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.
- A feeling of being trapped by your life choices. Feeling as if you are not in personal control of your life.
- The need to “I’ve got to get out of this”. Realizing something has to change.
- Quitting the job, relationship, responsibilities making you feel trapped. Taking time out and begin to discover who you are on your terms.
- Rebuilding your life.
- 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.
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.
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 to 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 a 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 side note: 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 to anyone facing a crisis at any point in their life.
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 crises. You have the energy, freedom, and vitality to make choices on how to explore life best.
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 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.
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 face, 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 terrified of making mistakes but understand that they 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 how a person learns from their mistakes to grow and improve themselves.
Part of this process I teach is exactly this: Learning and growing 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 the 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 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 to 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 a quarter-life crisis will isolate a person, but that in part is also a result of the current social system minimizing how we interact. 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.