I wrote this piece 3 years ago
At the time I had quit my job in corporate finance and investment management 14 months earlier with no backup plan. I just wanted to pursue my dreams of living life on my terms. As fancy as it may sound, the reality was far from it – I had no job offers, no savings and teh roof over my head was only gonna last me 3 months. My life is a journey and just for the record, I neither have it all figured yet nor have achieved all the major milestones I thought I would have by now. But I do know for sure that I am well on the path of creating and designing the life I envision.
And if you are anything like me you had or currently experienced a mid-twenties crisis. A phase of your life where you feel overwhelmed, unsure of whether the path you are on is the right one for you; possibly feeling a little bit behind, or maybe ahead but anxious and asking yourself some of the scariest, ridiculous and thought-provoking questions about your life.
You may have been outta college for over 7 years, you may or may not be working your dream job, you may be struggling to start a new business or struggling with money; perhaps it doesn’t stop there, you may be going through a relationship crisis be you married or not and oh goodness not forgetting the ever ending external voices telling you what you are expected to have accomplished by now or how you should go about your life.
But somehow amidst all of it you still look good, have a smile on your face and say you are OK even if you are not whenever you are asked by friends, family or even former colleagues.
Whilst it can get overwhelming, the following tips may help you navigate this phase much better and turn the turbulence into blissful experiences
1. Know that you are not alone :
Woofff! Sigh! OMG, I felt this sense of relief when I realized I wasn’t alone on this. In late 2016 after I quit my corporate job and came back to Ghana, I was broke, I only had a 3-month rent buffer, no savings, no backup job or any support. But I knew something I was not going to take any full-time job or was in a hurry to accept gigs unless they met standard; beyond that, I knew I could do more by myself, with my skills, talent, experience and education.
Trust me you are not alone, I was there and sometimes I find myself drifting back sometime even recently as I strive to revamp my business to the next level – this article is like a personal public reminder, to you, me and millions of people at the twenty somethings’s that experience overwhelm, anxiety or panic.
Despite it all, I want to let you know that you have the power to change it around for the better. The crisis can be managed and it can be a source of a new motivation just like it was for me 3 years ago when I first wrote this piece but never published it.
2. Acknowledge what you are feeling for it is the 1st step to healing and growing
Do not deny the existence of what you are feeling. Whatever it is, acknowledge it, allow yourself to feel it. I heard from ET once that we have 2 sources of inspiration: one of which is from the pain of not being who and where we want to be; while the. And we can tap into that pain to gain strength and clarity to go after what we want and with the tenacity, we will manifest it sooner or later.
3. Remind yourself of your dream and why it is important to you
Really, what was your childhood dream? What was it that made you happy? What did you want to become? Who did you want to impact? What narrative did you want to change?
Think about it – what kind of life did you envision for yourself growing up? Who, what, where and in what did you find joy? What sets your heart on fire? Rekindle those memories, get back in tune with your core and what is important to you as you experience this crisis; trust me, it will give you clarity on what you need to start or stop doing to create the life you truly desire. It worked for me, it surely will do for you.
4. Have a candid analysing of every aspect of your current life
To survive & thrive beyond the anxiety you feel, you cannot lie to yourself or convince yourself to believe that you are different than you are?
So I encourage you to do a personal self-audit. Think about your job, your business, your finances, your relationships, your health, your looks, your spirituality and your experiences. Are they in the state you love, hate, happy or unhappy with? How are your habits affecting these areas? What better habits can you develop? What skills do you need to upgrade or acquire?
Are you working a job you love or hate? Is your business delivering value and getting paid for what it worth? Do you have the skills needed to be innovative and relevant in your industry? Are you earning, saving, investing enough and are your spending habits supporting your financial goals? What habits do you need to let go of and which ones do you need to develop to get to where you want to get to?
If you do this audit and do it sincerely – you will see clearly where you are, how your current habits are elevating or drawing you back
5. Identify and commit to the areas that need improvement
Building up from the previous point, you need to get to work!
