I have been getting quite a few emails from people who are in their twenties with this quarter-life crisis question:

“I am too young to be having a midlife crisis and yet, everything feels like I am having a crisis.
Is it possible I am having a midlife crisis now?”

If you are 32 or under then the fast answer is no, rather you are having a quarter-life crisis.

You can also refer to Quarter Life Crisis Signs to look more deeply into the various aspects that define a quarter-life crisis.

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Quarterlife Crisis Versus Midlife crisis

Three major shifting points exist for people: Adolescence (The start of the first third of life), Midlife crisis (The start of the second third of life) and the Far Journey (The start of the third third). Quarterlife is a long process from a Taoist perspective. It starts with adolescence and then flows into the twenties, culminating into what many people call the Quarterlife crisis, as a person makes their choices on how to best fit into society. A midlife crisis can start as early as age 35 and can begin as late as age 55. The Far Journey is rarer and usually begins after a person truly feels their mortality. For myself I was trained to call the Far Journey “Releasing the Bones,” but it has many other names also.

Quarterlife crisis, in a nutshell, is all about how a person shifts into society. Midlife crisis is the reflection of Quarterlife crisis. Midlife transformation is all about how a person shifts out of society to become their person. The Far Journey is about a person coming to final terms of what they are spiritually in life.

As it takes longer and longer to achieve independence in modern culture, the age at which quarter-life crisis occurs is increasing in age for people. It isn’t unheard of now to see people in their late 20’s actually experiencing quarter-life crisis. While Adolescence / Quarterlife crisis were long ago the same thing, in modern society Quarterlife crisis has evolved into its own distinct process. As a result, most people treat adolescence and Quarterlife crisis as totally separate events in a person’s life. From a Taoist perspective, while these two events are interrelated to each other, it is acceptable to treat them as separate events.

What Does a typical Quarterlife crisis look like?

My son Kendall took a shot at modeling crisis in this picture for fun. However, those in quarter-life crisis will often not show overt signs of a crisis at first. Many people blame themselves for failing to find work or feel the crisis initially as some internal personal failure. This means that depression can be a common effect of a quarter-life crisis. This also means sometimes it can be a few months before a person realizes the problem is something larger than a single personal failure or a simple mistake they made. People can pull away inwardly to try to figure out what is wrong and this often creates a time of confusion for a person initially in a quarter-life crisis.

Researchers in England surveyed 50 volunteers to distill the typical quarter-life crisis process into five stages.

  1. A feeling of being trapped by your life choices. Feeling as if you are not in personal control of your life.
  2. The need to “I’ve got to get out of this”. Realizing something has to change.
  3. Quitting the job, relationship, responsibilities making you feel trapped. Taking time out and begin to discover who you are on your terms.
  4. Rebuilding your life.
  5. Developing new commitments more attuned to your interests and aspirations

When a person is feeling quarter-life crisis, they are just beginning the first stage of the process. Once a person becomes aware of this feeling it takes two years, of actively working to find their place, to resolve out the crisis. The good news is that most young adults who actively work thru their quarter-life crisis have positive experiences. Surveys have shown that up to 80% of those who go thru quarter-life turmoil are very happy to have taken the time to work thru their quarter-life crisis. This illustrates the real problem is when you ignore the process altogether.

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Quarterlife Crisis
Quarterlife Crisis - youtube Video

Transformation for those in their Twenties

Quarterlife crisis is most heavily felt by those trying hardest to fit into society for the first time outside of school or family environments. A person feeling crisis in their twenties wouldn’t be experiencing midlife transformation, they are technically experiencing the effects of the quarter-life crisis period of life.

However, these aren’t normal times, and a joker is in the mix. Modern society as a whole is experiencing a midlife crisis on a social level. This larger social crisis is forcing the youngest generation to be facing social problems square on, as a reflection of their own life. It’s also forcing many older individuals into mid-life crisis earlier, putting strains on marriages, personal values and relationships. This reinforces and helps to create a larger cycle of social change that further pushes more people into feeling a crisis in their life.

I have never received so many emails for quarter-life crisis as I have had starting in the summer of 2011 and the number has been consistently rising every year. Social conditions have forced people into a change at a pace that is staggering. The younger generation is waking up, and this is a generation ready for a change.

My answer is this:

“You have inherited your parent’s crisis. The quarterlife crisis you now are feeling is the very turmoil and mid life crisis the culture as a whole is experiencing. Because a person is a reflection of their culture, this cultural crisis has become yours to deal with full on.”

So if you are reading this, you are experiencing something that is bigger than the normal quarter-life crisis of the past. In addition to not knowing how best to fit into society, society itself is making it harder for you to find your place.

