Three Questions To Help You Navigate Your Quarter Life Crisis
The quarter life crisis is real. Massive amounts of student debt and lackluster college curricula that fail to inspire passion and great work compound the issue. High school programs failed to prepare the majority of it’s students for LIFE. You got pulled through this vortex, went through high school, got into a “great” (and absurdly expensive) college, tried to find a course of study that balanced passion and utility in the modern world, and after four years, were spat out onto the street wearing “business appropriate” clothing and laden with debt. And after all of that, what did you really learn? How to take a test. You start to realize you got duped by a system that wasn’t designed to help you win. So now you get funneled into a job. It’s not exactly the job you dreamed of but, nonetheless, you’re excited. After a few months you realize that it’s not what you expected. You hate your job. It has nothing to do with what you really enjoy doing. You’re only twenty-something, with your whole life ahead of you, and it seems you got a false start. Now what?
It may be time for you to change course. It may be time for you to shift gears and find what you really want. Easier said than done, I know, I’ve been there. At this point in life you’re probably so confused and unsure of what’s going on that you don’t even know what you want anymore. You may ask yourself, “is this what I looked forward to all this time?” “Is this why I spent so much money on school?” “Is this what my life is going to look like?” THIS is the quarter life crisis. It’s a choppy sea to navigate but you can begin to pull yourself out of the hole and start down an exciting new path. Your 20’s are THE time to build the life you want. If you think about it, most of you don’t have families to provide for yet, you don’t have mortgages that need to be paid, the responsibilities haven’t began piling up like they will a little further down the road. Even though it may feel like you do, you really don’t have much to lose. I don’t sell silver bullets, but here are three questions that I used to start figuring out what direction to take my career and life.
1) What am I really good at? — I’d say get out a pen and paper but realistically you should probably just open a note on your iPhone. Start listing the things you’re naturally good at, they could be anything. Don’t muddy your thoughts by wondering if being good at telling jokes will lead to a sustainable career. We’ll figure that out later. Just make a list of everything you’re good at. You might want to ask friends and family for honest feedback here. Sometimes it helps to think about what you’ve always been naturally good at. What you’ve been good at without having to really try or without having to try as hard as those around you. This is important because playing to your strengths will get you much further in life (and bring much more satisfaction) than attempting to make up for weaknesses. We all have natural abilities that vary from one another. Some people are great at conceptualizing big picture ideas. Others are hyper organized and better at executing on those ideas. Some people are great at getting a laugh. Others are great at being serious. There are careers paths that play to any one of these natural strengths.
2) What am I really good at that I enjoy doing? — Just because you’re really good at mopping the floor doesn’t mean that you enjoy doing it. On the other side of the coin let me set the record straight. You aren’t going to enjoy your job every day. You just aren’t. I know because I have what a lot of people would call a, “dream job”. I run a vineyard and winery. As great as it is, let me tell you…sometimes work is stressful. Sometimes work is annoying. Sometimes you’re going to want to lay on the couch and eat ice cream all day. As far as I know, there’s nothing wrong with that. What I’m getting at here is we all have the tendency to over-romanticize when it comes to finding our “dream job”. Trust me, once you get it right, and you start playing true to yourself (and strengths!), you’ll think you’re in a dream. But it’s not all butterflies and rainbows. So narrow down your list to those strengths that you really enjoy using.
3) Begin asking yourself: “How can I make a living with this?” — The questions you ask yourself are extremely important. Avoid asking the question, “CAN I make a living with this?” That’s way too limiting. The answer to a question like that is either yes or no. By switching from “Can” to “How” you open up a new world of possibilities. “How can I make a living with this?” It will take time for you to start finding answers here, but ask yourself before you go to sleep at night, ask yourself when you’re brushing your teeth in the morning, ask yourself when you’re driving to work. To your surprise the answers may begin popping up around you. Maybe a conversation with a friend sparks an idea. Maybe someone pops into your life who is doing what you dream of doing now. Don’t discard the possibility of a little magic getting involved. Be persistent with yourself and continue asking, “How can I make a living with this?”
Another useful trick is to find someone who is already doing what you want to do and model them. If several musicians got record deals by launching a YouTube channel and posting covers of current hits maybe there’s something to that. Do your research and start finding people who are already living the life you want and figure out how they did it. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it will happen overnight. It may take years. But if it’s what you want. It’ll be worth it when you get there.
Don’t let the simplicity of these three questions fool you. A lot of of powerful tricks are simple to learn but difficult to implement. This should give you a start towards navigating your quarter life crisis. I know because they certainly helped me with mine. If you have any questions along the way, reach out and let me know.