Read the question. Close your eyes and let the images come naturally. DON'T OVER THINK IT!
1. Imagine you are walking in a beautiful forest with someone. Who are you walking with?
2. As you stroll you come across an animal. What kind of animal is it?
3. What interaction takes place between you and the animal?
4. You walk deeper in the woods. You enter a clearing and before you is your Dream House. Describe its size.
5. Is your dream house surrounded by a fence?
6. You enter the house. You walk to the dining area and see the dining table. Describe what you see on AND around the table. Don't over-think it.
7. You exit the house through the back door. Lying in the grass is a cup. What material is the cup made of?
8. What do you do with the cup?
9. You walk to the edge of the property, where you find yourself standing at the edge of a body of water. What type of body of water is is it?
10. How will you cross the water?
Your answers reveal your greatest concerns and life values.
1. The person who you are walking with is the most important person in your life.
2. The size of the animal is representative of your perception of the size of your problems.
3. The severity of the interaction you have with the animal is representative of how you deal with your problems. (passive/aggressive)
4. The size of your dream house is representative of the size of your ambition to resolve your problems.
5. No fence is indicative of an open personality. People are welcome at all times. The presence of a fence indicates a closed personality. You'd prefer people not to drop by unannounced.
6. If your answer did not include food, people, or flowers, then you are generally unhappy.
7. The durability of the material with which the cup is made of is representative of the perceived durability of your relationship with the person named in number 1. For example, styrafoam, plastic, and paper are all disposable, styrofoam, paper and glass are not durable, and metal and plastic are durable.
8. Your disposition of the cup is representative of your attitude towards the person in number 1.
9. The size of the body of water is representative of the size of your desire for love.
10. How wet you get in crossing the water is indicative of the relative importance of your love life.
I'm here to tell you your feelings are justified. You're not weak, or crazy or unable to get your shit together. You're just a normal quarter-lifer and you need to take some time to figure our what you want to do and how you're going to do it. It may take years, so be patient with yourself. Just know that the right path is out there, and that you will find it as long as you keep looking.
Without a fundamental understanding of who you are and what you really want you're going to stagnate. And if there's a single thing the Quarter-life Crisis is all about is stagnation. After I graduated from University I quickly sank into the murkiest disenchantment. I stagnated for two years, and the questions I kept asking myself throughout were: Who am I and what the hell do I want anyway? I didn't know how to get myself out of the crisis. So what finally worked for me? Reconnecting with myself. Here's how I did it (and note, this is coming straight from a top life coaching firm located in Manhattan):
Open up a word editor and list these areas of your life:
1. Happiness with school/career
2. Your appearance
3. Sense of belonging (friends/community)
4. Your relationship to yourself
5. Your bad habits (smoking, biting your nails, over-eating)
8. Things you hate about yourself
11. Sense of control over your life
12. Things you've always wanted to learn
13. Things you've always wanted to do
Ok, I know it seems like a long list that promises more than a bit of writing, but trust me, doing this was the first step to my full recovery. This is how I beat my quarter-life crisis.
A) After you make your list of 15 things that affect your daily life, rate them from 1-10 (10 being the highest and indicative of absolute perfection, 1 being absolute hell, while 5 is stagnant and the source of some pain, but with hope of change).
B) For any one that you didn't rate a 9 or 10, write out what a 9 or 10 would look like. Be descriptive and creative. Really try to go into your imagination and visualize what your heart wants.
C) Explain why you're not at a 9 or 10 right now? What do you think is going on in your life that is preventing you from having that perfect number?
D) Explain why it's not surprising that you would end up at this lower number in that particular area of your life. What happened to you in your life and family/friendship history that put you on the path to where you are now?
E) Why can't you have what you want in this area? What is getting in the way of your achieving satisfaction?
I will post PART 2 later so the analysis of your answers doesn't bias your responses to the questions above. I highly recommend you put some love into this because the results were magical for me. For a personal consultation/analysis of your answers email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. Note, this is completely free, motivated only by our desire to help you through this. Good luck on your journey!
