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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 26, 2001

Quarterlife crises need not become full-fledged battles

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

Feeling a quarterlife crisis coming on? Here are some ways to deal with this perfectly normal transition:

• Talk it out: Find people who are going through the same transitional challenges as you. "Realize it's normal and you're not alone," said Abby Wilner, co-author of "Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties." "Open up and talk about it to people."

• Evaluate values: Knowing what you want is half the battle. "Get in touch with your core values," suggested Michael Stoller, professional life coach based in Chicago. "What do you really value in your life?" And realize that your values may change over time. That's OK, too.

• Embrace failure: No one likes to fail. But sometimes it takes two steps backward to go five steps forward. "Take the time to make mistakes," said Kathleen Kozak, a 28-year-old internist at Straub Clinic & Hospital. "If you don't make mistakes, you haven't tried hard enough. And if you don't allow yourself to fail, you never know what you're limits are."

• Explore: Maybe what you're feeling is boredom. Experts suggest stimulating those defunct brain cells before writing the feeling off as job dissatisfaction. "Take a couple of classes in a field you have no expertise in," said Kozak, who went back to school to earn an MBA. "It may open your eyes."

• Focus on the now: There's no point in worrying about a future you're not living. "It's great to be 22," raved Jennifer Oshita, an English major from Mililani. "There's a lot I can do at this age that I would be missing if I were planning my life at age 40. Looking inward is important so you're not just heading in one direction before you know where you're going."

• Ditch expectations: Find out what you really want. "What would really fulfill me? What would really make me happy?" Stoller asked rhetorically. "There's a lot of people searching for those answers." Know what you need versus what you want. Expectations can drive you to settle on a career for the wrong reasons. "They may wind up in situations where they're not ready to assume a stable job but they do because they've got bills to pay," Kozak said. "We put a lot of pressure on people to get a job and not let people grow as individuals."

• Accept it: What you're feeling is normal, experts say. "First off, conflict is growth waiting to happen," said Garry Francell, a life coach with the Relationship & Individual Counseling Center in Waikiki. "Conflict and worry and all that stuff is part of life. It's how we deal with conflict in our 20s that determines our level of integrity and personal values for the rest of our lives. Nobody said we weren't supposed to have conflict or things to worry about."

• Hire a life coach: If all else fails, search the yellow pages for help. "If you still having trouble making the transition, there's nothing wrong with getting outside help," said Wilner, who admitted to getting coaching. "It may help."