Self-care is one of the most important things that we need to incorporate into our…
Life has a habit of making us question our own worth sometimes. Of course, we’re all worthy of love, happiness, success, and that should never be questioned. But, we do question it because we’re always comparing ourselves to other people. It’s very easy to start wondering if ‘this is it’, and you start thinking “what am I doing with my life?” When that happens, it’s easy to panic and think that you’re having some kind of life crisis. The truth is, almost everyone has had this thought at some point in their lives.
For some however, the question runs deeper. It accompanies a sense of true dissatisfaction with life. But, see this as a positive. If you’re having this thought, it’s simply a prod in the right direction. It’s the universe, or whatever you believe in, telling you that you need to do something differently, or perhaps reassess your priorities.
Life has a habit of giving us these timely shoves every now and again.
The danger of giving up
In this dark mindset, confusion reigns supreme. Self-esteem and self love are weakened through doubt, fear, and even resentment. You may begin to question whether or not you’re on the right path, or if you’ll ever amount to anything. Soon, things that originally brought you joy seem unimportant, because you are haunted by the constant negativity you’ve allowed to take control.
If you need help finding a sense of direction to dig yourself out of a dark state of mind, work from the inside-out. But, never give up. Do not do it to yourself. It’s a sign to try harder or do something differently, it’s not a sign to give up.
This type of mood and questioning can happen to anyone, at any time, but it’s certainly something that’s happening earlier in life for millennials. There are countless reasons why, but we call this the ‘quarter life crisis’.
What is a quarter life crisis?
Ask anyone from the older generation and you’ll probably get, “There’s no such a thing as a quarter life crisis,” followed by a lecture on how you’re born into luckier times and you should just suck it up, stop whining, and get a job.
Sadly, there’s a truth to this harsh advice. The so-called quarter life crisis happens during the post-college early adult days when you find yourself unsatisfied with how life is panning out for you. You want everything fast, but it’s not coming quickly enough.
It’s also a scary time too. You’re out of education and into the big wide world. It is a period of doubting your capabilities to be successful, and you don’t find fulfillment brought on by the stresses of adult life. As a result, you ask, “what am I doing with my life?”
What you can’t see is that you’re actually doing plenty. You’re just blind to it right now because of a few issues that are probably evident in your life. These include:
1. Things aren’t working out the way you planned
All people have dreams and aspirations. And we go through life thinking that after you finish school, you’ll be there living your dream life. But more often than not, adulthood finds a way to disappoint us.
You could either be working a job you hate, stuck paying off your student loans for the next five years, or just be in a field so far from what you dreamed of.
2. What you want doesn’t correspond to what you can offer
People who claim to be in a quarter life crisis mostly complain about how they are not becoming successful in the field they wanted.
Lots of auditions and you still can’t get that role, failed business ventures, and maybe lack of recognition in your art. It is easy to think that you are a failure, especially if you already fail right before you get your first success.
3. Feeling that you are being left behind
When experiencing this feeling, it is common to ask yourself, “what am I doing with my life?” All your college friends have gone off living their lives. They are working in top-tier positions, enjoying overseas vacations, and having their dream wedding while you are stuck in a place they were three years ago. You lament that success is not coming your way the way they got theirs.
These are just three of the main reasons why people tend to fall into the quarter life crisis rut. But the good news is that you can climb back out of it. It takes some work, but you don’t have to sit there wondering “what am I doing with my life”, instead you can be out there living it and enjoying each second.
How to stop wondering “what am I doing with my life?”
If you’re having this thought on a regular basis, it’s time to start doing some work. This work means working on you, and it means working on your immediate environment too. Some of it is out of your control, but for the most part, you’re the one with your hands on the steering wheel.
1. Give yourself some time
It may sound counterproductive, but giving yourself time to be depressed is often a good thing. Giving yourself this time is essentially like hitting the pause button. It allows you to explore the darkness you find yourself in, grow familiar with it, and ensure that you do whatever it takes to keep from experiencing it again. Indulging the feelings for a time will make everything feel ten times better once you take control.
2. Thinking “what am I doing with my life” is the start of something great
Congratulations are in order! The moment you stop in your tracks and ask yourself, “What am I doing with my life?”, that’s the first step toward getting away from your quarter life crisis.
Recognizing that your life is not going in the direction that you want is the starting point for working your way to make your life the way you want it to be. It means that you are willing to make changes to make your life the way you want.
