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During my quarter-life crisis, I felt paralyzed to make a change. I felt like I was at the intersection of hopeless, stuck, and FOMO (or fear of missing out).
I said to myself, “I hate my job and I want to do something else, but I don’t know where to start. I’m interested in so many things, but none of them seem perfect. All my friends on Facebook are so happy and successful. My friend is a Forbes 30 Under 30. My buddy is traveling around Thailand. My friend just got engaged. I’m tired of being single. I’m a failure.”
Everything feels impossible during a quarter-life crisis, even small decisions like which shampoo to buy, or which show to watch on Netflix.
But the five simple steps below helped me get through that period of intense confusion—and eventually, find my true purpose. I hope these tips will be helpful as you discover yours.
Stop the comparisons
Social media has made it all but impossible to avoid comparing yourself to others. We see only the coolest parts of our friends’ lives, like when they get a new job, fall in love, or travel somewhere beautiful. We think, “Wow, I really need to get my act together.” All of us are figuring it out, even our friends whose Instagram grass looks really green. All of us are on different paths, with no right or wrong answer. Comparing yourself to others is a waste of time. Stop worrying about what other people think and start figuring out what you want.
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Pursue what’s meaningful to you
If you want to turn your quarter-life crisis into a breakthrough, you have to stop focusing on everyone else’s noise, and start asking yourself why you’re here. What do you care most about? What do you want to do for the world? What are you really good at? What types of people do you want to surround yourself with? How much money do you need to live your desired lifestyle? I call this finding alignment between who you are and how you’re spending your days.
Turn your doubt into action
When I was stuck in my old job, fear of the unknown often kept me up all night. This doubt never really goes away, but I’ve learned that we can turn our doubts into research, into positive energy that takes us closer to our next lily pad. If you write your doubts and fears on paper, you can begin to take tangible action steps toward figuring out what’s next in your life. This might mean reading a book that interests you, signing up for a class, launching a crowdfunding campaign for a creative project, starting a blog, attending a cool conference or event, traveling somewhere you always wanted to go, having coffee with a mentor, or pursuing an apprenticeship or volunteer opportunity that excites you.
Find a community of people who believe in the beauty of your dreams
Surviving a quarter-life crisis is the result of both hard work and finding the right people to support your journey. You can’t do it alone. Building a community of believers is the difference between your breakthrough being a dream and a dream come true. So, start finding people who make you better. People who inspire you; who are creative, who are living for others, who hold you accountable. Depending on where you live, believers might be easy or incredibly difficult to find. Attend conferences, ask your network for ideas, and use social media to find local meet-up groups based on your interests.
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Practice weekly self-care rituals
When I was stuck in my quarter-life crisis, overworked and stressed, I definitely wasn’t taking care myself—and I got shingles! I didn’t give myself time to eat well, see friends, meditate, write in my journal, or exercise. If you don’t take care of your body, it’s nearly impossible to reach your goals or help anyone else reach theirs. Finding your purpose doesn’t translate to applying to as many to jobs online as you possibly can. Finding your purpose means spending time doing the things you love, with the people you love most. It also means learning how to be kind to yourself. So, what are three things you can do to be kind to yourself this week? Think about ways you can treat yourself, take care of yourself, and create yourself.
If you’re lucky, practicing self-love might even bring you closer to the purpose you’ve been searching for.
Adapted from The Quarter-Life Breakthrough: Invent Your Own Path, Find Meaningful Work, and Build a Life That Matters by Adam Smiley Poswolsky, available from TarcherPerigee/Penguin Random House. Subscribe for more career resources at smileyposwolsky.com.