Many of us grew up with a programmed view handed down from our parents and society that money makes you happy. The more the better, they said, because you can buy more things, stay in luxury hotels, fly business class and do all sorts of cool things.
If you ask your seniors how to get there, you are immediately encouraged to study hard and get good grades at school so you could enter a prestigious university which, in turn, guarantees you a nice job. Afterwards the family stuff comes into play. Start searching for a ‘good’ girlfriend/ boyfriend, save to buy a house…
This is the sort of success formula we’ve all been prescribed since we were young. For many, this formula works very well and they live happily ever after. However, others come to a point in their life where this formula starts not to make sense. I was there, too, and I call it the ‘millennial crisis.’
Defining the millennial crisis
I know the term ‘millennial’ already has a lot of negative associations. But it resonates so much with the people I talk to, that I decided to adopt it, even though ‘scientifically’ it’s a very ambiguous term.
Basically for me, ‘millennial’ is about a period in your life when you start questioning your purpose. It often happens after you have followed that happiness formula, which, admittedly, brought you to a certain level…and then you start to question its value proposition. Does more of that ‘wealth’ increase the quality of your life? In some cases could it even decrease it?
You see, although the millennial crisis may sound as an exciting inner journey to self discovery, for many, it can be a rough ride. You start to challenge that life formula which had been ingrained in you for so long. And that is tough. And so the ‘crisis’ sets in.
Millennials are the generation currently aged about 25 – 40 years old. Since we grew up in times where, for many of us, pretty much all of our basic needs were covered almost automatically, we were able to quickly jump towards the self-actualization stage.
So it appears that millennials are searching for their purpose relatively earlier in their careers – although, of course, this applies to other generations as well. Many more senior people, for example, call it the ‘mid life crisis,’ but the patterns are very similar to the millennial crisis.
It’s hard to find purpose if you have a ‘terrible job’
First of all, you should not be afraid of having this crisis. Although it’s a challenging period, personally, it gives you a unique opportunity to discover more meaning and purpose to your life.
Listen, there are so many people who get rich by doing meaningless jobs, but are empty inside. Yes, they have impressive resumes but they are like juicy watermelons – outside green, but inside red. And it’s logical because it’s hard to feel happy when you have a ‘rubbishy career.’
What is the point of me preparing those reports which are read by nobody? Why do I need to write and reply to so many emails which talk about nothing? Am I really going to use my brain for this? Why did I even need to graduate from a university?
This is the time when, to everyone’s surprise, people suddenly take bold and weird moves. You quit a well paid lawyer’s office to become a children’s teacher, start your company which works on new technology to reduce environmental impact, retire in your early 40s to establish an NGO for the elderly…you get my drift.
Although these moves don’t secure you more wealth or influence, they do help you in feeling more purposeful in your life. After all, we all know that beyond a certain level of income, more money doesn’t necessarily make you happier. So it’s logical that people start thinking about their legacy. How do you want to be remembered by the next generations?
The recent experience with the Covid-19 pandemic paralyzing the world has shown us who are our true wealth creators. Unfortunately, it’s not our corporate headquarter stars, but rather those brave people out there in the front-line – those healthcare workers, street cleaners, postal workers, supermarket employees and many more.
Just imagine how our world could look like if most of us quit our meaningless jobs, and used our collective brain power to work on things which matter to us and our society! This might sound a bit utopian for today. But it might well be actualized in the future if each of us takes a small step towards more purposeful activities.