Many of us are living our lives around a script and, as scary as it may sound, the person you think you are isn't necessarily authentic. There is so much that is scripted and manufactured all around us. Take our autopilot response to the question, "Hi, how are you?" I'm sure some of you have experienced the startled and confused look some people get on their face when you don't answer "fine and you?" according to your social script. We've been programmed to follow this script from the moment we were born, so it's no wonder that some of us are using our scripts to hide behind.
In order to tear the script away, the first step is to evaluate where you are in life at the present. Not just superficially, but deeply and honestly. Be truthful and kind with yourself and take stock of your achievements, your failures and how much or how little you find yourself moving to your dream goals every day. Learn to see your life clearly and not through the filter of those scripts.
I struggled as a photographer for years. Not because photography wasn't a great source of money (although there was that too), but because according to my script choosing to be an artist was a foolish thing to do. I wanted to be respected, I wanted my parents to be proud and I wanted to be financially secure and my script insisted that this wasn't going to be possible as a photographer. I spent two years studying for and then applying to law school because according to my script that was a respectable career move. In the end I found that my script couldn't stand up to my authentic self and I understood that there's nothing better than pursuing a career you feel completely passionate about.
Ask yourself, if you continue going the way you're going right now will you achieve your dream? Are you living authentically, or are you guided by the scripts you have inherited? One very good way of answering these questions for yourself is to see whether you can figure out what your authentic self is. It speaks to you in moments of optimism and excitement. You need to tune into that voice inside your head and really listen to it. This is important because your script will come in the form of a direct response to that voice. You may think to yourself, "I want to be a writer. I'm so happy when I write," and your script will respond, "Oh, but I'm not talented enough. If I try I'll probably fail, so it's not worth it." The script is like a parasite living off of your authentic self, changing it in the process.
KATE: Have you ever wondered what the world would look like if we could opt out of the system?
BRAD: Are you drunk?
KATE: Yes, but that has nothing to do wit this. I'm talking about being stuck with no real way of escape.
BRAD: Sounds like drunken rambling to me...
KATE: You're not listening to me. What if I don't want to finish college? What if I don't want to have a neat little office job where I'm forced to fake smiles everyday and pretend like I'm enjoying my work?
BRAD: You want to be a bum?
KATE: See, you're blinded. You're so brain-washed by this whole system that you can't see past it. In your world you're either a somebody, or a bum. I'm talking about being free.
BRAD: You are free! No one is twisting your arm to stay in school or work in an office!
KATE: Are you sure about that? Some of the things that pressure us most are invisible. Sure, there's no one physically forcing me, but there's a whole society, a whole culture and system designed to make me believe that if I don't go through the motions I'm going to be a nobody.
BRAD: No, not a nobody. It's just unlikely that you'll be successful in life.
KATE: What does that mean? To be successful? Do I even want that? I don't know, but I'm sure as hell that everyone wants me to want that. I couldn't be more aware of what everyone wants me to want. To get married, to have kids, to get my Master's...I don't want any of these things. So where does that leave me?
BRAD: Leaves you drunk and rambling.
KATE: You're not listening.
Photo: Rodney Smith
Believe it or not, you can control what goes on in your mind. Those of you who find yourselves in any of the situations I outlined at the start of this article - all you over-eaters, and chain-smokers, I hear you. You're saying, "But if I can control it why do I feel so out of control?" Let me suggest that one of the reasons you may feel that we lack control over ourselves and our lives is because we tell ourselves so.
