The first years of adulthood or â€śreal lifeâ€ť is often a time of excitement and thrill. We are trying to become established and individuated. We are making big life decisions. We are out on our own for the first time. These are supposedly the best years of our lives, but what often gets overlooked is just how difficult this period of time can be for a lot of people. Alongside the thrill and excitement are often feelings of inadequacy, confusion, and anxiety as we move through the transitory phase. Rest assured, if you feel this way you are not alone. Many twenty and thirty-somethings will face this quarter-life crisis where there is a seeming disconnect between what is happening in our lives and what we want to be happening in our lives. Here are some tips to help survive this transitory phase:
Create Your Own Path and Stop Comparing Your Life to Other People
We develop ideas about the type of relationships we have, the stage of our career we should be in, and the commitments we should make based on societal pressure and norms that have been developed in our family and social circles. It may seem that everyone around you is excelling in their career, falling in love, and utterly satisfied with their lives but that doesnâ€™t mean you need to be in the same place. If these are goals that you have then by all means strive for them, but try not to let the accomplishments of others be injurious to your own self-esteem. Life is not a competition. Itâ€™s okay to feel unsettled and unclear on what you want. Clarify your own hopes, dreams, and needs. Decide what will make YOU happy, and go for it.
Set Goals and Make and Action Plan
Set goals for yourself relating to all areas of your life (career, personal, relationships, etc.) and break them down into specific ambitions for short, medium, and long term (think â€“ 1, 5, 10 years from now). Ask yourself what specific actions need to be taken in order to reach each goal. By making small sub-goals you can make things manageable and stop you from feeling overwhelmed. Creating an action plan will make you feel proactive in control, and accomplished. BUTâ€¦
Donâ€™t Get TOO Caught up On a Timeline
We face a lot of pressure to accomplish things in our lives within a certain time frame and when we miss that â€śdeadlineâ€ť we are left feeling like we have somehow failed. We need to make plans for the future in order to stay motivated and excited about our lives but itâ€™s important not to get too focused on time. You may have decided that you want to be set in your career, own a home, and be married by the time youâ€™re 30, but if youâ€™re too rigid in that timeline youâ€™ll be disappointed if it doesnâ€™t work out that way. Or worse, you may make decisions that are consistent with the timeline but not necessarily consistent with what truly makes you happy in life. Draft a personal and reasonable timeline for the goals that you have but be flexible if you encounter bumps it the road. You donâ€™t need to have your whole life figured out by the time youâ€™re 30 (and in all honesty, you probably wonâ€™t). Things will happen as they are meant to happen.
Talk it Out
Itâ€™s common to feel alone during this transition phase of your life so make use of the connections you have to other people. Opening up to friends, family, or a mentor about your struggles and you may find theyâ€™ve experienced similar crises in their lives.Â Itâ€™s okay to have doubts or be dissatisfied with this period of your life. But itâ€™s important to figure out what isnâ€™t working for you in order to make positive changes in your life. Sharing your problems with others may lead to a wealth of advice and support in a time where guidance can be paramount to success. If youâ€™re feeling really lost, it may be helpful to speak to a therapist to help you establish what you want out of life.
Define Success in Your Own Terms
Many of us have come to equate success with status and money. Instead of letting that be the sole definer of success, think about all the ways you can measure your own success. Perhaps itâ€™s the feedback you receive from peers and colleagues, the difference you make in the lives of others, or the fact that you live a well-balanced life. Your definition of success should be reflective of all of your values rather than just financial gains. Acknowledge all of your achievements, past and present, to remember you have a number of things to be proud of.