There is so much pressure in a new year to make big changes, stop bad habits, start better habits, let go of the past, and on and on. If you’re in the midst of a quarter-life crisis, or if you’re at a place in your life where you feel stuck and unsure of which way to go, a new year can create added pressure to have it all “figured out” so this year can be different than the last.
Getting through a tough time in your life isn’t about closing your eyes and hoping for the best, and it’s not about looking around and seeing what other people are doing and thinking they know something you don’t. Surviving difficult times, like a quarter-life crisis, requires you to do the exact opposite of what you want to do.
You want this to end already, but you have to be patient. You want someone to tell you what to do, but other people don’t have to live your life. You want to have that big “aha” moment when everything finally comes together but those “ahas” usually come after the “aha” has happened.
Here are five ways to turn your quarter-life crisis around this year:
1. Make “Zen” Your Friend
Your quarter-life crisis wants to figure it all out right here, right now. Growth, transitions, and crises don’t go faster even though you really, really want them to. It’s a process, and it takes time. You’re making decisions that will affect you for a long time. Being patient is hard. It requires you to sit with the unknown and trust yourself that, in time, you’ll get to where you want to go.
Each time you catch yourself thinking, “Why won’t this end already!” look behind you. Stop focusing on the future and focus on what you’ve already learned about yourself and all the ways you’ve grown in the last few years. It will remind you that you’re not stuck; things are moving forward.
2. Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
Quarter-life crises are tough because you’re sitting in the unknown, and sitting in the unknown is uncomfortable. It’s not easy sitting in limbo, going to a job you hate because you don’t know what you want to do with your career. It’s easy to feel so desperate to make these tough feelings go away that you end up making impulsive decisions, only to realize you made a choice that doesn’t align with your values.
That discomfort you’re feeling isn’t a bad thing, and your focus right now isn’t to do whatever you need to do to “get comfortable.” Your focus needs to be on acknowledging and accepting the discomfort and recognizing this discomfort you feel is here for a reason. Just like with all of our emotions, this discomfort is trying to tell you something, so don’t run away from it or try to mask it.
3. Stay Focused On YOU
This is your life, and you’re the only one who has to live it so right now, during your quarter-life crisis, is the time to keep refocusing on what you want, not what other people want. Becoming the person you want to be can be really hard when you have so many opinions coming at you all the time. Between social media and your friends and family’s opinions, there is a lot of noise.
Turn down the noise around you. Reduce time on social media and tell the people around you you love them, but you’re not asking for feedback. If you end up on Instagram late one night or your mother insists on telling you what to do, take it in and remind yourself, “These are just opinions, not facts. I make the choices in my life.”
4. Allow Yourself To Change
Who you were or what you liked in the past shouldn’t define how you see yourself today. One of the nice things about a quarter-life crisis is you get to explore and redefine several aspects of your life. It’s easy to get stuck in, “I was always the responsible one, so I always need to do the responsible thing.” That may be who you were at one point in your life, but it doesn’t have to define you now. Others may be upset when you say “not this time” when you’re usually the one who volunteers to pick up family at the airport, but that doesn’t mean the changes you’re making are wrong.
5. Let Go Of What You Thought Your Life Would Look Like And Embrace What Your Life Is
When you’re a kid, it’s so easy to imagine what you’re going to be like when you finally grow up. You get to make it up as you go. Of course, you’re imagining living in a beautiful home with the perfect partner and going to the best job in the world. You just have to realize that reality is never as good as our dreams.
Reality is, well, reality. It’s never perfect, it’s messy, and it’s always harder than you ever thought it would be. Nothing in your life will be perfect, but you can create a life you love if you let go of the ideal. Your life probably doesn’t look like what you imagined it would be, and that’s not a bad thing. It becomes a problem when you don’t allow yourself to get past what you thought it would and learn to embrace what is.
If you’re in the middle of a quarter-life crisis, that’s great. This is your opportunity to take what’s not working in your life right now and make changes that align with the person you’re becoming.