You finally reached your quarter-life, and the struggle is real.
There’s an incredible pressure from what stage of life the world thinks you should be in compared to the age you feel inside, making you feel like you jumped into the deep end of a pool, treading water and going nowhere.
We call this a quarter-life crisis.
Here’s the thing. Your quarter-life crisis doesn’t need to be just a stage to pass over.
It’s a transition to embrace, an opportunity to step into your purpose. It’s the perfect time to confront your fears, explore uncharted territory and discover how you are handcrafted and custom-made by a perfect Creator.
Here’s some of the tell-tale signs you’re having a quarter-life crisis.
- You’re starting to question your existence. Why did you put me on this earth, God? What is my freakin’ purpose in life? (of course, in a less morbid way than it sounds). You start avidly going to the self-help section in the bookstore and read books like Purpose-Driven Life.
- You can’t go on to Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat without seeing another one of your friends getting engaged, married or pregnant. At the same time, you’re still single and there are no potential prospects on the horizon. FOMO is real.
- You feel your life is full of U-turns and false starts. You can’t handle the overwhelming anxiety, unemployment or underemployment and all that student loans.
- Your temporary part-time stint at a local coffee shop has lasted over three years …
- You think you need therapy or counseling, maybe? You can’t pinpoint any problem. You are content with your job. Maybe you’re in good relationship, but something deep inside is nagging you.
- You have mixed feelings about your faith. You feel both repelled from and compelled to Church. You say you still have your faith. You just don’t have a ton of time to give to it right now, but that day will come again soon. You’re doing “fine.”
- You suddenly feel like your job is a prison cell. You don’t want to make a career out of your boring 9 to 5 job and the idea of quitting troubles you. You don’t just have a clear backup plan yet and you don’t want to take a leap of faith in ditching it because of the fear of comfort.
- You Instagram stalk your exes and their exes and their exes’ exes … and the list goes on.
- You Googled how to be happy, but no article can get you past the depression stage you are in. You feel lost.
- Wait, you actually have to do your taxes?! You start worrying about things you used to take for granted, like paying your utility bills or having health insurance. Ugh!
- You’re offended when you are asked for your ID, but even more offended when you are not.
- You’re reading this article because you Googled: “Quarter-Life Crisis”
- Every time you visit Forever 21, you feel out of place and too old for this. You wonder what teenagers will think of you.
- Every single day, you have an internal struggle between being 21-ish and turning into your parents.
- When you visit your grandma, the first thing out of her mouth is, “When are you going to make me a great-grandma?”
So, yeah: You’re having a quarter-life crisis. This happened to me, too.
What You Can Do About It
I grew up believing in the dangerous myth called the American Dream.
That is, if I put in the hard work, I could be anything I wanted to be. The world shouts, “Pursue your passions! Dream big! You can be the very best in what you do.” I deceived myself into thinking I could become the next Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg or Taylor Swift of the world.
Success was all about competing—and I wanted to win. It was about who had the most power, prestige, popularity and possessions.
I had virtually everything I thought I wanted in my mid-20s. A good salary that afforded an apartment with a jaw-dropping, panoramic view of downtown Portland. A Fortune 50 brand on my resume with incredible potential to climb the corporate ladder. A company that invested in my leadership development and further continuing education. A beautiful girlfriend who always had my back.
But I still found myself thoroughly wanting.
While my unquenchable desires grew to a crescendo each day, I found myself developing unnerving restlessness, despair and frustration.
I was basing my beliefs and values on the wrong things: money, titles, power, temporal and fleeting things that would evaporate when I die.
Instead of succumbing to what the world wanted of me, I was prompted to listen to what my Creator wanted in my life. I needed to go through a complete makeover. I needed to redefine how I viewed success based on what Scripture teaches.
Like a miner searches for gold, I spent several months diving into the Scriptures every day, looking for how God truly defined success. When I encountered the Parable of the Talents, I knew this was it.
The story radically reoriented my view of success.
The Parable of the Talents
In the Gospel of Matthew, the Parable of the Talents illustrates a powerful story about how Jesus defines success. The Parable of the Talents teaches that the Kingdom of Heaven will be like a man going on a long voyage. Before He leaves, He gives five talents (a large unit of money) to the first servant, two talents to the second and one talent to the third.
Here talents represent a very large sum of money, perhaps millions in today’s currency. Two of the servants earn 100 percent returns by trading with the funds, but the third servant hides the money in the ground and earns nothing. The rich man rewards the two who made money but severely punishes the servant who invested nothing.
As we consider this parable, we can interpret talents as resources that God has endowed us with, whether it be time, abilities or treasure.
God has a simple standard for measuring success. In His kingdom, success in life is about stewardship and maximizing what we’ve been given. God calls us to be faithful stewards.
