Last year I had a quarter-life crisis.

I looked into the face of an unhappy, sixty-something cashier at the store and I saw my own face staring back. I was only 27.

It was one of those moments of sheer clarity—I guess you could call it a satori—and I knew beyond doubt that if I continued the road I had been on for the last year, then despite my accomplishments in the writing and coaching world, I would be just another walking void, bagging your groceries, and faking a smile only for as long as it took to get back home and drown out my memories of what could have been with another six pack.

I had lost an entire year of my life. And if I didn’t make a drastic change in how I lived now, I’d lose the rest of it in the blink of an eye.

It starts with an excuse

My declension was rooted in a big fat excuse.

After finding success as a solopreneur in the coaching industry, I had bet tens of thousands of dollars on a new business venture in hopes of reaching the next level. I worked on the new project for a quarter of a year, and to the exclusion of my coaching business.

Then, a month before the business was to become profitable, my partner bailed. I had to face the reality that I had no money, no clients, and seemingly no way to get it back. That’s when insomnia set in.

I could deal with little to no sleep the first month; I’m healthy. But when the problem only grew worse, and I felt more and more like a zombie, I started in with the excuses.

Ahh, another sleepless night…there’s no way I can write this morning.
Ahh, I only got two hours…I’m going to sink back into my pillow instead of knocking out my morning routine.
Ahh, it’s 3:00 in the morning…I’m going to waste three hours on social media and pointless internet surfing when I know of a hundred other things I could be doing to make life better.

These excuses conditioned me to feel helpless instead of empowered. And that’s when the days seemed to blend into weeks, and weeks into months.—Life was slipping by. And according to my new mindset of excuse-making, there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.

Don’t talk to anybody about your problems

I had created a transformational coaching business predicated on the success I achieved through my own self coaching—journaling, meditating, planning, etc. That’s how I created independence after years of being the prodigal millennial son, so I took pride in my ability to get through even the toughest challenges “all-a by my self-a”, as my three-year-old niece says.

But that strength ended up crippling me when circumstances dictated that I seek help. Like now:

When I’d only gotten twenty hours of sleep in a month…
When I’d spontaneously sprouted ten gray hairs because of the stress…
And when I started going back on my most important promises to myself.

I got so wrapped up in my own problems and the helpless feeling that I lost objectivity and the ability to keep myself accountable—this after years of operating a successful coaching business.

I could have gotten help: hired a coach, talked to a therapist, or even opened up to one of my close friends. I really only needed to hear from someone else that I had to stop making so many freaking excuses and just get stuff done. But I was prideful and waited for an entire year to pass before my future became so frighteningly bleak in an instant that I had to get real with myself and make the necessary changes or I’d be another fifty-year-old bagger.

I don’t recommend doing that.

The longer I waited to get help, the more promises I went back on, the more my confidence and self respect disappeared, and the more of my life slipped away with nothing to show for it.

Stop healthy routines like meditation and reflecting

People meditate to create a sense of flow in their lives. The quiet moments alone are where we can construct a brighter future in our minds and generate the positive feelings we need to act on our dreams—to shift our direction. I attribute the success of my writing and coaching careers to this incredible habit.

But then I let it go.

In all the stress of scrambling to save my business, meditation turned into an afterthought. My worried and stressful thoughts were left to multiply unchecked; and instead of pausing for mini timeouts throughout my day, to appreciate the good I had, and to project the future I wanted, I unconsciously fed an increasing stream of anxious and angry thoughts that swept me into another fruitless tomorrow, and another fruitless tomorrow, and another fruitless tomorrow. Then I stopped seeking out the beautiful reflective experiences that brought me joy—like my evening sunset hiking ritual. And my lack of any real joy, I reverted to activities that brought me no happiness or fulfillment, like zoning out to yet another Netflix series.

I was unhappy. Those unhappy days blended into weeks, the weeks into months. And then I was 27: an entire year had passed with hardly anything to show for it because I reverted to an unconscious lifestyle of pleasure-seeking and distraction…

Because I had fallen out of my habits of meditating and journaling.

Turning it around

I ended up coming out of my yearlong desolation stronger than I had ever been. I rededicated myself to my routines and my writing, and my clients benefited from a coach who’d throw up a red alert anytime he so much as sniffed an excuse. I feel like I’ve gotten back five years with how much ass I’ve kicked in my twenty-eighth year, and with how much I’ve learned.

But what if I hadn’t seen that vision of my bleak future—what if I hadn’t seen myself in a random sixty-something cashier at Smith’s and gotten so freaked out that I instantly committed to some massive and permanent changes in how I lived my life?

I guess God had bigger plans for me.


If you don’t have any time to waste, let alone an entire year, please: get real about every single excuse you’re making.

Write down a list of each one, big and small; then dedicate yourself to eliminating them over the next month. Get someone to keep you accountable. Let someone in on your struggles and challenges—whether that’s a friend, mentor, therapist or coach. And do your absolute best to stick with the routines that give you an edge in life and business: meditating, journaling, exercising, etc.

These steps can be hard—especially being vulnerable and opening up to someone about your problems. But nothing is quite so hard as regretting the life you’ve wasted.

Originally published at


  • Daniel Dowling

    Performance Coach, Writer for Greatist,, Mindbodygreen, and FastCompany.

    Dan Dowling, here. I was the poster child for lost millennials - couldn’t keep a job…addicted to relationships…constantly checking social media and email. But when I got hungry enough for success as a writer, I gave up my distracted lifestyle and adopted one daily goal that changed my life forever: Do. Your. Best. Today, five years later, I’m a productivity coach who’s published on the world’s biggest sites (including Entrepreneur, Fast Company and Mindbodygreen), and I’m transforming lives through the best-effort, zero-distraction lifestyle that worked so well for me. Come and and learn how to always give your best at Millennial Success!