The quarter-life crisis is not something to roll your eyes at. A Linkedin study a few years ago showed that 75% of young adults (19-33) in the UK have experienced one. However there are many of us who don’t actually know that we are having one. That is because the symptoms of a quarter-life crisis are not exactly well-known.
I experienced this crisis when I was 22 and only realised what it was a few years later when I had decided to make a career out of coaching those who were going through a similar thing.
Through my own experiences, research and countless hours speaking to people in the throws of this crisis, I have put together a list of some of the classic signs and symptoms:
SYMPTOM 1: “I AM BEHIND ON MY PLAN”
A few months ago I went in to deliver a future planning talk in a school. The kids were around 14/15 years old and I made them do an exercise where they had to imagine their lives at 30. I got them to present their futures in front of the class.
Here is the general gist:
- Decided on a career path by 21
- Married by 25
- Kids by 27
- Big house in the suburbs with a sports car by 30
Being in my mid twenties, this was pretty horrifying for me to hear.
But it did make me realise that the most common symptom of a quarter-life crisis is thinking we are behind on our life plan.
This could mean feeling behind on anything from relationships to personal goals (my 15 year old self would be very disappointed I have not run that marathon or written that book yet).
SYMPTOM 2: OPTION PARALYSIS
Einstein only wore one suit his whole life because he knew what happens when human beings are faced with too much option: we become unable to make any meaningful decisions.
100 years ago (maybe less) we only had a small option pool of potential friends, hobbies, romantic partners, holidays, careers and living situations. Nowadays we have an ocean of possibilities we are able to connect with from our pockets (think Hinge, Linkedin, Indeed, Rightmove, Skyscanner etc.).
The world is indeed our oyster. The trouble is that our oyster is so big its difficult to see what is in it.
A typical symptom of the quarter-life crisis is feeling completely paralysed by the amount of options you could choose, so instead of making a decision you procrastinate and avoid the topic.
SYMPTOM 3: “EVERYONE ELSE HAS IT FIGURED OUT”
I actually wrote a whole article on career comparison because I think it really is a topic in its own right.
Often a quarter-life crisis comes with feelings of being left behind. As much as we want to be happy for our friends who are moving in with their other halves, getting married, buying a two bedroom house, having kids whilst simultaneously being promoted to ‘senior’ something *breathe*, we can’t help thinking its a reflection on how little we feel we have achieved in our own lives.
ALSO not only do we compare ourselves to our peers, we also seem to compare ourselves to our parents. We often think of what they had achieved by [insert your age here], and compare it to our own measly accomplishments.
SYMPTOM 4: “I LITERALLY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I EVEN WANT”
Okay so you have decided something needs to change, cue the sudden realisation that you actually have no idea what you want. Half of you wants to volunteer at a baby sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica, and the other half wants to suit up and climb the career ladder so you can be a responsible adult.
One of the most common causes and symptoms of experiencing a quarter-life crisis is drawing a blank when it comes to your next life and career move. This can be really scary and is often made even worse by symptoms 1, 2 & 3.
There are many other symptoms and signs which are typical of the quarter-life crisis, but these are the ones I have found to be the most common. A quarter-life crisis is to be taken seriously because these symptoms can result in anything from background anxiety to depression. I am going to write a part 2 to this article about how to deal with a quarter-life crisis, but fundamentally it comes down to one thing:
CREATE YOUR OWN DEFINITION OF SUCCESS.
If you truly become a master of this, it can really make a difference to all the above symptoms. Here’s how (very briefly):
SYMPTOM 1: “I am behind on the plan” -> this master ‘plan’ is probably defined for you by society, so if you define your own successes you create your own plan.
SYMPTOM 2: Option paralysis -> defining your own definition of success means you will have a far greater understanding of who you are and what you are looking for. This means you will find it far easier to cut through all the options to find something that works for you. Also you will feel less pressure and less panicked which frees up more headspace.
SYMPTOM 3: “Everyone else has it figured out” -> Well this wouldn’t matter if you cared about your own success as much as everyone else’s!
SYMPTOM 4: “I literally have no idea what I even want” -> similarly to option paralysis, if you define success for yourself, you will be less side-tracked by what society/family/friends are telling you what to do, meaning you will likely have more clarity.
If all or any of these symptoms resonate with you click here to learn how we can help.
Have I missed anything that you think is a really common QLC symptom? Would love to hear.
Founder of Quarter-Life