Many times, when we hear people talking of an “existential crisis,” it is said in a joking manner. However, we can be thrown into them by major life changes: coming face to face with death, sickness, the end of relationships, the loss of a job/security, trauma, or aging.
Although “crisis” sounds like something to be avoided, it can not be avoided. It will happen at some point, and it is a sign of personal growth.
Growing = Winning!
Can you imagine going through your entire life without ever questioning anything? Spoon fed from birth till death.
That would be a little weird.
If you don’t want to wait for something huge and life changing to randomly happen to you in order to grow your perspectives on life, you can start here. This is how to have an existential crisis, and hopefully come out the other side with a better understanding of yourself:
- Remember: The clock is ticking.
We have a limited time on this planet.
This is when you will start to question what your legacy is going to be. We shuffle through our labels, wondering … “is this it?”
If you wander through any graveyard, most tombstones reduce a person to their labels: Loving husband, wife, mother daughter, son, father…. um… CEO?
It is a good idea to take a look at what your definition of success is. How do you want to be remembered? Do the exercise where you write your own obituary, so you can now go live the life you’ve written.
It may not be a straightforward exercise, because the crisis starts when you:
- Lose your common sense!
This is the part where you start to have questions. Why do you have to do the things you do? What is the point? Eating three meals a day may seem like common sense, but you may start to wonder why. Who said so? Can you live differently? Does it matter? All other aspects of your life may be brought under the interrogation lamp. You will start to question the purpose of life.
Trying to live a meaningful life is noble. These questions are all useful tools for you to find the things that call out to you, so you can use your time in a way that fulfills you. However, “meaning” is very elastic. It is a tool to help you, but it is not reality. For example:
Mary has decided that her purpose is to make the best paper airplanes the world has ever seen.
Penny has decided that her purpose is to make at least one person smile every day.
These ladies are getting meaning from their actions, but their definition of “meaning” is meaningless to the other. The reality is: this is how they identify. Another reality is: they are alive to simply survive for as long as possible.
Stay alive. You only have this one glorious life. The question everyone asks is: WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH IT? Which leads us to Part III of an existential crisis:
- The agony of choices.
Chewing over all of your past choices in life may lead you to feel that perhaps you could’ve made better choices. Maybe it starts to make you think that you have failed in your decisions. Can’t go back, so you look forward.
Next, you start to think of the choices you should make for your future. You freeze up. There is no certainty about the outcome of any decision. This moving forward without knowing what will happen causes ANXIETY. You can do anything…but what will you do?
Don’t worry. Regret is normal.
Choose to do it.
Choose not to do it.
You will regret it.
Maybe you won’t regret every little bit, but some regret is there, simply because making a decision means all other choices can no longer be taken.
Get rid of the idea that there is one safe or best choice out there, that can be made with lots of intelligent thought. Yes, you need to develop good decision making skills, but accept the fact that at some point in life, YOU WILL REGRET not taking Option B. At some point in life, you will experience disappointment. This is normal. It will feel very difficult and you will be challenged, but this is how growth happens. You did not fail at anything. You are growing, and as we covered earlier:
Growing = Winning!
Now that you’ve gone through your existential crisis and have allowed wisdom to grow while learning about yourself, you must remember that perfection is not possible. Perfection is unattainable, but there is always room for improvement, if that is what you are desiring.
Feel free to repeat anytime you need to.