So you’re in your mid 20s to mid 30s. You’ve done all the “right” things. You may have gone to school, and you’ve got the adult job and the adult apartment. Yet, you still feel…like a kid in your soul. Sure, you may be donning the expensive suit and heels at work everyday, but deep down inside, you may be feeling like a fraud.
Back in your early 20s, you were mostly concerned about your own survival: finding a job and a decent place to live. You were bright eyed and bushy tailed straight out of college. But now, even just a few years later, the lights seem to have dimmed a little, and adult life doesn’t seem as fabulous as you first thought it would be.
You, my dear, are most likely suffering from an identity meltdown, also known as a quarter-life crisis.
The dreaded quarter-life crisis is a phenomenon that hits most of us in our mid 20s and 30s. After getting the basics of finding a job and home out of the way, many of us are left with the feeling of, “And…what else? Is that it?”
It’s the mundane routine that really kills our spirits: Getting ready in the morning every day, the dreaded commute to work, and the boring job that you’re mildly satisfied with most days if only because it helps feed your shopping habit and pay your rent. You look forward to wine after work every day and Friday afternoons like a thirsty nomad looks forward to an oasis in the middle of the dessert. But like that oasis, happy hour and weekends are just mirages for sustainable happiness. They are fleeting, only mildly satisfying and leave you craving the next hit.
So you go on a search for yourself. So many of us fall into the trap of false journeys, that is, looking for ourselves through too much partying, clubbing, dating the wrong people and looking for love in all the wrong places, experimenting with harmful drugs or overindulging with alcohol, and shopping too much. None of these seems fulfilling, especially if you’ve been doing them for a while. In the beginning, sure, they’re exciting and may even provide you with a sense of feeling alive, if only because they are on the edge of dangerous. And they seem cool too, right? Hanging out with the cool kids at expensive restaurants, plunking down lots of coin for big purchases such as a fancy new car or purse, and posting pics of you enjoying this cool life on Instagram and Facebook. But in the end, you keep running after that shiny object called happiness but it just keeps slipping through your fingers.
You aren’t alone. So many of us go through major identity crisis during our post-college years and early 30s, where we experience insecurity, loneliness and even a sense of disappointment with how our lives turned out. The idea of settling down terrifies us, our friends and job bore us, and our own mortality becomes apparent and terrifying that we begin to feel an intense fear of not doing anything special with our lives. We daydream about doing something else with our lives, and this is oftentimes something incredibly wild and different from what we’re currently doing.
What to Do when You Experience Identity Crisis
1. Imagine the Possibilities
When you start feeling stale is the time to start reinventing yourself. Reinvention is hard work because it involves change. And change is difficult for many of us because we don’t even know where to start! We don’t know what’s out there until we’re exposed to the possibilities. So you must work on exposing yourself to new ideas and situations. Start by expanding your hobbies. What have you always wanted to do? What have you never thought you’d do? Start a Reinvention Journal and create a bucket list on the first page. Create a list of at least 50 things without stopping. Aim for 100. This will get hard. You’ll want to stop at around 18 because you won’t be able to think of anything else to add to the list. Keep going. Open your mind and write down any idea, no matter how preposterous, in your list. No one is judging you, so be as silly and outrageous as you want. Own a chateau in France’s lavender fields? Why not? Create a 5k where proceeds will benefit farm animals? Absolutely!
Visit the bookstore and browse the magazine section. Pay attention to titles you’d never have picked up before. Grab at least 3 magazines in subjects you would normally never read and, here’s the hard part: Read them! Something might spark your interest, and therefore spark your new life.
2. Take Control
The number one rule of taking control over your destiny is to stop comparing yourself to others. We are all of us on our own unique journeys. I know that sounds cliched, but it’s so true. No one has gone through your exact experiences, so stop comparing yourself to others you perceive to be more successful, thinner and luckier than you. Everyone experiences hardships in life–you’re not the only one. Yet we tend to think we live in a bubble because most of us only put our best faces forward. Social media is a perfect example of this. We naturally want to feel superior–it’s a natural safety extension from our caveman days. You’ll hardly ever see people posting unflattering pictures of themselves or talk about their money problems. So to first take control, realize you aren’t alone and stop comparing yourself to others.
