I’ve come across a lot of articles talking about whether millennials are really lazy, entitled, self-absorbed people instead of the strapping hard-workers their parents were before them. Do I agree? Are millennials lazy, entitled, and self-absorbed?
In short, I don’t think millennials are lazy. I think a lot of people, not just millennials, can be entitled, but I don’t think that word is unique to millennials. Here’s what I think is wrong with millennials though:
Most millennials that I’ve met are willing to put in the work in order to get what they want and move up in their careers and their lives. But, I think a lot of millennials want things that they think will make them truly happy and fulfilled, and are shunning the things that will actually make them happy and fulfilled.
What do millennials want? They want amazing careers. They want independence. They want to make an impact, something for which they can be remembered long after they’re gone. They want to live a life that is completely up to them. They want to live as they see fit without the constraints of others, or of society.
I’ve seen many a millennial-written article (and my previous post talks about my frustration with this) describing some ideal life that is never meant to be shared or lived for anyone but themselves.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting a full life and the opportunity to see the world and grow and learn. There is nothing wrong with wanting a successful, fulfilling career doing something great and making a positive impact. In fact, those are admirable things to want, and I think everyone should strive for that. But what I see most millennials doing is treating that career aspect of their lives as the central part. The kind of attention and importance they are giving their career is the kind of attention they should also be giving to their interpersonal relationships. And that’s where they go wrong.
They are using successful careers and huge financial and career goals as a substitute for fulfilling interpersonal relationships. I think that a lot of millennials are cynical about marriage, or relationships in general, so they take the attitude of just living their own lives without really looking or pursuing relationships, without expecting anything. That attitude is like saying “I’ll just wait around in the lobby of Google and if the right person comes along and offers me a job, then great.” That attitude also implies that you’d rather take yourself out of the game instead of risk getting hurt. It’s much easier to focus on yourself and live your own life without looking for someone to share it with. It’s much, much harder to actively pursue relationships, open yourself up to someone, trust someone, share your life with someone, and risk getting hurt.
Here’s the thing: You should pursue and nurture interpersonal relationships with the same vigor that you do your professional career.
I feel like millennials feel that a career is something they have control over, and so it makes sense to get fulfillment from that instead of interpersonal relationships, which may come and go. Nothing could be further from the truth. You have some degree of control over both these things. If you work hard at your career, you will do well and advance. Likewise, if you work hard to maintain your interpersonal relationships, they will also flourish.
It’s not a bad thing to want a great career and great life for yourself. You should want that. But I see too many millennials who don’t value interpersonal relationships the way that they do their careers and hobbies. Millenials either glorify the single life and talk about how great it is to have the bed to yourself, or take the Ted Mosby approach to relationships and look for someone absolutely perfect who likes all the right things. With all our apps for meeting people, and networking events–forming relationships these days among millennials feels cheap and inauthentic. If the person isn’t perfectly what you want, just keep swiping. Millennials look for the perfect people to form relationships (of any type) with, instead of accepting that people aren’t perfect, everyone is different, and it is possible to form fulfilling relationships with people who are different or imperfect–it’ll just take some work. A lot of millennials feel that if it requires that much work, maybe it’s not right. Wrong. All relationships (of any type) require work, sacrifice, and compromise. But what you get in return is a deep, lasting relationship in which you and the other person know more than just the superficial details of each other’s personality. They know what foods you like and what movies you like, but they also know what you mean when you say a certain thing, or when you smile a certain way.
Countless studies have shown that the true marker of fulfillment in life is the quality of interpersonal relationships. And I see a lot of millennials with lots of friends, but these friendships are superficial, and all fun and games. Those friendships don’t really involve serious conversations or moments of vulnerability. The extent that they get to know each other is just what they did last weekend or their next job plans. There’s nothing wrong with having these sorts of relationships. But you also need to have relationships that function on a deeper level. All kinds of relationships are good, but some of those relationships need to be more personal. And that requires opening up. That requires showing parts of yourself that you may not feel are perfect. That requires being vulnerable and opening yourself up to potential pain. That requires trust. That requires communication. That requires compromise and selflessness. I think millennials have a long way to go in this regard. I don’t think for a second that millennials should give up their aspirations to change the world–in fact, this quality is precisely what makes me proud to be a millennial. But, I think that if we extend our passion for our career and for making an impact–if we extend that same passion to our interpersonal relationships, we’ll find our lives a whole lot more fulfilling. We’ll be a lot happier. And while we all may have different goals in our lives, these goals are all for the same purpose: to be happy, and to make the world a happier place for others.