Why You’re Stuck in the Quarterlife Crisis Zone

For over a decade I’ve worked closely with twenty-somethings who are trying to figure it all out. Some are 100% sure of what they want to do next, but just aren’t certain how to forge a path to get there. Some have absolutely no clue what to do next and are trying to stay afloat post-college. Some have the plan and the connections, but feel paralyzed before making a career commitment. All are ambitious and driven. All have done everything “right” so far: they did well in high school to get into a great college, then did well in college in order to graduate. To casual friends and acquaintances, they come off as polished, focused, and straight arrows. To close friends and parents, they are lost and stuck.


Not a foreigner to this landscape myself, I found myself at age 25 in the quarterlife crisis zone. Two years after graduate school, I had a secure job, a great home, and bragging rights to my friends that I had figured it all out. In reality, I had been very good at school and simply walked through doors that had naturally opened in front of me. Invitation to graduate school? Sure, sign me up! Invitation to transfer to another graduate program? Great, I’ll do it! A job offer before even graduating from grad school? Yes, of course…why would I ever say no?!


By moving forward without giving myself the space and quiet reflective time to consider who I was, what I really wanted, and what the best roads were to get there, I found myself wanting to succumb to my quarterlife crisis and wipe the slate completely clean. And, I did (but that’s another story, for another time).


In subsequent years, I’ve spent a great deal of time understanding how twenty-somethings (technically called “Emerging Adults” in the developmental psychology world) get stuck in the quarterlife crisis zone. I’ll hold back on the larger topic of how to get unstuck, and instead offer a quick list of the top ten hurdles I’ve discovered standing between a twenty-something in the quarterlife crisis zone and a twenty-something (or thirty-something) living the life they want.  Note: this list is purely an introductory list to the hurdles.  Stay tuned to next posts to find out what each one means and, more importantly, how to get over each of them.


Chris O’Neal’s top ten list of Quarterlife Crisis Zone hurdles:

  1. Paradox of Choice
  2. The Flattery Trap
  3. Mile Wide but an Inch Deep
  4. Enoughness and Belonging
  5. FOMO and YOLO
  6. Adjustment Pains: From Structure to No Structure
  7. Helicopter Parenting
  8. Great Expectations
  9. Noise, Noise, Noise
  10. Right Ladder, Wrong Wall


For those of you wanting to get through your quarterlife crisis ASAP, start here and now with O’Neal Coaching & Consulting.