African Proverb: If the youth are not initiated they burn down the village to feel the fire

So you are experiencing a two for one crisis: your own personal quarter-life crisis and the direct effects of the currently raging social midlife crisis. As a result, this complicates how you would handle your quarter-life crisis.

Go Beyond Destination
Embrace Your Destiny!

Taking Control of Your Quarterlife Crisis

The key to handling a quarter-life crisis is proactively taking control of your direction in your lifestyle choices.

Transformation is transformation, once started it isn’t optional. If transformation is ignored, a person’s choices will slowly erode down to facing a crisis. Once a situation has evolved into experiencing a crisis, a person is confronted with a choice to change or face personal failure. As a result, the answer to how best handle a crisis is using education to teach options how to grow rather than let a person limit their options down to crisis. Usually, those in quarter-life crisis often contact me just before they face an actual point of crisis. This is very fortunate, as it means we have time to learn and shift their situations into better living conditions. (An interesting sidenote: those in mid-life crisis often contact me after the crisis point has been reached in their life.)

The tools I teach here will apply equally across anyone who is facing a crisis at any point in their life.

Back Into Your LifeFirst
Take the time to understand that this feeling of quarter-life crisis represents an opportunity to live better on so many levels. It is an opportunity to break out of older social patterns you previously thought you should follow as your life’s course. At twenty, you are standing at the true beginning of your independent life with different options than those who are often in midlife crisis. You have the energy, freedom, and vitality to make choices on how to best explore life.

Secondly
How you live makes a difference, and if you start living to your heart, this is how you vote in society to make a difference. Yes, some people will go out to actively start trying to change things to be better in society.

But remember this:

The first and most efficient place to start resolving the feelings of quarterlife crisis is personal surety of self. Changing how you live to be what you truly want to be is the most efficient path to take in making things better.

Thirdly
Don’t try to be what you were told to expect or try to match to how your parents lived. This is about releasing bad expectations and shifting a personal lifestyle altogether. Because many “established norms” are shifting due to the social changes we are facing, the answers are not in any book yet, and won’t be out for a few years yet. The answers are being crafted right now as we work them out in real time. You will be the ones to write the answers after we have figured it all out again.

Important Considerations in Quarterlife crisis

Be Open to Mistakes
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, rather use any mistakes made to help you hone life into something spectacular. People in their twenties are very afraid of making mistakes, but understand it are the mistakes that allow you to learn about life. It is our mistakes that help gives a person their true individuality. What separates a great person and the average hidden worker drone, is all about how a person learns from their mistakes to grow and improve themselves.

Part of this process I teach is exactly this: How to learn and grow from your own mistakes. To use your own life as an amazing schooling experience to teach yourself how to be successful.

Be Patient with Yourself
The second most critical aspect then becomes patience. Personal growth from the mistakes of the quarter-life crisis does take time. This won’t happen in 3 days or 3 months. Learning how to shift your life will initially be a 2-year journey, so be patient with yourself. Factor in larger social change and it might be a little longer than the standard 2-year cycles seen in the past for quarter-life transitions.

If you take the time to shift over 2-3 years, then your life will improve and others will follow the example you set.

Patience is the key to resolving the quarter life crisis. Since it requires patience to give yourself time to figure out your personal solutions.

Working thru Quarterlife Crisis in Your Own Time.

 

Ten years ago, you would have been following along the lines of a traditional quarter-life crisis. This would mean working extra hard at being persistent and finding the best employment option that would take you in and start the process of building a family and life. However, the large-scale economic issues, the widespread problems in our culture, and the slow disintegration of various social systems are causing the largest backlash of young adults in quarter-life crisis I have seen since 1967. So this means today in 2011 and beyond you do have to factor in your current social conditions as part of the consideration on how to handle a quarter-life crisis. Today this means shifting the focus of your quarter-life transformation more to your best lifestyle choices over the best job options. In this respect, today’s quarter-life crisis does resemble more of a mid-life transformation than the traditional quarter-life transition.

In these times of social change, many jobs, ways of living, and past views are simply going to shift or even go away. It’s time to be brave and make it your way now, to make the future here in the now, not by repeating the past. The past is broken, past examples of living are what got everything in the mess that it’s in now. This requires forward thinking in the here and now.

If you are brave enough to decide to not be defined by the norms of society, then you will find you will end up creating the new norms that society will become!

For those feeling a quarter-life crisis, it’s a sign that you have a deep spark of independence that is being kicked into gear and you should factor this in how you live life.

