Questioning Crisis
June 26 | Written by Rachel Kelly Davis
Though I am far from being an expert, I've noticed that everyone goes through several periods of reflection and introspection in their lives. These periods may or may not be defining moments in their own life's history; moments in which pivotal decisions might be made and result in their choosing a new path for themselves.

Since the 1970s these have been labeled as a "life crisis." While the term is generally accepted, it seems to me to be an exaggeration of what's really happening to people during these periods. By its most popular definition in the Oxford English dictionary, a crisis is "a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger."

Is it so dangerous or troublesome to ask yourself a few questions?

Perhaps during a time when one's society was yet to fulfill Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a person that questioned where they were, questioned their role, or wanted to veer away from the family industry could be seen as a person in crisis (but it was, perhaps more a crisis for those around them than for them). As Maslow's needs have slowly been met for more and more people and focus on the arts, philosophy, and a sense of life's purpose was the last need to be fulfilled, then the questioning became more commonplace–and so did the idea that people were in crisis.

Dive deeper into the dictionary and we find that another definition for crisis is "a time when a difficult or important decision must be made."

Unless you're diffusing a bomb, that doesn't seem as catastrophic as the first definition.

Quarter-Life vs Mid-Life
The two periods of "crisis" most often discussed in recent years are the quarter-life crisis and the midlife crisis. Of the two, a quarter-life crisis has an actual physiological basis and documentation. Doctors have researched and discovered that the prefrontal cortex–the decision making center of the brain–only fully forms at about 25 or 26 years of age. Questioning all the decisions you've made before and the decisions you're about to make for your future takes on a whole new perspective now that your brain is functioning in a way it never has before.

In that sense the quarter-life crisis is a "forgivable" crisis because the person doing the questioning is seen as young and still has time to discover what they want and what will give their life purpose.

Given that, it seems that the midlife crisis is the "real" crisis. Society expects older adults to already know what they want, to have discovered and have been working on their purpose, and to be content with their chosen life's mission.


Why is it that at midlife you are made to feel like you cannot question or pivot your current situation?

Psychologists have shown that midlife crisis is often brought by life-changing events, such as the death of a parent, the loss of one's job, or having children move out of the house. Isn't this quite similar to what happened at quarter-life? When you yourself move out of the house (or feel the need to), lose your parents (in one sense), and find that you need to do something that will sustain your existence?

And even if at mid-life the questioning arises from day-to-day overwhelm instead of loss or life change, why is it a crisis? You're just asking yourself a question. You're just looking into yourself and reflecting. You're looking at what you have and would like to make things better, and have a deeper sense of fulfillment.

Granted, this questioning process can sometimes result in hurting your own self and/or others. In such a case it may indeed be a crisis! But if you approach it with care and consideration for those around you, it's hardly a crisis. In fact, it's just a period of thoughtful contemplation and decision-making that can lead to positive changes without causing harm or unhappiness to anyone.

In my opinion, you're just deciding what's next. And why not have something new and different come next? Some of the greatest people in history flourished after they'd gone through these periods of introspection. Instead of approaching one's crisis with worry, perhaps we should reframe and approach it with excitement and curiosity. Big things could happen for them! Instead of dreading the questioning, let's be more open to having it start the conversation that so many people want to have more openly, but do not know where to begin and where to find support.

Need someone to talk to? At The Secret Sauce, we offer community and conversation around the very topic of transitions and finding what's next. Be sure to reach out if you'd like to learn more.
Author: Rachel Kelly Davis
Rachel Kelly Davis is a storyteller with a diverse background in communications, including marketing, public relations, and investor relations. She has gone through one or two of her own life pivots, and is currently the Operations Director of BDI Capital, a venture builder based in Hong Kong.
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