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How to Get Past a Quarter-Life Crisis
Being 25 shouldn't be this exhausting.
When I was 22, I told everyone that I wanted to do Jiu-Jitsu and write for the rest of my life.
Most people didn’t say anything, but those who did have comments said things along the lines of “oh nice, have fun being broke and broken for the rest of your life”.
In hindsight, I get it. I wouldn’t have advised my career path on anyone else either.
But that was 3 years ago.
Today, I’m a professional athlete, I write on the internet when I’m not training, and I somehow make about as much money (if not more) doing this as most of my friends who have “real jobs”.
Life is supposed to be perfect right now. I’m supposed to have “made it”, or at least be well on my way. I’m supposed to be a character in a success story about hard work and using the internet to build your “dream life”.
But in reality, that’s not how it is. In reality, I’m kind of dealing with a bit of a “quarter-life crisis” lately. I’m at a crossroads, and I’m not sure what’s next.
Luckily, I’ve been here before. I’ve dealt with existential angst and anxiety many times in my life. Being angsty is basically part of my personal brand at this point (I mean, I’ve written a lot of articles about Nietzsche over the years).
Here’s how you overcome an existential crisis, regardless of how old you are.
Step 1: Be nice to yourself.
One of the main sources of my anxiety since I turned 25 has been a bit strange for me to digest.
A lot of people get upset with themselves because they feel that they haven’t done enough, but I’m the opposite.
In Jiu-Jitsu—the center of my life right now—I’ve actually done a lot better than I thought I was going to do.
Here’s the reality of me as a Jiu-Jitsu athlete:
I’m not the most talented guy, I’m not on steroids (in a sport where steroids are rampant) and I’ve never trained in a famous gym with a room full of professionals. On paper, I lack a lot of the qualities, attributes, and environmental factors of a lot of the top guys in my sport, and yet somehow, I’ve proven that I can hang with some of the best in the world.
I became ranked in the top 15 in the world in my weight class, won a world title back at purple belt, and still continue to compete in some of the biggest events in the sport.
The source of unrest that I’m feeling hasn’t been that I’m not amounting to anything, it’s come from this dangerous question:
Are my best days beyond me?
It’s a scary thought for me and a touchy subject. I won’t mention this insecurity if you see me on the street.
I get scared that I won’t be able to live up to the things that I’ve already done because doing them in the first place was incredibly difficult, damaging, and exhausting.
I worked through this anxiety by not allowing my emotions to determine how I view my life. You cannot force an emotion on the past (or the future), you just need to learn from it, accept it, and move forward. Life doesn’t stop for your sentiments.
I was scared that I peaked, and that emotional response created a negative cycle of anxiety, compensation, and scarcity. This led to guilt and feeling upset with myself.
Ironically, I couldn’t work through this until I learned to be gentle with myself — to accept myself with my flaws and anxieties.
It’s a little corny, but some of the best advice usually is.
Before you can grow, you have to accept where you're at. You do this by being kind to yourself.
Step 2: Do something weird.
I recently when on a Jiu-Jitsu training trip to Austin, Texas, to train with one of the biggest gyms in the world for a weekend.
I left for the trip feeling burned out, anxious, and kind of tired of Jiu-Jitsu. I was sick of working like a dog all the time.
When I left the training trip, I felt incredibly challenged, validated, and motivated to keep training at the gym I was at. It felt awesome to be around people who are doing the same things that I’m doing.
I don’t know how much longer I have as a competitive martial artist (hopefully 5–7+ years of competing at a high level) but I do know that if I don’t put myself in more environments like the one I was in, I will regret it for the rest of my career. I don’t want to be a guy who spends his whole life and never takes shots.
My trip to Texas made me realize how complacent I’ve been, and I’m desperately aiming to change that over the next few months with lots of competitions, training trips, and other challenges.
I don’t want to be someone who spends his whole athletic life without ever finding out where his limit is. I don’t want to be so afraid to fail that I never even try to see what I’m made of.
See, the thing is, when you’re an athlete, you die twice.
Some people see this as tragic, but I don’t.
The multiple deaths you experience as an athlete give you not one, but two chances to make your life as beautiful as possible. This gives you two chances to live your life with as few regrets as possible.
My “quarter-life crisis” is happening not because I’m old, but because my career as an athlete is kind of old. My high-level athlete life is about middle-aged.
My personal quarter-life crisis is my athlete life’s mid-life crisis.
This realization led me to these 7 journal prompts, which are helpful for anyone experiencing a crossroads in their life.
Step 3: Ask yourself these 7 questions.
As I’ve been navigating my own personal little “quarter-life crisis” these last few weeks, I’ve been writing and journaling a lot.
One exercise that helped me a lot with dealing with my current predicament in life and moving forward was sitting down and answering the questions below in my journal. One of my biggest goals for 2023 is to be better about journaling regularly.
Journaling is exercising the mind, and I let my mind get a little out of shape toward the end of last year.
There are no rules with answering these questions — the act of journaling is for you, not anyone else. The only rule is that when you finish answering these questions, the answers that you have written to them should be clear. You should finish this journaling activity with a good understanding of the answers to the following 7 questions:
What is right with today?
What is wrong with today?
Who’s life do you want to steal parts of?
Why do you want what they have?
How will you get what you want?
How would you describe the quality of your information diet?
What are your expectations of yourself?
If you go through all of these questions and you figure out exactly what it is you want out of your life, you’ll likely find that there’s only one thing stopping you from pursuing what you want out of your life — anxiety.
It goes by another name too — resistance.
“The more important a call to action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel about answering it. But to yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be.” — Steven Pressfield
The stronger your anxiety, the more important it is that you deal with it.
Being conscious about the fact that your anxiety (resistance) holds you back puts you ahead of most people, but making conscious efforts to not let your anxiety/resistance hold you back will allow you to reach your full potential.
With a clear vision and an ability to navigate resistance, you will have all the tools necessary to deal with even the most terrible of existential pain.
I made a post on Twitter the other day about how I felt like I was dealing with a quarter-life crisis, and for the most part, everyone was really nice and supportive.
But of course, there were a few grouchy old folks who didn’t love the idea of a “quarter-life crisis”.
They say bullshit like “oh, to be 25 again,” or “just wait till your 50”.
Comments like these completely miss the point of what I or anyone else struggling with any sort of existential crisis are dealing with.
When you’re struggling with understanding where you are in the world, it’s natural to feel lost, out of place, and anxious. We attach names to these crises based on our ages, but the problems are deeper than that. You can’t solve a mid-life or quarter-life crisis with another birthday, some drugs, or a trip to Tahiti.
You solve them by working through them.
You can have a mid-life crisis at 25 and you can have one at 50. You can also have one at 65, 70, or 80.
Regardless of how old you are, the solution to overcoming your own existential angst is the same:
be gentle with yourself — compassion
experiment with your reality — action
ask yourself and answer important questions — peace
Whether you’re 15, 25, 50, or 70, this is the way to overcome an existential crisis.
Before you go:
If you’d like to read more about how I deal with anxiety, check out my ebook on dealing with performance anxiety here. This details the strategies I use to overcome performance anxiety in pretty much every aspect of my life. If you don’t have a kindle, send me an email and I’ll help you get a copy :)
I have an article from my premium section coming out tomorrow morning on some of the training lessons I learned in Austin. To gain access to my full premium library, click the “upgrade to paid” button at the bottom of this email.
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