07/03/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Rite Of Passage For Today's Twenty-Something Woman

My intention in this post is to begin a discussion around the issues, challenges, and changes that women face as they journey through their twenties and into their thirties. This is a crucial time in our lives as we are faced with forever-feeling decisions and the expectation to map out the entire course of our life.

For the past six years I have worked as a life coach and spiritual counselor to primarily women in their twenties and early thirties. What motivated this work was facing my own unexpected struggles and challenges along my twentysomething journey -- a broken engagement, leaving a successful career, debt, confusion about my life purpose, depression, and health issues. As I navigated my way through and to the other side of my "learning opportunities" I was inspired to help others do the same and unexpectedly found my career and mission along the way.

Now at 32 and rounding the corner of what has been a period of intense personal discovery and transformation, I know that what I experienced and what I see other young women experiencing is far deeper than a quarter-life crisis and more profound than an astrological phenomenon (often referred to as Saturn Return). I compare this process of transformation to the natural journey a caterpillar takes before becoming a butterfly called Chrysalis. I'm so passionate about this stage in a woman's life and the significant changes it brings forth, that I've designed an entire transformational workshop around it and have watched women step out of the box of who they think they are and leap into the infinite possibility of who they truly are.

So what is the Chrysalis process for a woman? It begins the moment she becomes aware of a call to transform and reassess everything in her life. For some women their wake up call is a muted whisper, for others it is a loud shout. It can come in the form of an inner knowing that she has forgotten who she really is (or never really knew to begin with). Or can be heard after something happens in her life such as a broken relationship, a loss of a job or dream, or an unexpected struggle that wakes her up to the fact that the life she had planned is not the life she is living.

Each time she hits the snooze button, the inner alarm gets louder and louder. A woman begins to feel a sense of anxiety, sadness, doubt or confusion. She may start to feel alone, separate, and insecure. Some women know exactly where to point the finger as the source of their angst. Others feel the unsettling sense that nothing is terribly wrong in their life, but nothing feels incredibly right either. The natural tendency is to look for some kind of "quick fix" most commonly in the form of another role to step into like a job or relationship.

For centuries, as a woman has matured, she has been encouraged to step into a defined role: wife, mother, homemaker, caregiver and, thanks to the Feminist movement, uber successful career woman and master of "having it all." But today's young women are beginning to feel the emptiness of living a checklist life. They are achieving the career success and registering at Crate and Barrel for their big day, while running to their gynecologists for prescriptions of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills (I was one of them).

And those who don't have all the boxes on their life checklist checked off, put tremendous pressure on themselves to do so and live in a constant state of "when/then" future focused thinking. When I find the soulmate of my dreams, then I'll be happy. When I find my passion and my career takes off, then I'll be fulfilled. When I have money, then I will feel secure. When I loose ten pounds, then I'll be confident. This hamster wheel type of thinking keeps us in a constant state of believing there is something wrong with where we are now and keeps us focused on the destination, rather than the journey.

The funny thing is, once we reach one destination, along comes another one, and another one, and another one, and we're in a constant state of external searching for things that can only truly be found inside. Looking outside of ourselves for happiness and fulfillment is an old paradigm. Today's young women are feeling the call and drumming up the courage to look within during this tender and formative time of life. This rite of passage is about inner transformation and it is not always an easy perception and perspective to change.

Today's young women are shaping the future. We are the mothers, bosses, wives, partners, and leaders of tomorrow. It's time to step off the hamster wheel and into the cocoon of transformation. Now is our time to build our inner foundation so that we can step more fully into leadership, inspiration, compassion, strength, and be the change we want to see in the world.

So are you feeling the call for transformation now? Or have you already felt it and just don't quite know how to respond? I welcome your comments, sharing of experience, and questions below. Next week I will be continuing this conversation by presenting the question: Do you want to crawl through life, or do you want to spread your wings and FLY? My sense is most of you want to fly...and the opportunity to take that leap is closer than you think.