3. Build and maintain self confidence
Of course, it is important to note that being depressed over your circumstances doesn’t mean allowing yourself to let your self-confidence suffer. Even while depressed, you should always try your hardest to be confident and to love yourself. If you don’t, you won’t have the power to make any of the changes you need to. You will waste time second-guessing and doubting yourself, making it impossible to make any worthwhile decisions.
4. Question your perspective
Letting a quarter life crisis muddle your perspective will not get you out of that rut. Most of the time, the so-called quarter life crisis is merely a state of mind which only needs a change of perspective for you to go on your way.
a. Accept that adult life is challenging
The moment you start living on your own away from your parents’ advice and support, your freedom comes with a price. These include paying your own bills, working a job, having less time for fun, and having to make difficult decisions that will determine your life. Accepting that this is the way adult life works will make you think of creating solutions instead of blaming adulthood for your misfortunes.
b. Understand that failure is a constant part of life
Like all success stories tell us, failure can happen to anyone, and it shouldn’t be a hindrance for you to push forward. Successful people often have had life-crippling challenges come their way, and the reason they are successful is that they continued to work hard despite the disadvantages they faced.
c. Know this too shall pass
People who experience crises like these often feel that they are a failure. What they don’t realize is that they are just getting started. All types of crises have an end – even the worst ones. The only thing you need to do is to think of your crisis as a transition or a phase that you will overcome in the end.
5. Don’t consider lost time a waste, consider it research
Being positive and holding your head up high may be difficult, but it is important to try. Rather than looking at the days gone by as wasted, you should consider them research for what is to come.
Every day is a new beginning, every moment a new slate. Even if you don’t feel like you’ve made any significant improvements, you have probably thought of what not to do, or what you don’t want, or perhaps explored the things that may be holding you back. This is progress, however slight.
6. Remember that it’s never too late to dream
A lot of the time, we already know what we want out of life. Deep down, there is an urge to do certain things, or to seek certain paths. If you take the time to dream and let your imagination run free, you’ll figure out what those aspirations are.
Now, if these things seem unreachable, or too difficult, remember that old saying: “Nothing good comes easy.” It’s a popular saying for reason – it’s true. The only real obstacle is yourself. If you want something badly enough, you’ll put in the effort to get it.
7. Make a list and check it twice
It may sound elementary, but making a list of what’s important to you is an invaluable resource. Sometimes, it’s the simple things that inspire us the most. Making a list will put the important aspects of your life into focus, while helping you figure out what your goals really should be.
Having a clear list will hopefully make it easier to be grateful for the things and people that are already in your life. Why should one aspire for more, if the present isn’t appreciated? It is important to get your bearings first, before going on your mission of self-improvement.
8. Spend some time on research
Once you have a general idea of what it is you’d like to do, the best place to start is conducting research. Asking the right questions of the right people, scouring the Internet for any answers to any questions, and figuring out what steps to take to complete your objective are crucial steps. Without doing this, you’re beginning your journey blindly and putting yourself at a disadvantage. It is best to be prepared, rather than risking a longer, more painful path.
9. Outline your path
Once you have conducted your research, your next step should be to outline your path. These are the chronological steps that you will take in order to accomplish your goal. Think of it like a roadmap that you can use for reference. Every time you start to feel lost, confused, or like you’re slipping back into a dark state of mind, you can glance over the map and know where you are, and where you need to go.
10. Learn to manage stress
The journey to reach your goals will be difficult. Just like in every heroic tale, the protagonist has to have substantial obstacles to overcome in order to accomplish something grand. If you feel the stress rising, or like you need someone who understands you to provide some sort of motivation to keep going, don’t be afraid to pick up a self-help book, or stress relief app.
Meditation, anxiety relief, and sleep apps are all valuable resources. A lot of times, that inner voice that makes us second-guess ourselves is what stresses us out more than the actual situation. Learning to manage this and turn it into motivation is the key to leading a healthy lifestyle and accomplishing your goals.
11. Remember to look after yourself
During times when you’re feeling low or when you’re trying to make major changes in life, it’s easy to forget the basics. But, if you’re not looking after yourself, how can you push to greater heights?
Make sure that you’re eating a healthy diet, you’re not indulging in too much drinking, smoking, or anything else that falls into the extremely unhealthy category, and make sure that you’re getting enough sleep. You should also exercise regularly, as it will give you a huge dose of positivity and motivation.
12. Stop blaming things you can’t control
One thing about adult life people should learn is that things don’t always go according to plan. And there are things in life bigger than you that you cannot control. It can be the economic situation, the job market, workplace preferences, and society itself.
