Before we get into the second part of the “Quarter-Life Crisis” series, I want to give a little prequel on how this process is going to be different for everyone. Just as a refresher, the only true cure to solving the quarter-life crisis is to find the correct career path for you. However, the method of discovering the “correct” career path is not going to be the same for everyone and it’s not necessarily going to be clear to you once you stumble upon it. Therefore, the following methods of finding the cure are aids on a much more difficult feat: self-discovery.
1. Set aside time for self-reflection
We all live very busy lives between work, social outings, friends and family. However, all of these things provide to be distractions to assess who we are outside of the world’s influence. When interacting with something, you become a certain person in relation to an outside force, which alters your true form. So, when was the last time you had a chance to take a look at who you are without anyone or anything affecting you?
Because these distractions are the one of the causes of the quarter-life crisis, you have to figure out who you are in absence of the said distractions. It doesn’t necessarily have to be as drastic as not interacting with anyone for days at a time (which would be very difficult for the extraverts out there), but even an hour at the gym you spend running could be a very important self-reflection time.
2. Ask yourself the hard questions
As cheesy as this sounds, you need to ask yourself the hard questions. Here are some examples:
- What did you want to be when you were in kindergarden? What did you like about that career path?
- If money wasn’t an object, what would you spend the rest of your life doing?
- When you’re older, what would you like to tell your grandchildren as your proudest achievement?
- When was the last time you enjoyed doing something and what did you like about it?
- What are some of your hobbies?
These might sound like they’re from a kindergarden class, but do you remember how the world was your oyster at that age? It’s no less true now – we just put limitation on what’s “possible”, but that barrier is purely internal. Which means that you are the only person who can place and remove them.
3. Make opportunities to learn more about the different career paths
Meeting your perfect career path is like finding your soul mate – they both have largely to do with luck. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t make opportunities to meet the “one”. You need to be out and about to increase your chances of meeting the perfect career path.
Here are some options on where you can potentially discover the right career path for you:
- Professional groups in Meetup
- Alumni organizations of your alma mater
Your current job and coworkers probably wouldn’t provide a good source. You wouldn’t be going through a quarter-life crisis if you truly enjoyed your job, right?
4. Embrace the trial and error method
Unfortunately, this isn’t going to be a straight-forward process. Sometimes, you’re going to have to make an educated guess on what the next step should be and make the leap.
Oftentimes, the only way the realize that a path is not the correct one is to try it out. You can guess at the path that’s most likely (using the steps above), but you won’t know whether it’s truly the right one until you’ve tried it. And sometimes, you might have to go pretty far down the road to truly know whether your decision was the right one.
But as long as you’re continually learning more things about yourself through the journey, it’s not time wasted. It’s time invested in getting to know yourself better.
5. Overcome the fear
The path to self-awareness is scary. You might be overwhelmed with the sense of guilt for not tackling this task earlier. There may be a sense of mourning for the time wasted on a career path that wasn’t right for you.
But regardless of any negative emotions you feel, you need to push through. The longer you haven’t cleaned your room, the more overwhelming the tasks but the correct answer isn’t to procrastinate on the task even longer. You just need to bite the bullet and tackle it head-on.
As a side-note, it took me four months to write this follow up post. It’s a great reflection of how difficult this process is, just to put it into words, let alone implement it in action. But managing your career is a process – you need to constantly assess, strategize and implement on a repeat cycle. It’s sometimes tricky and pulls a fast one on you when you think you got it all figured out, but that’s the beauty of the journey and not the destination.