A movement is brewing.
Call it what you wish: quarter-life crisis, Millennial entitlement (although some disagree), boomerang or Peter Pan syndrome, but it’s real. In increasing numbers, young adults ranging in their early twenties to mid-thirties are realizing their lives are not what they want and taking steps towards the search. Gone are the days of blindly following the step-by-step, conventional path of the school system, college, and stable career with a company.
With the freedom of choice and paradoxically abundant and sparse options, many are feeling more conflicted than ever.
In the Great Recession, many of us struggled to find a decent paying full-time job after college, picking up service industry, part-time or whatever work we could find to pay the rent. For those who found full-time jobs right after college, we steadily worked our 9 to 5 (if we were lucky) or more hours depending on industry, field and business climate. In either scenario, a mass sense of dissatisfaction remained constant; a sense there must be more to life than making a paycheck and buying bigger, better and more things.
The discontent brewed as Millennials watched hard-earned savings go to nothing and companies lay off masses, including Baby Boomer and Generation X workers, in the dot com crash and in recent years. The interconnectedness of social media and the Internet readily provide information of alternative options and lifestyles. We see amazing places we have yet to visit, read about other cultures, and debate within ourselves the many options available to us.
It’s natural human tendency to ponder the bigger picture when basic needs are fully met or surpassed. In the search for greater meaning and satisfaction in life, increasing numbers of us are quitting or taking off work for sabbaticals, quarter or year-long travels, entrepreneurial pursuits, freelance work, and self-discovery. It’s becoming more common, but the majority of people remain on the conventional track—for now at least.
These probing questions occur in its own time for each person—at pivotal stages in the journey. Whenever it happens for you is when it happens, a product of your individual character, life events, and surrounding circumstances.
There is no right or wrong time.
The search for meaning is just as pressing now for other generations, with the mid-life crisis and later-life crisis for Generation X and Baby Boomers. For Baby Boomers, this happens as they embrace the retired stage of their lives and the last of their Millennial children leave home. Or the stage of deeper exploration is prompted by a health scare or life-altering event for the person or among their friends and family. This movement, while most recently associated with Millennials, is not limited to any generational group.
It’s not the age; it’s the stage.
The quest for meaning for a person continues for a lifetime, as we are complex and ever-evolving beings. It’s a process of deep contemplation and exploration, and the most worthwhile endeavor you will undertake if you listen to your inner voice. The ones who don’t take action are the ones who speak of regret on their deathbeds. The natural evolution illustrates the following:
You have the power to redefine and create the life you want now.
In evaluating and taking action on what you want in life regardless of your age, you may decide your existing choices don’t fit anymore. You may decide to make some changes. You may decide to try something new and test it out. You may be judged by others as odd, risky, foolish, entitled or lost. You may feel the loss of status or respect from those who disagree with you. There will be moments of panic as you confront the uncertainty and newness in your choices.
On the flip side, you will feel a thrill and sense of alignment when you make those difficult choices that support your true desire. There will be an inner resonance that pulls you forward when everything else you rationally know tells you to run back from where you came. While you will undoubtedly encounter some amount of adversity along your journey, there is no better time than now to get started on living the life you want.