The following article was published in the Highlands Ability Battery Forum By Dr Thomas N. Tavantzis, CEO Innovative Management Development, Adjunct Faculty, Organizational Development and Leadership, Saint Joseph’s University. It it being re-published here in two parts. This is PART I.
Three students – Gail 29, John 26, and Sam 21 – though of different ages, share much in common. They are in the midst of developing themselves so they can successfully launch their careers and, well, their lives! Each is still single, all live independently from their parents (Sam is in college) while experiencing (considerable) ongoing parental support. They all share trying to develop themselves as people, finding careers they can be passionate about, but all appear stuck, in large part, from the consequences of too little self-knowledge. They’re grasping for information. How do I go about making decisions? How do I problem-solve? What are my learning styles? What work environment do I want? What are my values? My impact on others? My emotional resources? How do I learn the basics for self-management?
A recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer called ’Quarterlife: [It] Gets A Whole Lot Harder’ discusses the challenges faced by young adults at the quarter point of their lives. My first reaction was: a whole lot harder than what? Given that I am past 2 quarter lives (or at my half-life), a father of 3 “quarter-lifers’ and constantly around “quarter-lifers’, I think I can safely say that having a period of my life described by the label Quarter-life strikes me at first as yet another useless marketing label created to sell a book. On second thought, maybe it does serve a purpose. Perhaps it can serve to demarcate a clearer time in life. Today, figuring out life in the midst of its complexity and chaos is a challenge for everyone, including quarter-lifers, especially if one clings to outdated and rigid ideas about young adults.
Right now we are in the midst of several disasters simultaneously: BP, 2 wars, a poor economy, terrorism, perhaps another recession, job loss, catastrophic climate change, a private sector rift with ethics issues driven by greed run amok, while Government is seen – strangely enough – as both overly powerful and intrusive, and ineffectual and broken. Does that sum it up? This all while continuing scientific and technological change inundates us daily. These major external issues only serve to heighten our overall anxiety and filter anxiety down to the young adults planning a direction for their lives. They face a planning process which is already compounded by the usual challenges of the Quarter-lifer (ages 20-30) – lack of self-knowledge, confusion about work-roles, fear of commitment, helplessness, and the sense of frustration caused by instability and change. Everyone ends up at wit’s end in this phase of the Quarter-life, including (and perhaps especially), the young adult’s parent(s)! For the Quarter-lifer, the central challenge only heightens the importance of staying focused on what needs to done. The good news is that, no matter what the problems facing society or the economy, the basic issues facing the Quarter-lifer remain the same: his or her main task at this phase of life is still to develop and refine a vision or a blueprint for a happy and productive life ahead.