Many people in their mid- to late-twenties go through a quarter-life crisis. The expectations of folks in this age group are high: get married, have babies, and advance in their careers, all while brunching and partying with friends every weekend. Managing all of that simultaneously is incredibly difficult, and often, not as desirable as social media would have us believe.
The idea that happiness is having a spouse, kids, and a fulfilling career is a cultural myth. Happiness is not conditional. There are many people who regret having kids, who decide they don’t want to be married and divorce, who switch careers multiple times throughout their life. There are no “best” or “correct” choices, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation for your decisions. It is your life, not theirs.
Happiness comes from within. Happiness is living by what you most value in life. For some, that means marriage and children. For others, travel and adventure, or comfort and predictability, or creative pursuits and art, or spending as much time as possible in nature, or learning new things… the possibilities are endless.
Here are some questions for reflection, for any person who feels lost or stuck. It could be beneficial to write down the answers to these, or just ponder them.
- If your life could be however you wanted, with no financial difficulties, family obligations, or other obstacles in the way, what would it be like?
- If you knew your loved ones would be 100% supportive of whatever you did, what would you do with your life?
- If you knew for certain you could not fail, what would you start doing, or do differently?
- What conditions for happiness do you place on your life? Imagine a happy life that does not include those conditions.
- If you had an extra 2 waking hours every day, how would you use it?
- What are 3 things you want to learn how to do in your lifetime? What is one small step you could take towards learning one of these things?
- What are 3 things you love about the life you are already living, just as it is?
- What life lessons have you learned so far, that you want to live out as you move forward?
- Who is your role model? What qualities of that person do you want to embody?
- What is one small thing you can do every day to make your life more meaningful?
For those in a quarter-life crisis, I also recommend doing a values clarification exercise. A values clarification helps you determine what is most important to you in life, and whether or not you are living accordingly.
First, sort the following in numerical order of most to least important in your life. All values must be used, and no ties are allowed.
___ Health and wellness
___ Romantic love and partnership
___ Social justice / making the world a better place
___ Relaxation and self-care
Now, over the next week, track how many hours of each day you spend doing activities related to each value category. If you are using the most hours of your week on values #1, 2, and 3, and the least on #8, 9, and 10, you are likely living in accordance with your values. There is a lot of room for subjectivity and interpretation here. For example, if your #1 is creativity, but you spend most of your time on your career, you could make the argument that you use your creativity often in your career. On the other hand, if you’re spending far more time on right-brained tasks at work, and you’re also not engaging in creative pursuits outside of work, you may want to re-evaluate some things.
Do you have any advice for 20-somethings? If so, comment below. I look forward to hearing from you.