The secret to overcoming your quarter-life crisis

Smiley Poswolsky blog article Overcome your quarter-life crisis

A few years ago, I was stuck in a very brutal quarter-life crisis.

I didn’t like my job, I didn’t like the city was living in, and I felt hopeless and depressed. I was spending a lot of time on Facebook, overdosing on FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), worrying about what all my friends were doing. I’d see one buddy going off to business school, and I thought to myself, “hmm, maybe I should get my MBA.” Another friend was going to be a teacher, and I thought, “hmm, maybe I should become a teacher.” Another friend was starting his own food truck, and I was like, “maybe I should open a food truck?” (even though I’m awful driver and don’t know how to cook).

I began to get jealous of one of my friends from college, who had already graduated from one of the top law schools in the country and gotten a job at one of the top corporate firms in New York, making $150,000 a year. There was a photo of him, traveling in Peru with his girlfriend, getting engaged at sunset in front of Machu Picchu. I was like, “This guy… I can’t even get a date on OkCupid, and he’s already getting married! He’s making six figures, got it all figured out, and I hate my job, my life is worthless!”

It was only when I got off Facebook and started to meet other young people going through the exact same thing I was, that I was able to get unstuck, turn my quarter-life crisis into a breakthrough, and find meaningful work.

If you’re currently experiencing a quarter-life crisis, I recommend taking a little time off social media. Don’t check your Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter accounts for the weekend—maybe even for a whole week. During that time, spend some time writing or doing a creative activity you enjoy. Why? Well, when I started writing a book about purpose-driven millennials who were pursuing meaningful work, I went back and interviewed my friend the corporate lawyer who had it all. I said to him, “Dude, you’re killing it, what’s your secret?”

You know what he told me? That after three years of law school, hundreds of thousands of dollars of student debt, and his competitive salary—that he was miserable in his job as a corporate lawyer, and that he was going to go back to grad school (at the age of 30!) to become a high school social studies teacher.

The lesson? The grass is always greener. We think everyone else has it figured out, but in reality, all of us are searching. Instead of comparing yourself to others, spend time figuring out what it is you want. Here are are few questions I recommend college students and young professionals take time to reflect on:

  • Why are you here?
  • What makes you come alive?
  • What are your unique gifts?
  • How can you change the lives of others?
  • How can you align your unique gifts with something your community or the world desperately needs?
  • How can you build a career that matters?

Want to learn more tips for how to overcome your quarter-life crisis and find meaningful work? Be sure to watch my recent TED talk, Refusing to Settle: The Quarter-Life Crisis.

Credit // Author: Smiley Poswolsky (all rights reserved by the author)

Smiley Poswolsky is the bestselling author of The Quarter-Life Breakthrough, a guide for millennials to find meaningful work. Learn more about Smiley and his keynotes at You can also follow him on Twitter at @whatsupsmiley.