Doing a sincere self-audit enables you to see how much power you have to make a change and re-create your life in alignment with who you truly want to be. If done well, you will see clearly where you need to make a change – so what are you waiting for? Commit and honour your commitment to yourself: start small and build up better habits to get you to where you want to be.
6. Stay true to yourself and Be Intentional
Because everyone else is doing it and succeeding in it doesn’t mean you should jump on the wagon! Or simply because you can do it or have an interest in it doesn’t mean you should focus all your energy on it.
Know yourself better, pay attention to what you are good at and focus on those strengths and create your path. Do not be afraid to be the starter.
Now that you have acknowledged what you are feeling, you have to be proactive enough to analyze, note down why you are feeling that way and how you want things to improve and the practical step you need to take to make a change.
7. Define what Meaningful work and Success means to you
Ask yourself are you living your life the way you want to live in or have you been living it in conformity with the expectations of your family, parents or the society you find yourself in?
The work you do needs to be seen and believed to be important, impactful and meaningful. And only you can define what impactful and meaningful means to you. And it’s okay to know that that definition may change over time.
Secondly, you need to have a crystal clear definition of what Success means to you. Does it means freedom, does it mean being happily married, having a lot of children, does it mean having a lot of money or does success means living a holistic and impactful life that is of value and service to others?
There is no right or wrong definition; you need to define what that is for yourself. and once you do you will gain the clarity of purpose and will be in a good position to reflect and analyze every step of the way if you are on the path to your definition of success and doing meaningful work.
Since we spend over 1/3 of our lifetime working; it only makes sense that we do what we truly feel strongly aligned with, passionate about that gives us a sense of fulfilment. So even if you cannot immediately switch jobs, identify a project/ cause to volunteer your time to, so you can start to get a sense of fulfilment that comes with doing work that matters to you.
8. Be Intentional about who you let in or allow space in your life
More than ever before, the time of crisis requires you to guard your mental and physical space by choosing to whom you let in. So surround yourself with people, activities, words and reminders that uplift you and give you a sense of life. This is not the time to start drinking, partying or excessively going crazy to forget your problems; because doing so will only give you momentary pleasure.
9. Get a Cash Cow
For the love of everything holy! Get yourself a cash cow, my friend! I mean a financial tap that flows regular income to you. Lack of money could be the root of all evil. Including a mid-life crisis, It is never too late to start living purposely, however, you wouldn’t be able to do so if you do not have enough to get by daily!
If you have a small business that you are bootstrapping – maybe it’s time to introduce a new service, monetize your skills online, consult for existing firms or even find a side job that can provide a cushion to support you while you build your dream.
If you have a 9-5 that’s not paying enough; work on a side project, get high-income skills or find a side job that can support your exit. Whatever you do, please don’t sit & stay broke while going through a midlife crisis: Get a cash cow, that can help you double, quadruple your income so you can start to set aside some money to invest in your financial future, indulge in an experience that bring you joy or support causes that matter the most to you!
10. Focus on Daily Efforts, Reflect Regularly and find an Accountability Partner
No long talks, for every aspect of your life that you have committed to making a positive change, identify a simple task you can do daily, do them consistently and persistently over time and periodically reflect on your process & re-adjust where necessary.
Last but not the least, remember to be accountable first to yourself then to others: an accountability partner doesn’t have to be a physical human being: a journal, an online community, a google docs sheets can do and if you can find a fellow who is down for a mutual accountability session – schedule it & stay committed and constructively critical to each other.
The reality is that life crisis never totally goes away; it resurfaces at different stages of our lives; from unsolicited opinions and external evaluators of your life telling you how much behind you are to your mate in a certain aspect of your lives to hurdles that will appear to make you question your choices or capability to lead and thrive in your personal and work life.
The awareness of these influencing factors it is crucial and your willingness to grow by implementing some of these tips and focusing on what you can control can help you navigate every time you feel overwhelmed.
So my friend, which of the two categories would you rather fall into; those who will face their demons and embrace the madness that comes with this phase of uncertainty to grow through the chaos: or those who will deny the existence of the crisis, sweep it under the carpet and pretend everything is okay?