WELCOME TO 25
- a.k.a., your quarter life crisis!
With how connected our world is, we’re exposed to more ideas and all the world’s problems at an exponentially faster rate than generations past. We live in the age of overchoice. The more things we can say yes to means more things we have to say no to – and it’s crippling. In a hyperconnected world, we’re primed to have a greater need for instant gratification.
In our 20s, we’re plagued with questions like: How can we be sure that what we’re doing is what we really want to do? What if we don’t like what we’re doing? Then what do we really want to do? And we want answers to these things, immediately. I don’t have answers to all those questions. But here are three points that helped me cope with the process.
EMBRACE THE PROCESS
I feel like the growing process is best understood when we view ourselves as containers.
We all start out as empty tuna fish cans. With just the nasty oily bits stuck at the bottom. With time and each new passing experience, we fill that empty tuna fish can until we’re packed full and ready to be transferred into another container. Hopefully something classier, like a jar of jam. After that, maybe something hipper, like a fiddle leaf fig tree pot.
You get the idea.
We all start out as empty tuna fish cans. It’s going to take a while until we get to where we want to be. We all start at Point A, and are in such a hurry to get to Point Z. On our way to Point Z, it doesn’t always feel like we’re taking steps forward.
But I’m not a believer of moving two steps back. I’m a believer in detours that always take you another step closer to where you want to go and who you want to be.
Throughout the process, we’re going to feel growing pains. Every time we’re transferred into another container, we feel the void. If you move the contents of a tuna can into a jam jar, there’s going to be a lot of empty space. That’s the learning curve. As soon as we start to feel confident about a new skill we’ve learned, we learn about a new skill we have yet to learn. We realize we didn’t know as much as we thought we did.
It’s easy to look at that empty space and feel insufficient. But that’s because we’re looking at the glass half-empty. The glass is half-empty, for sure - but that’s a great thing! We get to choose what we want to fill that space with. How will you spend your time? How will you choose to fill that space? That leads me to my second point...
TRASH THE IDEA OF WORK LIFE BALANCE
Trade in the idea of “work-life balance” for “work-life fulfillment”.
Shout out to Tracey Brower for the best 3 minute read of my life. If you don’t have 3 minutes to read the best life advice ever, here’s what I garnered about “work-life balance” and the three lies that it plants into our heads:
Work and life are two separate entities. And you need to be keep them separate.
Work and life cannot and should not be separated. If you are sick, it can easily impact your mood. Vice versa, our mental health influences our physical health. You should view your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual condition holistically since they so easily influence the other. Likewise, you should view work and life holistically.
Viewing work and life holistically allows you to be your authentic self with friends and colleagues, alike. It is possible to be your authentic self while upholding a level of professionalism. As a matter of fact, studies show a significant link between authenticity and work-life enrichment. Applying your true self in both work and life opens lines of transparent communication, making relationships less transactional and enriching the overall work-life experience.
If you are giving more to one than the other, you are bound to burnout.
The word ‘balance’ gives the false implication that you should be giving evenly to work and life; otherwise, you are imbalanced - which has a negative connotation. It conditions you to always strive to be giving an equal amount to stay “zen” or else, you’ll be out-of-whack and in a state of chaos.
By nature, I’m curious. I’m not passionate about one thing, but many things. I don’t have one life goal, I have many. In turn, it drives me to pick up many different projects and hobbies outside of work. How do I maintain involvement in multiple projects without burning out?
Burnout is real. But we’re under the wrong impression that too much work or too many projects is what causes burn out. In reality, work that is uninteresting, tedious and laborious is what leads to burn out.
Too often, we try to disengage to avoid and/or cure burnout when really, we should become more engaged – especially with projects that peak our interests and are consistent with your values. You can be involved in many different projects, and be happier, so long as you are fully engaged in each project. So don’t hold yourself back from trying new things for the sake of maintaining “zen”! Go out there and invest more of yourself into activities that resonate with you and bring about positive impact to others.
It’s possible to have it all by giving 50% to work and 50% to life.
Our employers stress that we should maintain a “healthy” work-life balance, and that is how we will produce stellar work performance.
But, life is composed of so much more than just work and life. So if we’re giving 50% of our time to work, are we giving 10% to family, 10% to friends, 10% to health, 10% to our finances, and 10% to our hobbies? But how can we give 10% expecting 100% return? Likewise, how can we give 50% to our work, and satisfy our employer’s demand for outperformance and overdelivery, all the time?
Don’t settle for work-life balance. Strive for work-life fulfillment. Give your 100% to everything. Forget about balance.
Go the whole nine yards.
FIND A PAUL, BARTHOLOMEW AND TIMOTHY
My dad always told me to look for a Paul, Bartholomew and Timothy in my life. I thought to myself, “Who the heck names their kid Bartholomew anymore?” But the thought right after that was, “That is really great advice!” My dad was saying I should always seek out a mentor, a friend and a mentee wherever I was in life.
It’s important to associate yourself with exceptional company. Because you are the average of the people who surround you.
Can’t seem to find a quality mentor, friend and mentee in your life? Be better company to attract better company. Cultivate greater self-awareness in your 20s to become a better boss in your 30s. After all, there is no greater investment than in yourself.
Exceptional company keeps you motivated. But it also keeps you grounded throughout your confusing, frustrating and exasperating quarter life crisis. Remember - you are never alone.
I am now 25 and a few days old. That practically makes me an expert at being 25 (at least relative to my 24 year old self). Here’s to another day wiser.