Kindness for your Quarterlife Crisis

Discover kindness and compassion, as, the changes ahead are impacting so many people not just yourself. Kindness and compassion will allow each person to shift the world rather than fighting to get a diminishing share of the pie. Kindness and compassion don’t mean keeping alive the past. Kindness and compassion mean to let the past ideals fade away so we can work with what works best now to make our current lives ones worth living.

It is a time of new answers and this current generation will have to stand behind their own actions to make this their time.

The tools taught here will apply equally across anyone who is facing a quarter-life crisis. I help many younger people work thru this time and teach answers on how to change their lifestyle to prevent the anxiety that drives the crisis. It’s a time to shift, and you are not alone. Living as if in quarter-life crisis will isolate a person, but that in part is also a result of the current social system minimizing how we are interacting with each other. True power is in clear communications and working with each other to improve your lives. Reach out and work with others while also staying true to yourself.

More About Quarter Life Crisis

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Zack

This is hands down the most articulate expression of what I’ve been experiencing the last two years.Nothing else seems to fit. I used think of myself as a conservative Christian, but in hindsight, that’s never been an accurate description. In recent months I have realized that I never really believed in God at all, but was fascinated by ancient near eastern culture and narratives. That’s why I felt uncomfortable talking about theology in anything other than an academic sense. I see it so clearly now that it hurts. I’d been exploring this discrepancy within myself these last two years and… Read more »

Jamaal

Zack, I resonate with your story. I too grew up in a mostly conservative Christian milieu, albeit a charismatic/Pentecostal one. Between the ages of 17-24 or 25 I moved progressively away from my charismatic roots, adopting the more orthodox, Reformed Protestant theology of the Puritans. in hindsight I now know that this was a reaction to what I perceived as gross misrepresentations of God found in the charismatic church. My newly adopted Calvinist perspective was a means, as I now see it, of rooting me in an understanding of God and man which helped me make sense of my world.… Read more »

Vaishak Vinay

I didn’t know what I was going through until recently a friend told me that its called quarter life crisis. I was in 3rd year of engineering when the army recruitment came to my college. That was a first time I saw an officer in full uniform by which I thought this is what I want to become. Its been 4 years now and 6 attempts to clear one of the most prestigious and toughest interviews in India. I trained myself in Mixed martial arts in pursuit of joining special forces. Meanwhile I traveled a lot to meet officers to… Read more »

Daphne

Hello, Thanks for this article. I think I have been experiencing a soft version of my quarter-life crisis for about two years now, and I believe I might be in-between stages 3-4 (regarding my ambitions and the meaning I want to give to my life). I have been in a relationship for 7 years, and my boyfriend suddenly entered a violent crisis, leaving his job (which he had had for 3 years – he is a graphic designer and couldn’t stand working in advertising anymore) and myself in one day. Both of us were devastated. We met each other at… Read more »

gea

hi I’m 25 this year, and I think I’ve been in my quarter life crisis (I desperately feeling it) since last year. When I read the phases of quarter life crisis you said, I think I’m in my 4th stage. I switch my career earlier this year, and it was huge because I waste my parents money by take school again in a way different area with my previous bachelor degree. I live with my parents now, and they are both deeply religious, while here I am getting sceptic with my religion, and they keep forcing me to pray so… Read more »

I’m 28, about to turn 29 in January. I just got married earlier this month, and our relationship is about the only thing going well right now, the only thing I still have confidence in. That said, my wife is still going through a period of change that started a little earlier than the one I think I’ve just begun, which has compounded the struggles I am about to get into. Hers has been an adjustment to a new career in an entirely different field – and as a result we’ve had to move from a city area I thrived… Read more »

millie

Hi, I’m glad I found this article. I am 25 years old. When I was 22 I thought I had found my dream job unfortunately it came at a price I was working 6 day 70-90 hour work weeks and it was killing me from the inside. I thought this was the job I wanted but I felt I had no choice but to leave I was exhausted and anxious. I tried to explain myself to my bf and parents but no one was on my side – they thought i was stupid to leave a good job and said… Read more »

Isis

I am thankful that I came upon this site. I had to google what I thought was a mid-life crisis; finding out it’s a quarter-life crisis. I believe mine started when my parents wouldn’t allow me to go to the college that I was accepted in; because it was so far. From there, I had to figure out other ways to re-invent myself. I screwed up so much at 19; just trying to get it right. Now at the age of 26, I found something I truly love to do but have no way to provide for myself… Like, I’m… Read more »

Shaina seidenberg

Very inspired by this.. Thanks so much. I indeed feel your kindness in your post!

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