So you turn 50 and panic sets in.
Perhaps you feel that your career is at a standstill, or that you may want to enhance your physical appearance. Middle-aged men could even be found pining for one of those motorbikes that they don’t know how to operate, but its glossy presence in the garage somehow makes them feel adequate. Or perhaps you’re simply questioning your purpose in life for the years to come.
Sounds about right. Now imagine someone in his or her early twenties — an educated graduate from an accredited college or university, ready to take on the world and expected to know what they want in order to do so. Never mind the pressure from outsiders, or society as a whole, to settle into a profession quickly and succeed.
Welcome to the quarter-life crisis, guys. Unfortunately, no plastic surgery or new rides can combat this existential dilemma.
According to a ‘Fear of Aging Report,’ young adults are no strangers to the realm of stress and anxiety. “Pressure to succeed has intensified as more young people invest in education and enter the world of work; once on this path, they can enter a period of not only pressure to achieve themselves, but also a period of constant comparison with their peers, which only serves to intensify the stress.”
While that forecast doesn’t appear too bright, perhaps you could pursue what you actually want in life, rather than succumbing to the pressures of trying to blend into those office jobs that make you cringe. I’m not suggesting that ‘climbing the corporate ladder’ is useless if you know you can eventually be happy at the top, but the key is happiness — isn’t it?
After taking a course in positive psychology, I gained a new-found appreciation for following a sense of purpose and living a life of fulfillment.
Clinical psychologist Todd Kashdan discusses meaning and purpose in his book Curious. A purpose guides our narrative and adds the meaning to life that so many of us seek. On a bit of a spiritual level (not to sound too preachy here), purpose gives you the answers as to why you’re here; in a cosmic way, it conveys why you were brought into this world, it brings forth your joie de vivre.
“Purpose is a manifestation of our core values and interests,” Kashdan says. “Having a purpose is just a starting point. Only by committing effort do we give ourselves a self-sustaining source of pleasure and meaning.”
Purpose often is brought to light with an understanding of who we are, while recognizing how our strengths can help better society. With this process comes a sense of reward, a feeling we all strive to ignite within ourselves. Perhaps this is the counter to the infamous quarter-life crisis?
Kashdan notes that curiosity and introspection foster self-awareness. “No matter what path you end up on — and it could be an odd combination of learning from others, being reactive, and being proactive — always questioning, investigating, and wondering will serve you well.”