Toxic thoughts are like evil fairies, the more we believe in them the more real they get. Consider your internal dialogue and the possibility that what you are telling yourself on a daily basis is feeding your bad habits. No one said life was supposed to be easy, and yet many of us act as if this misconception were true. In fact, doing the right thing is often harder than doing the wrong thing. It is easier to let go than to discipline yourself; to smoke rather than to quit; to claim to be a victim rather than take action; to be a nobody rather than chase your dreams. All these things require hard work and self-discipline, something that will undeniably put you in an uncomfortable situation. And lets face it, above all human beings like to be comfortable - even if it means indulging in the bad habits that ruin our lives. This is where our toxic thoughts come in so handy. They actually work to justify our bad habits. When I tell myself that I'm not in control, I'm essentially giving myself permission to do whatever I want: Over-eat, cheat, steal. I'm not in control, there's something wrong with me and so I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing because I can't help it; change is impossible for someone like me. Well I'm here to tell you that this is bullshit and that you can change your habits just by becoming aware of that internal dialogue. Whether you are in a position to admit this to yourself or not, you are the absolute author of your life and you can choose the narrative. Where you go from here is up to you.
I have compiled a list of common toxic thoughts that you may find helpful. I hope some of these resonate in your heart:
"Life isn't supposed to be this difficult."
"I'm always the victim."
"Why does this always happen to me?"
You get fired, your partner dumps you, you get insulted by the cashier at the grocery store and all you can think of is how the world is conspiring against you. Never mind what you did to deserve getting fired, and never mind all the things you could have done but failed to do to save your relationship. And above all, never mind what the cashier herself might have gone through that day that made her so upset (hey, take it from me, it's not easy to be a cashier!). No, you are innocent and the world is against you. With this attitude you are actively taking the power away from yourself and putting it in the hands of others.
You interpret any negative occurrence as happening "to" you, automatically writing off the possibility that you had any control in the situation. Rather than seeing a difficult situation as a natural part of life and rising to the challenge, you fall into despair believing that there is something very wrong with you and with your life. Your life is "broken" as it were, and only God himself could possibly fix it. With this way of thinking you won't even bother to try and you will likely remain stuck in a rut for most of your life until you get lucky. And let me just mention that there is a very real possibility that with this attitude you will never "get lucky."
"Nothing is going according to plan."
"I'm out of control."
Sometimes things just happen to us. Random occurrences are a part of life and the best we can do is plan for the unexpected. And yet many of us waste years of our lives worrying about things we simply cannot control. If you can't change a person, accept that reality. When the unexpected happens, such as a loved one suddenly losing a job when the economy is in a slump, learn to identify what you can't control (i.e. the economy, lack of employment opportunities) and then deal with what you can control (go back to school, start a small business). Planning is good, but understand that you have to expect a certain degree of flexibility in life because no matter how much you try to stick to the plan life will take you where ever it pleases.
"Why don't they like me?"
"I hope they like me."
"Do I look stupid?"
How do you respond to others when they disagree with you, or offer honest criticism of your work? If you take these things as indicators of failure then you may be riddled with toxic thoughts associated with the desire to be liked by others. We all like to be liked, but it is important to understand that not everyone will like us. It is inevitable that along the road we will encounter people that dislike us, and often for no good reason at all. To seek the love and approval of everyone we meet is to set ourselves up for disappointment. You need to know your self-worth and appreciate yourself on your own. Why ask a stranger to determine the value of your dollar if you can set the value yourself? Your neighbors may think you're worth a few good pennies, but that doesn't make you any less the millionaire (spiritually speaking). What do they know anyway?
"I can't be happy until I'm perfect."
"There's so much competition, I have to be the best in order to win."
"I need to lose weight."
This last one is the most poisonous of all. It holds you in a mental prison where you are not allowed to make any mistakes - a single mis-step and you confine yourself to the psychological equivalent of flagellation. Also, it means that it becomes immensely difficult for you to complete anything you start since any minor flaw in the design will either have you telling yourself that you're just not good enough to pull this off, or that the whole project isn't worth finishing. With these toxic thoughts running through your head you will never be kind to yourself. You will stand in front of your mirror and hate yourself as passionately as any enemy; picking yourself apart as if you were a poorly constructed work of art. You can't imagine being happy until you've lost those extra pounds. The simple truth is that perfection does not exist, and is for that reason unattainable. The sad consequence of thinking that anything less than perfect isn't good enough, is that you will whole-heartedly believe that you will never be good enough.