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Are You Having a Quarter-Life Crisis?

Updated on July 7, 2011

Defining the quarter-life crisis

Google the term "quarter-life crisis" and your results will include thousands of websites, blogs and news articles, several books, and even a full-length movie. The first in this genre of books, Quarterlife Crisis, the Unique Challenges of Life in your Twenties defines the quarter-life crisis as "a period of anxiety, uncertainty and inner turmoil that often accompanies the transition to adulthood.” This period of uncertainty in young adults usually occurs as they finish school and enter "the real world." Both scholars and sociologists recognize the quarter-life crisis as a legitimate developmental stage among the young and educated middle-class. A stage when questions like, "what am I doing with my life?" begin to creep into our thoughts. With an overwhelming number of similar questions, and even more ways to answer them, many of us are lost.

Are you having a quarter-life crisis?

How do you know if you are experiencing a quarter-life crisis? If you're like myself and nearing the ripe age of 25, you already know. But just in case, Wikipedia offers some characteristics of the quarter-life crisis:

  • realizing that the pursuits of one's peers are useless.
  • confronting their own mortality.
  • watching time slowly take its toll on their parents, only to realize they are next.
  • insecurity regarding the fact that their actions are meaningless.
  • insecurity concerning ability to love themselves, let alone another person.
  • insecurity regarding present accomplishments.
  • re-evaluation of close interpersonal relationships.
  • lack of friendships or romantic relationships, sexual frustration, and involuntary celibacy.
  • disappointment with one's job.
  • nostalgia for university, college, high school, middle school or elementary schoollife.
  • tendency to hold stronger opinions.
  • boredom with social interactions.
  • loss of closeness to high school and college friends.
  • financially-rooted stress (overwhelming college loans, unanticipatedly high cost of living, etc.)
  • loneliness, depression and suicidal tendencies.
  • desire to have children.
  • a sense that everyone is, somehow, doing better than oneself.
  • frustration with social skills.

Surviving the quarter-life crisis

The truth is, the majority of 20-somethings have had these feelings at some point. You are not alone. It's okay to be uncertain on what to do. If you’re one of the lucky ones who knows what to do, it's okay to be uncertain on how to do it. While high school and college provide education, neither of them provide a road map to navigating through adulthood. Like an animal raised in captivity and just released into the wild, we recent graduates - wide-eyed and frantic - are justifiably a little frightened. Fortunately, there are ways for us to gently adapt to our new and wild surroundings. Here are some tips to surviving quarter-life with less crisis and more calm.

Tips for surviving the quarter-life crisis

Self-discovery. Who are you? What are you passionate about? Begin to ask yourself these questions, and answers will appear. If this takes some travel, volunteer or work abroad experience, then do it. Christine Hassler assures "the alternative is to continue to spin in your quarterlife crisis and make choices based on fear, other people's advice, expectations, or societal pressures.”

Set goals. What are you going to do with your life? This is the question that puts many of us twenty-somethings into an anxious whirlwind of uncertainty. Write a list of goals on paper. This will help you visualize your true goals.

Achieve goals. If your goal is to cure cancer, then cure cancer. Well, at least try. And why not? You are young, ambitious and intelligent. You can do anything. But keep in mind, nothing will happen overnight. Focus and make positive steps towards your goal daily.

Do not settle. Nelson Mandela once said, "there is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living." If you’re unhappy with your job or relationship, get out now. Now is the only time you have. Don't settle on a job just because the pay is right. In the long run, the money will never bring happiness.

Throw away your timeline. Yes, the timeline in your head - burn it. The one that says you need to have a career at 23 or be married at 28. Having hopes and dreams is natural, but becoming upset when they don't pan-out exactly as planned is no good. If you aren't married by 28 like you had hoped, that is okay. Author Dan Millman says "we make efforts and create careful plans, while life unfolds as it will - the outcomes are not ours to control." Concern yourself only with things you can control.

Relax. You’re not in this alone. Make steps towards whatever it is you want in life. If you fall, get back up. Relax and learn to trust the natural pace of your life.

Talk. Discuss your fears with friends, family, past professors and colleagues. You’ll find that you're not alone and that other people have experienced the same kinds of feelings.

Have fun. It's fun to have fun. Give yourself a break. Enjoy your youth.

I hope the above definition and tips for surviving the quarter-life crisis has calmed your nerves. Instead of labeling this time in our lives as a "quarter-life crisis", we might be better off just calling it "life." Relax and enjoy it.

Take the quarter-life crisis quiz

Author and survivor of the quarter-life crisis, Christine Hassler, has created the following quiz to determine whether or not you are having a quarter-life crisis:

If you scored greater than 48% (or answered yes to 12 or more of these questions), you might be experiencing a quarter-life crisis. But don't worry, you are not alone. This quiz was taken from an article in the Huffington Post, by Christine Hassler. Her books are available for purchase below.

According to your results, are you experiencing a quarter-life crisis?

See results


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    • glassvisage profile image


      6 years ago from Northern California

      These are good tips. For me I've just realized that I need to set defined goals for myself. I appreciate this Hub and the details!

    • jdaviswrites profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Davis 

      8 years ago from California

      thedutchman - thanks. i appreciate the encouragement....

    • thedutchman profile image


      8 years ago

      This hub is good. Its very informative. Keep it up.

    • jdaviswrites profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Davis 

      8 years ago from California

      sean kinn - I don't feel very wise at all, but this hub might contain some common wisdom. Thanks for the comment. Putting your sons as a priority is huge...props to you

    • sean kinn profile image

      sean kinn 

      8 years ago from Key West and Budapest

      A lot of wisdom contained in this hub, aye? :-) I never thought I would be where I'm at today, which is essentially nowhere "career"-wise. However, I have different priorities, which are essentially to remain close to my sons in as many ways as possible; never miss a house payment; and write as many words as possible before I die. I guess flexibility is the key ...

    • jdaviswrites profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Davis 

      8 years ago from California

      rpalulis - I don't think anyone had "diagnosed" it when you were in your 20's. I agree with you though, it is what it is. Regardless of of whether you want to call it a crisis or not, talking about it and reading some advice is nothing but helpful. It's just life. Thanks for the comment bud...

    • rpalulis profile image


      8 years ago from NY

      Never gave any of this much thought when I was in my 20's, but now that I am in my early 30's I have visited some of the above questions, I often just tell myself it is what it is. It is never too late to practice the advice you offer in this wonderful hub. Thanks.

    • jdaviswrites profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Davis 

      8 years ago from California

      Matt - Thanks for sharing. I'll leave this up, hopefully readers can help you out with your survey.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I have been doing a bit of a survey on people in the midst of a quaterlife crisis. I went through one myself a few years back and and now in a position where I am working with may others in their twenties who are experiencing the same challenges.

      If anyone would like to complete the survey to get a little more insight into what they are experiencing, I would love your input.

      Best wishes


    • jdaviswrites profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Davis 

      8 years ago from California

      steveoMc - This took some added effort to write, so I appreciate your comments. We confused minds in our mid-twenties can learn from you...Thanks

    • SteveoMc profile image


      8 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      This is awesome information. I work with several mid twenties people, they are indeed searching and wondering. I wish I could impart some of this to them and I will try. I love em and hope I make their lives a little better. With this information, I will feel a little better suited to perceive their needs.


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