wet noodles on a daily basis. We would wallow in our sorrows together, and create big, sad, bowls of wet noodle soup.
The lesson here is to surround yourself with believers. People who believe in you, and support your drive to find meaningful work. People who believe in the beauty of their dreams. These are the people who will hold you accountable. Want to learn how to code so you can build things that’ll have an impact on the world? Believers will hold you to your word, and ask you, “When?” These are the people you want by your side.
One of the best ways to find clarity is to change your environment. Try taking a solo weekend trip or backpacking to a foreign country. Or, go all out and take a gap year to teach English abroad.
You’ll return with a new perspective on life, new information about yourself, and new insights about the world that you would’ve never learned by sitting in a cubicle. When you better understand yourself and how you fit into the world, you’re more equipped to conquer a quarter-life crisis.
Did you know that 70% of Americans are disengaged with their jobs? Furthermore, ⅕ of those people are so disengaged, they’re actively undermining their co-workers’ work. They’re literally getting paid to mess things up for the company that they work for. What the actual eff?
If you’re stuck in a job that you find yourself dreading every morning, QUIT. It’s better to start on the path that you actually want to be on, than wasting your precious time wishing things would change. Nothing will change unless you make the change.
Once you define your version of success and understand what truly makes you happy, consider how to align these beliefs with a sustainable career. Think about how your passion and your skills intersect with what the world needs — that’s the equation for a fulfilling life.
It consists of 5 thought-provoking questions to help you discover your life purpose.