Second, create a plan of action. I’ve got a great, free tool to help you do that in my Irresistible Lifestyle Playbook, called the Diamond of Life. In it, you look at all major areas of your life and focus on where you are and where you’d life to be. From there, you create a plan of action. You focus on your major goals and dreams and then you create small, actionable steps that will get you there, from 3 months to a year. This is all very doable but you must spend a little time dreaming!
Now, while you may not have fully realized goals yet, you know that your major goal is to figure out what it is you’re meant to do with your life and realize it! I suggest redoing a Diamond of Life every couple of weeks and reassessing where you are. And you’ll finally figure out your personal meaning of life and identity once you…
3. Become Active
Once you’ve started your dream bucket list and created an actionable irresistible life plan, you must act on it. You should still continue to dream, but you must also go after those dreams and help make them become reality. One thing to keep in mind: don’t expect your dreams to come true overnight because that’s a sure recipe for disappointment. Instead, follow through on your small, actionable steps. Stay on the safe side and create them small enough that you have no excuse not to cross one off your list every day. For example, let’s say you picked up 3 new magazines on sailing, writing a book and creating quilts. All together, these subjects might be overwhelming! Instead of assigning yourself a huge reading duty in one night, break these magazines down to one a day, or parts of each one every day for a week. Read one article from one magazine each day until you are done with them all.
Do something everyday that will move you forward in the direction in your dreams, and away from being stuck in the same old routine. If your dream is to start your own business and eventually work for yourself full-time, but you don’t even know where to start, just do one small thing everyday that will get you closer to realizing this dream. Oftentimes, we figure out what we were meant to do by plunging into new experiences we had never thought of! I never thought I would run a marathon, but after deciding that I would run one at least once in my life, I found and joined a local running club. I trained with them twice a week and eventually ran a marathon. But it was the process of weekly training and meeting a new network and support group that got me thinking about what I truly loved to do. I quit my full-time job as a copywriter and became a personal trainer, helping others achieve their best body goals–the ones they had once deemed impossible.
Take each day at a time. Buy a physical organizer and schedule your Reinvention To-Do’s in ink every day. Commit to them as if your life depends on them. Because it does.
4. Live with Intention
Listen, you’re still young. If all goes well, you have a whole bunch of years ahead of you! But what’s the point if you’re going to spend the majority of your life being dissatisfied with who you are and what you’re doing? So live each day with enthusiasm. Learn to control your mindset. This is the only way to find authentic happiness within yourself. You can’t control every situation you’re in, but you absolutely, 100% can control the way you react to them. So do the hard stuff now, and learn to become the captain of your own ship, because your attitude will control how the rest of your life goes.
So many people have excuses about why they can’t live the way they want. Some of these excuses are legitimate (they’re taking care of a sick loved one or they have a family to feed), but they are still excuses. When you’re confronted with difficult and even hopeless situations, ask yourself two questions:
Why CAN’T I do this?
How can I make this work?
On a blank page in your Reinvention Journal, write down all the ways you can make this work and why you are the perfect person to do it. Again, use your imagination and think big. Be crazy! Be wild! Open up the possibilities. When you start closing down on your own ideas, that is, when you start thinking negative thoughts such as, “That is way too crazy for me,” or “There is no way anyone with my background can do this,” I want you to tell that side of your brain to hush up. Who’s to say it’s too crazy or impossible for you? You set your own limits.
Find a great support network. I recommend a mastermind group, because you’ll be in the company of other inspired and ambitious people.
Work with a life coach. She will ask you questions and help you see possibilities beyond those you’ve ever imagined.
Join a group that dabbles in a new hobby you’ve picked up.
You may have to give up some of your friendships. While this can be difficult, it may also be life-saving. Sometimes the whole reason we aren’t moving forward in our lives is because we’re in toxic relationships and these can involve family as well as friends. Only you know what’s working and what isn’t and it may take deep soul searching in order to figure it out.
Have you ever experienced an identity or quarter-life crisis? What helped you through it?
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