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Attention Stressed Millennials: Don’t Forget to be Happy

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Please give a warm welcome to today’s contributor to the Millennial Perspectives series, Lauren from Life on a Branch. She’s been a long-time supporter of my writing, for which I’m grateful, and I frankly think she hits the ball out of the park with this post. Do you agree? (Or not!) Then comment below!

Do you ever feel debilitated by the thought that “you can do anything”? Stressed with the pressure to build a substantial and fulfilling career? Worried that you’re on the wrong track?

To be honest, it would be weird if you weren’t having these feelings. You are on this website, after all. That means you’re probably benefiting from advice on how to cope with what I just described.

Life as a young adult is trying. This is true for any generation, but Millennials seem to be flailing more than their parents and grandparents. At the age of 25, I’m right there with you in that big, scary ocean.

A few weeks ago I had one of my routine, “What am I doing with my career?” moments. You know, one that involves the stress and questioning described above. After researching a few different career paths, I decided to call my parents and give them the rundown on what I was considering.

They listened to what I had to say and were supportive in the way that parents need to be, but for the most part my mom and dad seemed worried about me. They told me it sounded like I was panicking and they didn’t know why.

I explained that I didn’t like my current job but didn’t feel like I was doing enough to further the career I wanted. I didn’t even know what career I wanted. My parents still struggled to understand my feelings of confusion and inadequacy. They basically said (in a loving way) that I was thinking too much and needed to get out more.

I was surprised at my parents’ lack of understanding. To me what I was feeling was completely normal and justified. To them I was being too hard on myself.

Then I took a minute to consider our generational differences.

My parents, like the parents of many Millennials, are Baby Boomers. They were raised in a very practical manner by their parents, who were children during the Great Depression. Our grandparents never told our moms and dads that they could do whatever they set their minds to, but the post-war economy did.

The success of our parents’ generation led them to raise us with the same optimism they developed. Gen Y became the guinea pigs of the “you can do anything” mantra; the same generation grew up receiving participation trophies. This means we were raised to believe that we could choose to do anything and were guaranteed to succeed at it.

Let’s throw in one more thing Millennials are growing up with that Baby Boomers didn’t: social media. We are told we can do anything. We have high expectations for what we can accomplish. And we can compare our accomplishments (or lack of) with our peers in an instant.

No wonder a recent study showed Millennials to be the most anxious and depressed age group.

Listen up for a minute, fellow Gen Yers. I’m not going to tell you to lower your expectations or stop trying to create a fulfilling life. But I am going to tell you this: slow your roll. Let’s turn the pressure cooker down a few notches.

Forget expectations. Forget the pressure of choosing the right career. Forget social media. For a moment, take a deep breath and forget about everything you were inadvertently raised to worry about. Consider your life from a different perspective.

To my parents, I’ve already accomplished a lot. I moved across the country. I found a full-time job. I hiked to the top of mountains, tried rock climbing and am taking full advantage of the new state I live in. Even though I don’t like my current job, I’ve only been there for a year. To them, I am young. To them, I have plenty of time to mold my career into something I’ll enjoy.

We are expected to decide what we want to do as soon as we can and go after it. While this pressure isn’t completely off base (psychologist Meg Jay brings up some good points), it’s healthy to take a note from our parents and look at our lives from another perspective every now and then.

Make a list of accomplishments you’re proud of, no matter how small. Stop focusing on what your life could or should be and reflect on the positives of what it already is.

Relax, Millennials. During your quest to find life-long purpose and happiness, take some time to look around. Try not to step on the joy your life already possesses.

Now I want to know:  What are your strategies for finding joy in what you have done, rather than focusing on what you haven’t?

Photo Credit: @jackeliiine

About the author: Lauren is a 20-something who moved from Wisconsin to Colorado after graduating college. Like many Millennials, she’s still working on finding her dream job, whatever that is. In the meantime she’s exploring what the Rocky Mountains have to offer and blogging about the ups and downs of life as a young adult at http://lifeonabranch.wordpress.com/

What do you think?

7 comments… add one

  • This post is great. Thank you for writing this Lauren! I, like almost every millennial I know, have had the same issues and crises that you have had. When I first finished school, I got a job that I hated. And I mean, HATED. I needed some security for financial and healthcare reasons. But I sacrificed a lot of myself for a paycheck and insurance. My parents wanted me to stick it out and move up in the corporation, but it didn’t work out. But life takes good turns sometimes. After a lot of soul searching (and depressing moments) I found a career path I like. And now things are much better.
    We have a lot of options as a generation. We get to discover our passions and go with it. But with all of those options we are still very limited in other ways. Sometimes our passions don’t benefit us financially. Sometimes they don’t provide insurance. Sometimes we live paycheck to paycheck. And sometimes we find out our passions were best served as the life part of “work-life” balance. Life is a lot of trial and error. But we get to live it regardless and that means we have the opportunity to make mistakes and create waves.

    • I’m glad you can relate! Yeah it sounds like you were in a similar spot that I’m in now. It’s hard to really justify walking away from a job when there are bills to pay! I’m happy to hear you found a career that you like. I think we’ll all get there eventually, but it does take a lot more work than most people realize. Thank you so much for adding your thoughts! You’ve giving me hope for a better future :)

      • One piece of advice I can give you is to keep your head up. I gave up on life for a while, and I regret it. My opportunity was around the corner, and I was sitting there feeling bad about myself. We have to grab the opportunities for ourselves. Getting down about predicaments we’re in can cloud our minds and make us miss them. Nothing lasts forever as long as you want to change it.

  • […] I recently wrote a guest post on Working Self describing the pressure that Millennials put themselves under and the importance of releasing that stress. If you haven’t already read the post, you should check it out! […]

  • Great post. I often find myself dramatically thinking, “It’s been five years since I graduated college and I haven’t done ANYTHING.” And then I have to force myself to realize that that is extremely untrue, I’ve actually done a ton of things and had many valuable experiences, and just because my career isn’t where I want it to be right now doesn’t mean all that time was ‘wasted’. And, life is short, but it’s also long…there’s time.

    • So true! We’re at a weird age because there are so many things we could be doing right now… digging into a career, getting married, starting a family, traveling… so when we think about what we’re doing with all that in mind, it can seem like nothing. And it can seem like we’re wasting time because there’s so much to do! But at the same time, you’re right; we still have a lot of possibilities and exciting moments ahead of us.

  • Great writing, as always Lauren!! I always look forward to reading your advice :)

    I think all of this also applies once you’ve secured a dream job. There can be the same kind of pressure (often self-inflicted) and thoughts of “is this a good fit for me” and “what happens now…now that I’ve gotten there – wherever ‘there’ is supposed to be.”

    The older I get, and the more experience I gain, I’m realizing the real lesson to be gleaned is that we aren’t alone in these trials. So many of us are in the same boat, and it’s normal for that “five to ten year plan” to become blurry around the edges. Maybe you know somewhat where you want to end up, or what you want to be doing, but it’s okay to take varying routes to get there. It’s also okay to change your mind along the way. At the end of the day, even if you don’t end up with what you want, you’ll often get what you need. That’s my kind of happily ever after ;)

    • Eloquently put, Tiffany! I wouldn’t expect any less from you ;) Yes, I think as a child there’s this belief that adults have it all figured out and know exactly what they’re doing. Strangely enough, we hold onto this thought until we actually experience adulthood for ourselves. The possibilities are endless, so it’s hard to look at your life as a whole and say, “Yes. This is 100% right.” But if we can gather bits and pieces at a time, hopefully the bigger picture will come together eventually.