As a Lean Practitioner at Boeing, I was able to employ stewardship. In fact, I considered my main job function to be one of a steward. My key concern was to evaluate how people were using their time, talent and resources, and to make necessary changes to maximize the efficiency of airplane production.
For instance, I examined the number of days it took us to produce a jet, and I would work with teams to see if that number could be cut in half. The question I was always asking was, “How can we make the same airplane in less time for less money?”
By working with shop floor team members, we generated productive ideas and solutions to best steward our time, skills and resources to create a better product. However, not all meetings with shop floor members were constructive, as some didn’t possess a vital stewardship mentality but simply viewed their work as a means to a paycheck and never wanted to improve.
I like the way the Bible describes stewardship as a profound understanding that we’re not the principal owners of our lives, but managers. Psalm 24:1 declares that “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
Therefore, the responsibility of a 20-something Christian is the God-given privilege to manage a part of God’s property. In this way, we are stretching ourselves to leverage our abilities, rather than letting them stagnate. Without this perspective, everything we engage in is for the glory of the self, not God. With a true perspective of stewardship, everything is for the glory of God.
When you hear the word stewardship, you might quickly grab your wallet either to open it or to hold it more firmly closed. We often equate stewardship as tithing or caring for the environment. But the essence of stewardship is greater than that.
Whole-life stewardship involves every choice we make in our lives. In the words of Ron Blue, the essence of stewardship is the “use of God-given resources for the accomplishment of God-given goals.” Stewardship means that we are not owners, but simply managers or administrators.
I believe that only through stewardship can someone achieve true success and live a life worth living. As the apostle Paul says, “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). Paul knew that he would account for the time, talent, and treasure he’d be given by God. The issue is faithfulness. While the word success is rarely used in the Scriptures, the word faithful is used throughout the Bible.
Here are several examples from the Bible:
■ “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21)
■ “A faithful person will be richly blessed.” (Proverbs 28:20)
■ “The Lamb will triumph over them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers.” (Revelations 17:14)
What God requires of you is not success but faithfulness in your calling.
Ask yourself, “What has God called me to do?” In what areas in my life can I faithfully steward my time, talent and treasure so I can become the best version of myself ? You aren’t called to change the world, but you are called to follow Jesus in every situation. This requires intentionality, clarity and focus. Will you choose to steward or squander your life?
When we define our success according to the quality of our stewardship, this frees us to be ourselves.
For a steward, success in life is knowing what God has called you to and being completely faithful to it. When you say yes to Christ, you are comfortable saying no to others.
We don’t need to strive to be something we’re not. I have learned that life doesn’t need to be a competition. It’s about becoming the best versions of ourselves. Stewarding our calling inevitably requires us to muster up the courage to say no to the expectations of the world but yes to our Caller. This knowledge has helped me achieve peace and a much greater understanding of my purpose.
Bill Peel, executive director of the Center for Work and Faith, wrote, “Although God gives us ‘all things richly to enjoy,’ nothing is ours. Nothing really belongs to us. God owns everything; we’re responsible for how we treat it and what we do with it. While we complain about our rights here on earth, the Bible constantly asks, ‘What about your responsibilities?’ Owners have rights; stewards have responsibilities.”
When I was a college freshman, I borrowed my friend’s luxury car for a few days. When I drove him back to his house, I wanted to impress him with my Fast and Furious–like driving skills.
I hit the accelerator hard when a stoplight turned green and left a pretty good amount of rubber on the pavement. My friend, who was utterly shocked by my actions, said, “I made a big mistake lending you my car. Get out of the seat, because I’m driving from now on.” It dawned on me that I should have been a good steward of my friend’s property. Instead of abusing my friend’s car, I should have taken great care of what he had entrusted me with. That was the last time my friend ever lent me his car.
Likewise, Colossians 3:23 points out that we have a responsibility to exercise stewardship over the God-given resources in our lives. Just like the car I borrowed from my friend, the resources do not belong to us.
We were given the privilege and authority to be God’s stewards of his calling in our lives.
The truth is that no other period in our lives will be more impacted by the choices we make than our 20s. In our 20s we may choose what grad school to attend, what job to take, where to live, what person to marry and what activities to volunteer for. And stewardship ultimately drives our entire decision-making process.
Excerpted from Quarter-Life Calling by Paul Sohn. Used with permission from Faithwords, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
is a leadership coach, best-selling author and speaker. Formerly employed by both a Fortune 50 company and a Top 100 Great Place to Work Company, Paul is the founder of QARA. Paul is a best-selling author of Quarter-Life Calling: Finding Your God-Given Purpose in Your Twenties. Paul was named one of the Top 33 under 33 Christian Millennials to Follow by Christianity Today. Some of Paul’s favorite things include authentic Korean food, tennis, and travelling. Paul currently resides in San Diego.