We have all seen it: Your dad is turning 50 and is freaking out.

So he runs to the nearest car dealership and trades in his durable and dependable family SUV for a slick red sports car thinking it will solve all of his problems.

As funny (and cliché) as this may sound, a mid-life crisis can happen to anyone. It can even hit those with the most fulfilling jobs and lives.

So before you laugh and thank your lucky stars that it’s “them” and not “you”, you should know about a similar phenomenon that may (already) be affecting you in multiple ways, even if you’re still in your 20s and a crisis is the last thing on your mind right now.

This type of phenomenon is commonly known as the Quarter-Life Crisis.

What is a Quarter Life Crisis (QLC)?

Only a couple of years into my career, I experienced a mini ”freak-out” where I convinced myself I needed to quit my job and travel the world.

While I didn’t know it at the time, I realize now that I was having a quarter life crisis.

A quarter life crisis, as The Muse puts it, is “a period of intense soul-searching and stress occurring in your mid 20s to early 30s.”

That’s exactly what happened to me.

I thought my early 20s were supposed to be fun, exciting, and carefree. Instead, I was stressed about what I was doing for work, I wasn’t happy with where my life was at, and I had no idea what to do about it.

Apparently, I’m not alone.

Quarter life crises are happening more frequently. It’s no surprise either — the Millennial generation is considered one of the most stressed out generations and our increased access to technology is actually rewiring our brains.

Contrary to popular belief, however, this may actually be a good thing.

You see, looking back, I’m extremely grateful I had this “freak out”. Because of it, I’ve completely turned around my career, my relationships, and even my health.

That’s why, despite what most people may think, it’s not the people who are having quarter life crises that are in trouble — it’s those who are not.

The Dangers of Not Having a QLC

Let’s face it, most people who have solid jobs are just ”okay.” They fit snuggly between “miserable” and “incredible”, but never really experience either of those two ends.

They make good money, but not great money.

They have a good work-life balance, but not a great work-life balance.

As famously quoted in the book Good to Great by Jim Collins:

Mediocrity, not despair, is what plagues our society.

It’s the status quo that’s holding people back.

So while most young professionals in their 20s and 30s are doing everything they can to hold it together, what is actually holding them back from maximizing their true potential is staying in the status quo.

And having a quarter life crisis is just what most of us need to reach that next level.

Why a QLC is so Effective

The reason why a quarter life crisis is so effective at enacting change is that it hits on our biggest motivator: pain.

Typically, a QLC happens because you feel you’re not achieving your full potential or perhaps you feel that you’re falling behind. These feelings cause you so much pain, that not doing something about it would be worse than changing.

As humans we have two main motivators:

  1. We seek things that bring us pleasure
  2. Avoid things that cause us pain

While both can be helpful, avoiding pain far outweighs seeking pleasure, as seen in the Pain and Pleasure Principle by IQ Matrix.

Like a lever, we can strategically use both pain and pleasure as tools to help motivate and pull ourselves in the right direction.

The reason why a quarter life crisis works so well is because it brings out pain and discomfort. You get so frustrated and pissed off that you have to do something about it.

So rather than let life just take you where you let it, my suggestion is to allow yourself to have a quarter life crisis.

True Self Discovery

By allowing yourself to hit rock bottom, you open up to reevaluating your situation. This also brings up an important question you should ask yourself: “Is what I am working towards even what I want?”

And while I’m not suggesting that you end up on the streets begging for money to reevaluate your life, what I am suggesting is that you become purposefully proactive with your self-discovery.

Take the time to think about your life’s biggest questions, invest in your own development, and seek insight from those who have come before you.

By applying this and embracing the experience of a QLC, rather than running to buy a matching sports car like Dad, you’ll be ready to start crushing it.

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Originally published at medium.com