Thirty-Something Dilemma

The “thirty-something dilemma” refers to a period of uncertainty and confusion often experienced by highly educated people between the ages of 25 and 35. Is it a new phenomenon or an early variant of the infamous midlife crisis? It’s both…

Thirty-Something Dilemma

Are you experiencing a thirty-something dilemma?

You’re in your late 20s or early 30s. You want to lead a carefree life with all the mod cons, achieve something in your career, have a good social life, settle down with your perfect partner and perhaps have one or more children.

If one – or more – of those statements sounds like you, chances are you are dealing with the thirty-something dilemma (aka the quarter-life crisis or thirty-something dip).

The thirty-something dilemma is like a boomerang, the harder you try to push it away, the harder it will hit you when it comes back. The only real solution is to face your thirty-something dilemma head on. You might take a little comfort in the fact that the thirty-something dilemma is just part of your development as a person, like puberty or a midlife crisis. It is a time to rediscover yourself and rebalance your life with new insight.

Once you figure out how to overcome your thirty-something dilemma, the crises that you are sure to face in later life will be easier to handle. Put simply, you should embrace your thirty-something dilemma as a chance to build the future you want and live your own life.

Does this sound like you?

What is the thirty-something dilemma?

Information Society

Change happens fast in our information society and we have an enormous number of choices and possibilities to navigate. It’s hard to see the wood for the trees. Which job should I choose? How do I adapt, but stay true to myself? How do I choose a partner? Do I want children now or later? These are all questions that people tend to ask themselves in their late 20s. They have (too) many choices and often don’t know which way to turn. People in their early 30s, on the other hand, have often already made some choices. For them, the question is rather: Is this all there is? They struggle with existential questions: What am doing here on earth? What else is out there? And so on.


The thirty-something dilemma is universal, but the age at which it occurs does vary from culture to culture. In the Netherlands you leave university around the age of 23. After this you probably work for a few years to build a career, before you start thinking about getting married and having children. By this time, you are around thirty. You have gained a lot of life experience and are aware of societal expectations. But you might be overwhelmed by a kind of early midlife crisis, asking yourself: “Is this all there is?” and “What is the meaning of my life?”. This is why the thirty-something dilemma is also called the thirty-something dip.


The thirty-something dilemma is a great opportunity to make important life choices. Important, but above all the right choices. The best solution to the thirty-something dip is therefore to build your self-awareness and develop your authenticity and autonomy. It’s about finding your own answers based on who you truly are. If you understand how you work and what obstacles stand in your way, it’s easier to make decisions. Decisions that are true to your real identity. People generally feel positive and satisfied when they can use their talents, when they can act with authenticity and take responsibility for their own choices. It is important to consciously experience this process in your thirties to ensure you don’t end up suffering it again in midlife. Harness the opportunities the thirty-something dilemma will offer you!

Dealing with the thirty-something dilemma

What can you do about it?

The change you want to see in your life, starts with a change in you. It’s that simple. But how do you break your habits and change them? Start by making time to relax. Take a step back and look at your life from a different perspective. Stop being busy and take time to reflect. This is the first step towards building your self-awareness. We’ve set out some practical tips below to help you create moments for relaxation and self-reflection.


If you are too concerned with the past or the future, you forget to enjoy the now. And that’s always a shame, because then you run the risk of missing the miracle of the moment. By keeping your full attention on the person you are talking to or what you are doing, you will experience what it means to be in the moment. You will be more alert and productive when you can immerse yourself in the moment. Eckhart Tolle has written several books about living in the present. He said: “So do not be concerned with the fruit of your action – just give attention to the action itself. The fruit will come of its own accord.”


Meditation is an effective way to practice self-reflection. The word meditate comes from the Latin “mete” meaning “to measure”. The thing you are measuring is your own consciousness. Meditation concerns the ability to self-reflect, the awareness of a ‘self’ and acting accordingly. Meditating helps you to centre yourself and find peace. Peace and quiet in turn enable you to find clarity on the issues you are currently struggling with. Meditation is therefore an enjoyable practice among the chaos of everyday life. Meditation takes different forms and the experience is different for everyone. One person might meditate quietly cross-legged, another might choose to meditate by walking. Whatever form it takes, breathing always plays an important role in meditation. Through deep, conscious breathing you can achieve a pleasant, relaxing feeling of peace and satisfaction.


More and more people are discovering the power of yoga. No wonder, by performing a series of powerful moves you can find inner calm and balance between body and mind. Yoga literally means uniting and controlling. Who wouldn’t want that? To be in control of your body and mind instead of being sucked in and influenced by external stimuli. Who doesn’t feel like they are doomed to fall back into old habits when things get tough? Habits you would like to turn your back on. Yoga empowers you to stay in control and builds confidence.


Nowadays most people exercise their mind on a daily basis. Our brains are working overtime to process information, thinking about everything. Meanwhile, our bodies are screaming for attention. Physical exercise contributes to a healthy lifestyle where mind, body and soul are in balance. Put your body to work to stop yourself being consumed by your thoughts. You’ll notice the change immediately. If you replace an evening on the couch with an evening in the gym, you’ll immediately feel fitter and more powerful. You can exercise in different ways. But above all, choose a sport that suits you!

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