My quarter-life crisis began on my 31st birthday when my mother gave me a small paperback book titled Young Millionaires. Inside, there were stories of various entrepreneurs who all became millionaires before their 40th birthdays.
At that time, I was a classroom teacher at a public junior high school in Anaheim, California. I loved my job, but I was frustrated by the paltry salary I was earning in my fifth year teaching and by the fact that I was spending about 15 percent of my income buying school supplies for my students because of never-ending budget cuts.
As I read my new book, I came up with an idea—and I was convinced it would allow me to stay in education and become a millionaire by the time I turned 40. Two weeks later, I walked into my principal’s office, quit my teaching job effective at the semester’s end and began developing my new business. It would become Sylvan Learning Centers.
After living my passion for nearly seven years, I sold Sylvan six months before my 39th birthday, having achieved my quarter-life crisis goal. Since then I have been coaching and helping others to follow their passions and live their dreams.
So here are five things that worked for me if you are in the midst of your own quarter-life crisis:
1. Find your passion…
… whether it is simply making a change within the same profession, starting a business or moving into a completely new field. Ask yourself what makes you happy? What gives you joy? What fulfills you?
Confucius tells us, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
2. Create a crystal-clear vision of where you want to go.
This is your opportunity to dream, so dream big.
Pick a time in the future; it could be one year from now or five years—you decide. Now, imagine what your life will be like once you have achieved your goals and you are living your dream.
Next, take time to write a detailed description of what your daily life will be like. Describe where you live, where you work, who shares in your success, what you see and how you feel. Write your vision in first person, and remember the more details you include, the more real your vision will become.
Once you have your vision refined and complete, read it often as a reminder of things to come. It will help you to stay motivated, focused and moving forward.
3. Develop a well-articulated, sequential plan to get you there.
Now that you know exactly where you want to end up, you will need a plan to get you there. Consider what you will need to do to achieve your goals and objectives.
What help might you need? What resources must you acquire? What is your first step? Your 30th step? How will you evaluate your progress?
4. Take action.
This is where it all comes together and things begin to happen. You may have the clearest vision of where you want to go and the best laid plans to get you there, but without action, it is all for naught.
Create and commit to a timeline of very specific action steps you will need to take and become relentless in completing each and every one necessary.
5. Be prepared to defend your dream.
One of the things that stops so many people from achieving their dreams is the naysayer. These are the people who seem to come from all around with the sole purpose of stealing your dream. These naysayers could be your friends, co-workers or even family members, all happy to tell you a myriad of reasons you won’t be successful.
Their negative input can chip away at your confidence and damper your resolve. Staying focused and committed to achieving your vision may be the single most important thing you can do to defend your dream and live your passion.
Making a quarter-life change can be scary; it might feel like you have stepped aboard the world’s biggest rollercoaster. My advice to you is to strap in and enjoy the ride. Sure, you may experience some tall peaks and deep valleys along the way, but I promise things will smooth out eventually. Stay focused on your vision, true to your plan and take action—and your dream will become a reality.