After graduating college, some of the brightest, most talented young people can fall into emotional crisis.
Up to that point, everything in their lives had been structured, giving them clear goals with immediate rewards. Determining their own path for the first time can feel overwhelming and strange.
If you’re in your 20s, whether in your first job, grad school, or drifting aimlessly, you may be getting a dose of reality.
To help you make it through the “quarter-life crisis,” in which your uncertain future looms large, TED has curated 11 of its most popular presentations on dealing with setbacks and finding your passion. We’ve included links and summaries to all of them below.
While it may be true that today's young people marry later and have children later than earlier generations, it in no way means that the 20s have become a throwaway decade of experimentation -- a sort of extended adolescence, says Jay, a clinical psychologist and author.
Research has shown that regardless of marital status, your 20s signifcantly determine the future of your career and personal life. Twenty-somethings should be building their professional networks and determining what they want to achieve.
'Don't be defined by what you didn't know or didn't do. You're deciding your life right now,' Jay says.
The first time you run into a major challenge or failure in your career, you may consider yourself inadequate, as if you were made to fail from the start.
This idea, that our intellectual development is limited, has been ingrained in us since we were young, and it's time to shed it, says Stanford psychologist and author Dweck.
In a study with grade school students, Dweck says, 'We taught them that every time they push out of their comfort zone to learn something new and difficult, the neurons in their brain can form new, stronger connections, and over time they can get smarter.'
'Why do people instantly resist the idea of associating themselves with art?' Kim, an award-winning South Korean writer, asks. Perhaps you think art is for the greatly gifted or for the thoroughly and professionally trained... (But) we are all born artists.'
Kim says that anyone who abandons pursuits like writing, painting, or acting, or dismisses the notion in the first place out of some perceived pragmatism is doing themselves a great disservice. After all, he says, young children show us every day that it's more natural to create something than to work.
As we explain in our '21 Day Plan For Radical Self-Improvement,' there is research that shows that creative self-expression is linked with reduced anxiety and improved well-being.
Palmer, a popular singer-songwriter, says that when her relationship with her record label turned sour, she struggled to make a living as an artist. But then she remembered her time as a street performer back in college, making money from spare change dropped into a hat.
She created a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in 2012 to raise $US100,000 for a new music project and ended up making over a million dollars from her fans. Palmer realised that when things get tough, your support system can help you out if you just ask.
'It's not easy to ask,' she says. 'Asking makes you vulnerable.' But when things get tough, you shouldn't let your ego keep you from looking for help.
When Schulz, a journalist and author, was 29, she got a tattoo that she immediately regretted. Any advice to 'live without regrets' seemed completely out of touch with human nature.
As she looks back on it, she says, she's come to believe that we shouldn't move beyond regrets or pretend they don't exist, but we should acknowledge the pain of our mistakes as motivation to make better choices.
'We need to learn to love the flawed, imperfect things that we create and to forgive ourselves for creating them,' she says. 'Regret doesn't remind us that we did badly. It reminds us that we know we can do better.'
Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist, says that when we get stuck in a habitual way of living and feel bored, it's about our mindset rather than our circumstances.
All it takes is looking at ourselves 10 years in the past: our fashion sense and musical tastes were probably very different from what they are now. And that's because we're always changing.
If you're in your 20s and you feel like you've either got it all figured out or none of it figured out, keep Gilbert's words in mind: 'Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they're finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you've ever been.'
Lewis, an art historian and critic, says she once had the pleasure of watching the Columbia University women's archery team practice. She made note of the careful fine-tuning each archer had to make after every missed target, every 'near win.'
It made her realise how important it is to embrace constant self-improvement, including everything deemed a success and failure along the way.
'Mastery is not just the same as excellence,' she says. 'It's not the same as success, which I see as an event, a moment in time, and a label that the world confers upon you. Mastery is not a commitment to a goal but to a constant pursuit. What gets us to do this, what gets us to forward thrust more is to value the near win.'
Brown, an author and social work researcher at the University of Houston, says that shame has become 'an epidemic in our culture,' in the sense that too many of us take an embarrassing episode or failure and link it to our identity.
This can become especially prevalent in your 20s, when 'failure' can mean getting fired, ending a serious relationship, or even having your startup go under. The way to beat shame? Talk about it with those who understand where you're coming from.
'If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment,' Brown says. 'If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can't survive. The two most powerful words when we're in struggle: me too.'
Frank, a comedic author and speaker, uses his TED Talk to ask a series of hypothetical questions.
Some are silly ('Have you ever had a conversation with yourself and then suddenly realised you're a real arsehole to yourself?') and some are poignant ('Have you ever marveled at how someone you thought was so ordinary could suddenly become so beautiful?'), but they all get to Brené Brown's point about empathy: The heaviest moments unfolding in our adult lives become easier to deal with when we recognise that countless people have experienced every emotion we may be feeling.
After losing a loved one in 2009, Chang, an artist and designer, wrote on the side of an abandoned building in her New Orleans neighbourhood, 'Before I die, I want to...' The next day, the wall was filled with answers locals had filled in.
'(P)eople's hopes and dreams made me laugh out loud, tear up, and they consoled me during my own tough times,' Chang says. 'It's about making space for reflection and contemplation, and remembering what really matters most to us as we grow and change.'
We should stop avoiding thinking about the fragility of life, Chang explains, and use moments of reflection to remind ourselves what really matters most.
Smith, an economics professor at the University of Waterloo, argues that what you tell yourself when you're just starting out will determine the trajectory of your career. Will you pursue your passion or start a habit of telling yourself why the safer, less risky, easier path is the right one?
We tell ourselves things like, 'Yes, I would pursue a great career, but I value human relationships more than accomplishment,' Smith says. 'I want to be a great friend. I want to be a great spouse. I want to be a great parent, and I will not sacrifice them on the altar of great accomplishment.'
Stop seeing a fulfilling career and a manageable life as a dichotomy, he explains. Don't waste any time making excuses.
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