4 Ways To Turn Your Quarter-Life Crisis Into Something Productive

I had breakfast with a friend earlier. As we sat and discussed our week over fresh mint tea, I could feel a confession brewing.

“I’m having a quarter-life crisis” she finally declared. “I’m a mess.”

I smiled. A quarter-life crisis. We all get them. There’s my blogger friend who wonders if she should just get a full-time job. My copywriter friend who worries the corporate life is killing her creativity for good. My actress friend who wants to make art, but equally doesn’t want to starve to death. My high-flying lawyer friend who is already bored of making top bank…

The list goes on, and on, and on.

I’m no exception. I mean, I certainly look like an adult (eye bags and all). And, as far as societal measures of “success” go, I’m right on track. I have a good job, a great relationship, a home I love, and a side hustle I truly enjoy. #KillingIt, no?

But fulfillment. Fulfillment. The long game. THAT is what keeps me up at night.

“Am I in the right career? Am I happy in this career? Will I ever be happy in ANY career? I’m in my mid-twenties…Aren’t I supposed to, you know, have it SORTED by now? I kind of want to go to Bali and live off the land. I also want to be ‘successful’ and ride the corporate ladder. Wait…Do I only want to do that because society tells me to do that? What does successful even mean? DAMN IT.”

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re familiar with your own kind of quarter-life crisis, too. Quarter-life crises happen to the best of us. We complain about them. We feel defined by them. We wish we didn’t have to deal with them.

But what if your quarter-life crisis was, in fact, a good thing?

Hear me out…

Your quarter-life crisis is the ultimate chance to get to know yourself better. It forces you to face your fears, reflect on your life and assess your doubts. It’s also a free wake-up call. No soul-searching trip to Tibet required. It’s simply a sign to you, FROM you, that change is coming. And, like anything in life, it’s all about how you handle it.

Here’s how to turn your quarter-life crisis into something constructive:

1. Listen to your inner voice.

Your life purpose isn’t going to appear in front of you. Sorry. Call the search party off. Instead, your current “purpose” or “calling” can be found in the things that intrigue you. Are you drawn to a certain type of TV show or podcast? Are you inspired by a certain type of person?

Pay attention to what you pay attention to. That’s pretty much ALL the info you need when deciding what to do with your life.

2. Make it your mission to try new things.

“Inspiration needs to find you working” is one of my favorite quotes, and the same rule applies to your life beyond work. Answers aren’t going to come to you if you’re sat at home feeling sorry for yourself (as nice as Netflix binges may be…). Instead, go out into the world and try the things you never thought you would.

3. Know that freaking out about your life is totally normal. Necessary, even.

If you’re having thoughts about your purpose and your place in this world, GREAT. You’re alive! You care! You’re learning about yourself, and what it means to be human. Welcome to the human condition. Pull up a chair. A quarter-life crisis helps you discover who you are. Embrace it.

Oh and FYI, researchers describe the typical quarter-life crisis sufferer as “smart and highly-driven.” I’ll take that, thank ya.

4. Remember that you can live many lives.

I’ve thought a LOT about this, and I’m convinced that the key to contentment is in living many lives. This means knowing that your current career is one of many. One day, you’ll be doing a job you don’t even know exists yet. I can’t think of anything more exciting than switching it up in the future. For example, I’m interested in being everything from a psychologist to a boutique hotel owner. The older I get, the more I realize these aren’t dreams. These are possibilities. I can try them all. I can be them all. You can too, boo.

As my friend and I said our goodbyes, I got on the train and started typing her a message:

“It may feel unsettling, but what’s happening to you is a good, fantastic thing. You are listening to your intuition and becoming who you are meant to be. Gravitate towards what feels good, day by day. Trust the timing of your life and be excited for your future. The world is yours for the taking, you’ve just got to let it lead you.”

If you look at your life as a series of experiences and lives woven into one, rather than a linear path, everything becomes an adventure.

Your quarter-life crisis is no exception.

Bianca is a writer sharing honest musings on careers, creativity, money and more. She has interned at Vogue, consulted some of the biggest names in branding and e-commerce and currently leads the copywriting team at TripAdvisor. Follow her via her blog and on Twitter.

Image via Unsplash

  • Michaela

    Hi Bianca, great article, just what I needed right know. I think about my career and the future maybe a LOT and that might block me feom wonderful oportunities around me and different paths..

  • Geeka

    I’m a bit older than the target market for this entire blog but hey, 16 years of college, so while I’m older, I’m sort of in the same stage of life (if that makes any sense). Keep in mind that the feelings/symptoms of a quarter life crisis are similar to imposter syndrome.
    I’ll give you my advice I give to my friends and younger peers: keep moving forward. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing (be that job, personal life, finance, whatever), just keep moving forward. It can be incremental and it doesn’t have to be in a straight line. Make your plan happen.

    • Olivia Miller-Davis

      Wow, what are you studying to be in college for 16 years?

  • magdalean

    Really enjoyed this article, in particular the line “…these aren’t dreams. These are possibilities.” I think a lot of people in their quarter life crises are especially freaked out about not knowing what they want to do next/thinking they need to choose ONE thing to do the REST of their life. A huge amount of that stress drops away when you realize that all those scary choices are just checkpoints, not a finish line to cross…and you have yourself and your interests as a trusty GPS!

  • Sarah Elizabeth

    Personally, I think I’ve overstayed my welcome in my quarter-life crises :O but this article was a sweet reassurance!

  • Joyce

    “If you look at your life as a series of experiences and lives woven into one, rather than a linear path, everything becomes an adventure.” Great, thoughtful quote.