The Real Problem Millennials Face: We Have Too Many Choices
Choices give us independence, independence makes us feel empowered, empowerment allows us to take control. Taking control of our lives allows us to feel free.
We all love choice. But too many choices is a bad thing and it will define our generation.
Therefore we can conclude: Choices = Freedom. But what if I told you choice is a bad thing?
Well, let me clarify. Too much choice is a bad thing. And that’s where we have ended up as millennials. Unfortunately for us millennials, we are the product of too much choice.
It’s never been easier to find a romantic partner, to own your ideal home, to own a car with all the technology you can imagine, to work for a great company. We really can have it all, and as customized as we want it — while working for the same company for 35 years, retire with a pension, a gold Rolex, and move to Florida.
We have so many choices and we can pick and choose our ideal way of getting there.
But, my generation isn’t doing any of this. Millennials get a bad reputation for not wanting to work hard. For being entitled, lazy, sensitive, and worst of all, being indecisive.
Are we actually these negative attributes?
I think some of it is valid. But the reality is, less and less people are getting married. Millennials don’t want to own cars, or buy homes, or commit to one job. We don’t really want to own anything at all.
So why is that, when in 2017 we have more options to satisfy these ‘big choices’ than ever before? We should be glad to have all these options and be happier, it’s a phenomenon but we end up choosing no life partner, no car, no homes, at all.
It’s not even our fault.
Before you roll your eyes and say ‘oh yet another millennial not taking responsibility for your shortcomings’, here me out.
Imagine this, you’re sitting in a room with a 3-second timer and told that I will remove the cover over the painting and you have 3 seconds to choose your favorite colour revealed. I remove the cover over the piece of paper and all you see are two colours: Red or Blue. I reckon this will take you less than the allotted 3 seconds to decide. The law of averages suggests we’ll get roughly a 50/50 split of those who favour red and those who favour blue. Simple enough right.
Now, let’s make it more interesting. You’re sitting in a room with a 3-second timer and told that I will remove the cover over the painting and you have 3 seconds to choose your favorite colour revealed. I remove the cover over the piece of paper and I reveal the most beautiful array of colours you’ve ever seen. The beautiful pinks, purples, blues, greens, the pastels, lighter colours and darker colours. The timer starts when I take the cover off the paper.
It’s no longer an obvious choice given the parameters. Some people will stress, panic and pick a colour. Is it your favorite colour? Or just a product of the time limit we set for you.
An hour later, I ask if you can go back and try it again. Would you change your answer? Most likely you would. So many choices with so little time. This is a fairly simple example but it leads me back to the problem millennials are facing.
In life, we have to make ‘big choices’ and they last a long time; choosing a car for 5+ years, a house with a mortgage for 30+ years, a career for 35+ years, and a spouse for life, is difficult to do at any age. But we ‘had to’ because it’s what we’ve always been taught to do. And then to make it harder, we put timers on these choices of when to pick a career, when to get married, and when to have kids. If you miss the timer, you have to face the social consequences. To add to that, if you made a mistake with any of the aforementioned choices, you had to stick it out and work through the kinks.
As we’ve become so connected and been so exposed to ALL the possibilities of life, the barriers to changing any one of the ‘big choices’ have never been easier, with little to no consequences. We can experience the joys of the ideal version of the ‘big choices’ temporarily through apps, like Tinder and Uber without having to commit long term.
So we’ve gone from the Red or Blue option with a 3-second timer, to every colour on the spectrum of colours, and with an infinite amount of time. We can pick a new favorite colour as many times as want without any major financial or time consequences.
This is all so new to us as a human population.
Forty years ago, the choices we had weren’t in abundance like we had now. You lived where you were born or in the biggest city next your home. You went to school there, worked there, got married to someone near you.
Imagine a long-distance relationship writing letters and mailing it today?! Yah right. Few and far between, my friends.
Over the course of humanity our generation is a mere dot. Our generation should not be defined not by laziness but by the vast amount of choice we have. This paradox isn’t going away anytime soon. We’re not going to wake up one day and realize we have less choice. We’re going to have to learn to manage this new vast array of choice.
We are the college kids allowed to drink beer for the first time, legally. What do the college kids do being do you do? Drink… Drink a lot. With no self-control, no plan for the morning after and no instinct on how we’re going to pay for this beer. Eventually as the years go by, we don’t drink as much or as recklessly, but the choice isn’t any different.
There are many factors including, intolerance to alcohol, more responsibility, but most of all, we have gotten used to the choice of being able to drink. It no longer serves the purpose of pure joy and being an adult. So we moderate ourselves to drinking on select nights, using it as liquid confidence or a celebration.
Too much of it is a bad thing. We’re going to have to learn how to set limits on our choosing so that we don’t end up not we don’t choose at all. So that we don’t end up gallivanting through life with our smart phones, figuring it out on the fly. So that we don’t wake up at 50 years old realizing we ‘lived life on our terms’ but feel empty and unfulfilled.
Either we learn to manage our choices and self-govern them accordingly, or millennials will be the guinea pigs of this new world of choice we live in. If we can’t save our reputations in time, we’ll be the throw away card in poker and our generation will be written off as test subjects. Better luck with Generation Z.
Originally published at medium.com