Being obsessed and depressed with such things often gives you doubt about your own capabilities and will discourage you from taking positive action. Instead, you should focus on things you do have control of. Instead, embrace change. If things are not working according to plan, you might need to change things and that’s okay.
Strive for perfection, but don’t be obsessive-compulsive. There are times in life that “good enough” works instead of perfect. While striving for perfection is a positive attitude, one must consider the price of perfection.
And if striving for perfection is unnecessary and costly to your success, then don’t obsess and just get it at the right level. Besides, “perfect” doesn’t really exist anyway.
13. Ask for help – it’s a sign of intelligence
Don’t be afraid to also seek help from others. Most people don’t like to ask for help, thinking that they are going to impose on others, or inconvenience them in some way. What most people don’t understand is that loved ones will not hesitate to help you. They’re in your life for a reason, and they love you. They are there to help you, if you need it.
If you feel like you’re a burden, remember that there will be times that they need help, and you can be there for them, too. Loved ones suffer when they see you lost and depressed. They see how unhealthy your situation is. Although they’re not sitting there judging, they are sitting there worrying. They want you to pick yourself back up, dust off, and try again.
Getting help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of intelligence. You’re using valuable resources to get to where you need to be, even if you don’t know exactly where that is. Much like making career connections, it is important to use those around you for help, when needed.
14. Don’t be afraid to start from the ground up
Everyone who is anyone had to start from the bottom and work their way up to the top. Depending on your goal, this could mean that you may be doing your goal-oriented tasks on the side, while doing something dull as your primary means of income.
If this is your situation, keep in mind that this could be to ensure you cultivate enough experience before jumping into a bigger pond. Other times, it’s simply because the right opportunities aren’t available to you just yet. Consider this a stepping stone, and use this time to gain the experience that you need to accomplish your goals. [Read: 10 little steps you need to take to have a much better life]
15. Be succesful in your own way
Don’t be envious of your peers’ success, because while you may think that you’re living an uneventful life, some people must be dying to live yours. Success is not always about the money you make, or the places you go on vacation, but rather it’s about how happy you are with your life.
Forget comparing your life with those around you. You have no idea what’s really going on behind the scenes anyway. Focus on yourself and your own success – how you choose it and how you visualize it for yourself.
16. Continue to improve yourself
Always welcome new information. Read and study whenever you can. Books will always be money well spent. These three mantras are the core of improving yourself as a person.
If you’re an artist who is having trouble finding your style, backtrack and research the artists you love and admire. Learn new techniques, discard the ones that don’t work, and experiment with new mediums until you find that sweet spot you’re looking for.
17. Always take one day at a time
People go into a quarter life crisis because they set unachievable goals that they cannot handle. As the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day.
The road to fulfillment is reached by starting with baby steps and then building your pace. From an engineering perspective, focus on solving one problem at a time, and then move on to the next.
18. Life isn’t a race
You might be in a rush to tick off so-called milestones but life isn’t a race. Just because your friends have done this, that and the other, doesn’t mean that you need to have done the same. Maybe that’s just not meant for you or it’s not something you really want deep down. Even if it is something you want, we all get to where we’re supposed to be at different times. You shouldn’t compare your progress with anyone else’s.
19. Have a positive outlook for the future
As mentioned, start by realizing that this is just a phase that you will overcome later on. You are young, and you are just starting your adult life. So all these challenges will merely be a life lesson for you in the future.
Once you come to terms with the fact that life will be a challenge from here on, you can then move forward and adopt solutions. As the eastern martial arts philosophy says, “When confronted by a falling boulder, you can either break a rock with your fist, or use your feet to dodge.”
20. See mistakes as learning curves
It may seem useless, but keeping a positive outlook is one of the best things you can do to dig yourself out of dark circumstances. Never losing hope ensures you don’t have to climb as much to get out of a dark frame of mind. People seem to pay more attention to the mistakes they make, rather than their accomplishments. What they don’t understand is that mistakes are acceptable, and even encouraged. If you don’t make mistakes, you won’t know what works and what doesn’t. Mistakes help mold you into someone stronger and more self-aware. Learn to see mistakes as learning opportunities.
Everyone wonders “what am I doing with my life” occasionally, but you can either just let the thought float in and out of your life, or you can use it to push you forward toward new success.
Simply take change one step at a time, one day at a time, and alter small things that can amount to something bigger over time. By doing that “what am I doing with my life” won’t be such a common thought anymore.