Featured Fridays / Real Talk, No Kevin Hart

I’m having a WHAT?…Quarter-Life Crisis

Today we are blessed to feature a post from E. Joy Coker.  Joy is Chi-Town native working on the front line in her community for her community.  As a writer, future author, and speaker, she has a passion for encouraging, motivating, and transforming the lives of young girls and women.  She is a strong woman, beautiful wife, caring mother, and a graduate of Morgan Park High Schools 7th and 8th Grade program for Gifted Students (Joy also has a Masters in Social Work from Univ. of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign). Let’s welcome her BACK to The Block for Featured Friday!


Allow me to introduce you to Dr. Ava Benson, Psy.D.  Dr. Benson is a 30-year-old clinical psychologist who obtained her doctorate degree from a reputable graduate program in the Chicagoland area.  She is the Clinical Director of a well-known psychiatric hospital, adjunct professor at a major university, serves on a variety of organizational committees, and is active in her church.  Dr. Benson is career-driven and constantly pursuing the “next level”.  Having been the recipient of numerous awards, Dr. Benson is recognized as a young leader making a great impact in the community and lives of those she serves.  Despite the accolades, the degree, career, and even the money, Dr. Benson is not happy.  She’s tired of chasing the next level and desperately wants more.   The only problem is she doesn’t know what that is or how to get there.

Outwardly it appears that our fictitious protagonist is doing well.  She has accomplished quite a bit in a short life.  Many would say she’s sitting pretty nice, but from another vantage point things may not seem as attractive.  Here she is, thirty years old with a career that she has invested thousands of dollars, energy, and effort to obtain; but she is not happy. 

Although our achievements may not be as colorful as Dr. Benson, have you ever felt that way?  Have you ever thought to yourself:

  • I HATE my job!
  • How did I get here?
  • I haven’t accomplished anything meaningful in my life.
  • This is NOT what I planned or imagined I’d be doing right now.
  • I don’t know what I want to do with my life anymore.
  • Who am I?
  • Lord, what is it that you have for me?

If so, you may be experiencing a Quarter-Life Crisis (QLC).  You know how your parents say there is nothing new under the sun?  I really thought I made this concept up myself until I started having conversations with my friends after my promotion last year and did a little research.  I discovered that Abby Wilner coined the phrase in 1997 after moving home following her college graduation and not knowing what she wanted to do with her life.  A QLC is defined as a period of anxiety, uncertainty, insecurity, disappointment and other inner conflicts of individuals in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties.  If you have ever experienced this, please know that you are not alone.  Luckily, the average length of this crisis is two years and occurs over four phases.  British researcher, Dr. Oliver Robinson of the University of Greenwich in London describes them as the following:

  • Phase 1, defined by feeling “locked in” to a job or relationship, or both.
  • Phase 2 is marked by a growing sense that change is possible.
  • Phase 3 is a period of rebuilding a new life.
  • Phase 4 is the cementing of fresh commitments that reflect the individual’s new interests, aspirations and values.

I find it funny that Dr. Robinson can educate on the phases, but didn’t provide any insight whatsoever to make it to the finish line.  I’m not quite Dr. Benson or Dr. Robinson, but here is Evelyn Joy Coker’s plan.


  1. CLEAR THE MENTAL CLUTTER:  So many of us have been convinced that we are in the ranks of the brightest, have to be leaders, and must pursue higher education to be “somebody” in this world.  Whether we call it encouragement or pressure, all of us have external influences that motivate us towards certain goals.  It is time to stop.  Forget about what mom said, pastor said, prophet so and so said…there is a time to analyze feedback, but not now.  Here, we clear our mind and open our spirit.   In this quiet and still place, we are ready to receive revelation from God.  He is always trying to communicate with us, but we are often too busy/stubborn/tired/unaware/(fill in your own blank) to listen.   In this place, we pray and execute patience.
  2. IDENTIFY AND EXPLORE GIFTS:  After relieving yourself of the burden of living up to everyone else’s expectations or the goals you have set based off of the desires of others for your life, then you are ready to identify and explore your gifts.  These are the tools that God has given us to fulfill His purpose for our lives.  One thing I love to ask people is “If you could do anything in the world for free and didn’t have to worry about finances, what would that be?”  This could be the beginning of identifying and the exploration of your gifts.  These gifts may come naturally or may need to be developed, but should bring you joy and a sense of purpose.  In this space, we can analyze feedback from others, but I must emphasize that these gifts should be pleasurable and in alignment with God’s will, not your own.
  3. INVESTIGATE OPPORTUNITIES:  This is where we determine what outlets will allow us to facilitate our gifts.  Here, it can be very easy to regress and get caught up in external influences.  Everything doesn’t require a degree or certification.  God has used countless individuals without worldly credentials.  I am not discouraging anyone from pursuing higher education.  I do want to discourage people from getting degrees just because it seems like they should or it will look nice.  In those cases, it is a waste of money.  If your gift is serving, then find a venue that will make it possible to serve.  If you love to teach, look into places other than a school-setting to use your gift.  If you feel there isn’t a platform to meet your needs, build your own!  God knows the desires of our heart and will always make room for our gifts.
  4. DESIGN A PLAN:  Action steps are always a great way to work towards any goal.  Determine what tangible activities need to occur to fulfill your personal mission.  If you need to further develop a gift, map out how you will do that.  If you need to go to school, find out the qualifications and prerequisites in order to apply.  If you need to identify a target audience, market yourself, or anything that will make you one step closer to where you want to be, include it in your plan.  Create milestones and target dates.  This will not only serve as an accountability tool, but a visual guide of just how close you are to reaching your goal. 
  5. TAKE ACTION:  At this point, there is “nothing to it but to do it”!  You have done most of the challenging work.  The hardest part is making the decision to take action towards a change in your life.  After you have removed the clutter, explored your gifts, investigated opportunities, designed a plan, and eliminated excuses, it’s time to walk in faith and take action. 

