The Quarter Life Crisis and how to Make the Best of it.
I’d like to think my reading material is quite varied: Fashion, Business, Tech, Politics and Finance, to name a few. The topics covered by each sector normally seem to be quite different, but over the past few years, content seems to be overlapping with the the so-called ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ being at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
This can be described as:
“A period of insecurity and doubt that many people in their mid-20s to early 30s go through surrounding their career, relationships, and finances.”
But what does this really mean? Why weren’t generations before us experiencing this, and if we are having a Quarter Life Crisis, how can we make the best of it?
So to begin with, it isn’t a problem that’s just been made up. Towards the end of 2017, LinkedIn published research indicating that 75 percent of 25-to-33-year-olds have indeed experienced a Quarter Life Crisis. We’re also seeing a trend in individuals creating careers around steering millennials through this period in their lives.
My personal favourite of these individuals is Adam Smiley Poswolsky, who recently wrote a book on the subject and is a millennial workplace expert, author, and keynote speaker. He speaks to companies about how to attract, retain, and engage their talent, and how to foster intergenerational collaboration in the workplace.
While this is clearly very much a ‘thing’, we must ask why this is being shaped as a ‘new’ crisis. Why, in previous generations, when people hit their 20’s, did a sense of anxiety around career, relationships and finances not seem to surface?
When it comes to career anxiety, we could argue that past generations didn’t feel this way in their 20’s, because they believed in the notion of starting at the bottom of a company and working your way up. People knew the road was long and success was something that could only be expected later on in life.
However, today, the idea of being hired by other people’s companies no longer excites us — we want to create our own, and even those of us who don’t, aren’t looking to be controlled by someone else. What we are seeing is the emergence of the ‘The Gig Economy’; we want to work for multiple clients simultaneously, and choose when and how we do so.
So maybe you could assume that this is the solution to the Quarter Life Crisis. Having our own companies, choosing our clients and controlling our schedules should result in more purpose, direction and fulfilment. However, the reality is that there still seems to be this feeling of crisis.
While waiting for our businesses to thrive, we’re living a life of erratic pay cheques, moving back home with our parents and having limited spending money. We may be happy to take more risks and venture out on our own, but we’re less patient on waiting for the results.
Alongside this sense of financial anxiety — that previous generations avoided by being in stable jobs with steady pay cheques — is the feeling that success can be achieved at a younger age and in a shorter amount of time than ever before. Financial insecurity, combined with the feeling that everyone else is reaching the top faster that us, only makes the sense of crisis even more prominent.
One example of this can be seen with the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, launched in 2011 and now produced in Europe, Asia and the US. This is a list compiled by Forbes on a yearly basis, of individuals under the age of 30 who have been outstandingly successful in their fields.
By 2016, the nominations for the list had reached more than 15,000, suggesting that no matter the sector — Music, Tech, Business, Property and so on — there is no shortage of greatness under 30.
When it comes to relationships, previous generations found their spouses at younger ages and tended to be introduced to their partners by mutual friends. In the 1950s, women married at age 20 and men at 23, yet today, this has risen to 27 for women and 29 for men. Their 20’s weren’t filled with worrying about finding the one, spending hours on dating apps and suffering through bad dates.
Navigating this new dating world is actually the topic of Dolly Alderton’s first book: Everything I Know About Love, which was published earlier this year. As one review read: ‘Poignant, comic, and self-deprecating. Dolly transcends the genre of millennial memoir. A spot-on, wildly funny and sometimes heart-breaking book about growing up, growing older and navigating all kinds of love along the way’ — The book provides an overall witty analysis on how the current dating cycle can add to the Quarter Life Crisis.
So we’re clearly having a Quarter Life Crisis AND we know what it is, but the question that follows is why we think this is something that’s negative.
In 2015 David Brooks, the esteemed New York Times columnist, wrote an article called ‘The Moral Bucket List’. This article explored the idea of man’s two virtues — the resume virtues and the eulogy ones. He described the resume virtues as the skills one brings to the marketplace, while the eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral.
“Whilst we all know that in life it is our eulogy virtues that are more important than our resume ones, today we live in a culture where often this is easy to forget, our career success is frequently put at the expense of other aspects of our life, family, friends and charity work.
Ultimately, though, if we were forced to question, what mattered most if our time was cut short, would we still act in the same way? When looking back at our lives can you say were you kind, brave, honest or faithful?”
The article got people thinking and assessing which virtues they had put at the forefront of their lives.
To me, it seems like our generation doesn’t have to wait to look back on our lives to ask these questions. We don’t have to face this sense of regret because for better or for worse, the pressure is on to ask these questions at every stage of our journey and not just at the end.
In Tim Ferris’s book Tribe of Mentors he asks the question, “What do you do when you feel overwhelmed or unfocussed?”. One of my favourite responses was from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks who replied with this life-changing idea:
‘Remember your destination. This will help you make the single most important distinction on life, which is to distinguish between an opportunity to be seized and a temptation to be resisted.’
The Quarter Life Crisis can turn a moment of being stuck into a time of opportunity — even a breakthrough — to find meaning in our lives sooner rather than later. To me that’s not a crisis but a blessing.
* BIG thanks to Judith Rozen-Romano and Kira Goldring (the best copywriter around AND totally for hire) for speaking these ideas through with me and being fantastic proof readers.
Avital Eusgeld combines her passion for finance and innovation to inspire and promote change. Along with Yarin Weltsman the two female founders run HiPitched, an agency that creates brands and products that ensure you are “a voice above the noise”.