A quarter-life crisis happens.
A mid-life crisis unfolds.
I have thought both are frauds or distractions. Just do your work, and all will be fine, I thought. But not all will be fine. A crisis may be an overstatement. Terminology throws us.
- Is struggling with where you are with your career a crisis?
- Is feeling off-balance in your life a crisis?
- Is feeling muddled a crisis?
Questions ricochet within us in our quarter-life and mid-life. A crisis? Maybe. It also may be an opportunity for a watershed.
Watershed moments are turning points and, in our quarter or mid-life moments, we are seeking a new direction, right? At the least, we feel a need to explore a new direction. We need to grab ahold of these quarter-life and mid-life watershed moments and go in deep.
Quarter-Life and Mid-Life Crises
When I think about my mid-to-late twenties, I was having a quarter-life crisis. We did not think about our life in these terms then, but I was uncertain if I was making enough progress fast enough. I thought I would be farther along. I thought I would be having a bigger impact.
Fast forward to my mid-life, which is now. I decided to uproot my career without a clearly defined plan. I felt stuck. Repetition of work was the cycle. I could stay. The easy answer is stay or just buy a sports car.
Here’s where I failed the first time and how I am trying not to fail the second time. A quarter-life crisis is a watershed moment, and we need to go in deep by answering key crux questions. We cannot just muddle through or think it will all just work itself out. If we take simple path, we will remain at the surface level of what our life and career means. We lose sight of our better possibility.
We need to think more deeply. We need to act more thoughtfully.
We need to explore, discover, and then plot a renewed path forward. We cannot put it on the backburner. Instead, we need to be front-and-center and ask the tough purpose-filled questions about what impact we want to have on our corner of the world sooner rather than later.
Key crux questions include:
- Is my primary goal to make a living or create a living?
- What role does money play – work toward elusive earlier payoffs or work consistently for steady savings?
- How will my life matter today, next month, next year, and twenty years from now? What impact do I want to make and be remembered for?
- What brings joy inside of me, and what brings joy to those around me?
Today, I am trying not to miss the opportunity of a life watershed moment. I am thinking it through, discerning, and – most importantly – being active in doing things to see what fits to make a bigger impact than before.
Do Not Miss Watershed Moments
I don’t know what I missed exactly. What I missed was exploring how to create a more meaningful life. In my twenties, I heard the words of Jesse Jackson of my teens – “I am somebody.” If I am to be somebody, didn’t I need to do more, be more?
Quarter-Life Watershed Moments
Research into quarter-life crises place numbers on what we feel: “86% of the 1,100 young people questioned admitted feeling under pressure to succeed in their relationships, finances and jobs before hitting 30.” A psychologist, Nathan Gehlert, Ph.D., brings the point home. In our twenties, individuals are “highly driven and smart, but struggling because they feel they’re not achieving their potential or feeling they’re falling behind.”
We feel like we want to do more. Succeeding is just the surface. To make it a watershed moment, we need to go below the surface and think in terms of how to make the most positive impact with our time over the next ten years. We need to dig deep into our mind-heart connection and find what aligns most to use both to their fullest capability.
Mid-Life Watershed Moments
Research into the mid-life crisis shows a U-curve element. We start life happy and then descend in our 20s and through our mid-to-late 50s and, at this point, we begin to climb up to happiness and satisfaction again. We seek and work anew to gain meaning in our outcomes.
As an article in The Atlantic indicates: “It turns out that there is good science about this gift: studies show quite strongly that people’s satisfaction with their life increases, on average, from their early 50s on through their 60s and 70s and even beyond—for many until disability and final illness exact their toll toward the very end (at which point it’s hard to generalize).”
For me, we cannot miss this inflection point. We need to lean into our watershed moment and build a new path up toward better relationships, more meaningful impacts in our communities, and a renewed joy in what we do.
A Generational Opportunity
Today, some Boomers and GenXers stereotype Millennials with many wrong attitudes and beliefs. The reality is these older generations may be in the bottom plateau of the U-curve, jealous of the freshness the next generation begins. As a new generation begins their descent, older generations determine how to scale the curve to happiness and meaningful consequence again. We are in a similar place but on a different trajectory.
What an opportunity to meet in the middle! Older generations are figuring out how to gain happiness and have a more positive impact. Younger generations 5-10 years into their life work are figuring out how to gain happiness and have a more positive impact. In the middle of these two watershed moments creates an opportunity for a meaningful, deeper conversation.