If we were to fast forward two years and catch up with Dr. Benson, I would hope she would be in Phase 4 of her QLC.   She took a step back from her career and did some serious soul-searching.  I imagine that she has identified her gifts of encouraging others and helping them increase their level of functioning.  She has investigated her opportunities and discovered she can achieve this through writing books and motivational speaking.  She created a plan and made the decision to take action.  I see Dr. Benson happy and singing Goapele’s “Closer”.  With God, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.  I can see it.  Hope you can too.



Are you experiencing or have you experienced a Quarter Life Crisis?  If so what are you doing about it?  How did you work it out?


16 thoughts on “I’m having a WHAT?…Quarter-Life Crisis

  1. I think I hit my QLC a few years ago when I realized that I had a BBA from a decent school yet I was working stupid hours in the car business and not gaining any experience in my desired field. My plan was a career change, which is easier said than done, trust me. But I’m still working on it…it’s easy to find a job, but finding a career is harder than a priest in a preschool. If I had to guess, I’d say I’m in stage 4/5 at the moment.

    • Is your academic background relevant to your career change? What steps have you taken in this new direction?

      • Yeah, I’m a graphic designer with a degree in Marketing, so they’re slightly related. Apparently it’s just harder for the creative talent

        I’ve been doing freelance either full-time or part-time to keep with the design game, so I’ve been interviewing and a “top candidate” but not *the* candidate yet…it’s coming though.

  2. Going through one right now. After my divorce, I realised that I had given up a lot of my identity within my marriage. I’m slowly trying to find myself again under all the clutter. It’s a definite work in progress. Great stuff by the way!

    • Women were created to be nurturing and loving beings. It is easy to give so much of ourselves to our husbands and children, leaving us sometimes feeling neglected and depleted. We have to remember to nurture ourselves as women in order to be the wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, etc. that we want to be. Only at our strongest can we be our best selves.

      I’m sorry to hear about your divorce, but I hope that you can embrace redefining your identity. Even in this experience, you have gained wisdom and strength that you were meant to have.

  3. QLC, of course I’m there! Do I really want to do the things I set out to do when I first entered college (12 years ago)? I think I’m coming to the conclusion that I don’t. In the meantime, I’m probably at the end of step 1 and dabbling around in step 2. What I do know is that I’m tired of the hamster wheel of eat, work, sleep, repeat and ready to walk in the greater purpose I know my life holds. Good job EJC!

  4. “If you could do anything in the world for free and didn’t have to worry about finances, what would that be?” I like this approach to investigating your gifts. While I think I’ve definitely dealt with step 1 (and it certainly wasn’t easy), I’ll have to spend some time thinking about this question further. Thanks for these insights!

  5. Yeah…I’m pretty sure I’m right smack dab in the middle of a QLC. I think I’m still in the middle of Stage 1…trying to figure everything out. I’m sure it’ll happen, I just hope it’s all better and over before 30. 🙂

  6. This is an interesting checklist on the QLC. I’m writing on the same topic, how to quell the QLC using lessons from psychology and economics. My work is at quellingtheqlc.com

  7. Thanks for a very informative post. I think I’m benefiting from my QLC because I’ve left the job that was the safe bet and faced my fear of living the life I dream about. We can only remain in a crisis for so long before we react or respond. As this post helps us understand, we have to take some strategic steps to come out of the crisis intact. Ignoring or suppressing the issues could end in tragedy.

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