Sharing experiences for those entering the U-curve of life and those climbing out of it seems like a perfect opportunity to talk about expectations, opportunities, misses, successes, depths, peaks, and so much more.
Old and young sitting across the table from each other with hearts and minds open can flatten the U-curve of life. By sharing experiences, we can lift up each other and draw a higher line of life to walk upon. Happiness, meaning, and positive impact become the foundation rather than the valley of wanting more.
Old and young sitting across the table from each other with hearts and minds open can flatten the U-curve of life.Tweet
What We Need in Our Quarter-Life and Mid-Life
In our quarter-life and mid-life, what we need is to talk to the other side. We need to share our experiences and learn from each other. We need to:
- Be open-minded
- Be honest
- Be courageous
- Be vulnerable
- Be willing to change
- Accept accountability
- Practice kindhearted listening
- Drop barriers
- Open the conversation
The quarter-life and mid-life forces need to join together in conversation. Each generation carries this responsibility to do so.
- If you are having a quarter-life conversation and no one over 30 is involved, then find someone older and find out where they are and what they are trying to figure out.
- If you are having a mid-life conversation and no one under 30 is involved, then find someone younger and find out where they are and what they are trying to figure out.
When we meet in the middle of our life crises, we redefine the moment, and a watershed life glow begins. Together, we find how to have a bigger impact where are now. Maybe this is what is meant about being present.
Take the mindful moment. Don’t waste the moment. After all, this is the necessity of quarter-life and mid-life crises.
Join the conversation.
- How have you shared your quarter-life crisis? How have you shared your mid-life crisis?
- How will your conversations change? How can we engage between the two sides of life’s U-curve?
- What questions will you ask in your quarter-life or mid-life watershed moment?
Join the Conversation
The Necessity of a Quarter-Life and Mid-Life Crisis
Those key questions deserve deep and honest answers, not just in words but in heart-felt actions. Having been through quarter and mid-life intersections and now through the three-quarter stage and beyond, I’ve learned a few things just from the experiences themselves, as we all have when we stop, look and listen. I mean, really stop and shut off all distractions and noise that would disrupt some deep and serious thinking and feeling. And, take sufficient time to do that, even a year if necessary. Read and write, contemplate and meditate, cogitate, do whatever it takes to get you to a different state of mind. Look around you and farther out and what do you see? What do you make of all that? Look more closely in and what do you find there? Finally, listen to yourself because you are the authority of your own design. It sounds a little sappy but it’s a wonderful life out here and there is so much to take in, to give out and to celebrate. Welcome the transition as a terrific opportunity to learn and grow and yes, to change too.
Agree completely, Gary. We need to seek the honest answers to these life change questions, and we are the authority of our own life design. We can gain much insight and perspective from young and old who have made these changes or on a similar path. Through it, we still own our path. You have set a great example. Thank you for adding your experience and thoughts! Jon
Good thoughts Jon. Tomorrow is my 50th birthday, and as I contemplate the years ahead, I’m feeling thankful and grateful for what I’ve learned in life. We can choose to look forward to a “mid-life opportunity” or “mid-life crisis”…and I prefer opportunity! It’s a good suggestion to seek input from people in other generations. I’m fortunate to work with a multi-generational team and their perspectives have been very valuable.
Happy Birthday, Randy! Yes, I prefer opportunity or watershed. At times, we need to make these conscious u-turns and take our life up a notch in our positive impact. We should touch base again sometime. Thank you for adding your thoughts, and thank you for being a great example! Jon
To be honest, I am fairly certain I’m in the midst of a Watershed Moment. When I was an executive working in the USA I was confident I knew what success was and how to achieve it. Now, living in one of the most remote towns on the planet, my heart is starting to sing a new tune and while I tried to put it on mute, it’s only now that I’m starting to turn up the volume, little by little. Figuring out what’s next when the path to “here” has been so clear is a challenge but a meaty one worth digging in. All I know is that I’m choosing happiness and to me, that’s the definition of success. Many thanks for this, Jon!
Alli, Being in remote areas can bring more clarity at times. I have thought of going to a silent retreat; there is something intriguing about this experience. Like you, I am ready to have my “heart sing a new tune.” I am grateful for the example you set in your work and writings. Thank you! Jon