Several weeks ago, an article was all over my social media feeds explaining Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy. My friends wanted to share their collective disappointment. Reality is hitting my generation hard and the "king kids" that we are, feel crushed. Our expectations were too high and this world is too tough.
It was a great post, but it did not resonate completely with me.
First, happiness should not be related to what we expect in the future, but what we have in the present. Happiness is actually the ability to be in the now. Buddhists have known this for a long time and many recent studies are finally supporting this belief. Matt Killingsworth in his TED talk "Want to be happier? Stay in the moment" explains how to enjoy being in the flow in order to experience true bliss.
So happiness for the Generation Y should not be related to a reality that is different from an idealized future. Happiness is a personal feeling that any individual can cultivate. Happiness can not rely on expectations. If we rely on the unknown to smile, we will feel miserable and never be satisfied.
I don't believe (We Can't Get No) Satisfaction is the song of my generation. Are we sure that a happy life is the ultimate degree of contentment? Generation Y is maybe looking for something else... or something more. When you listen to people expressing what they want from work, you hear their aspirations to have an impact, a sense of purpose. This universal quest is what makes us human. We want to find our meaning. Yes, passion is our favorite word because exploring our calling is a great step towards knowing who we are. It also allows us to be our best and to play a role in our community. Someone once said to me that the intersection of our talents and what the world needs is where we should concentrate our energy and focus.
But being passionate, committed and engaged is absolutely not synonymous with happiness. It can be tough, especially since we care so much. The road to something worth building or having is never easy. James Altucher, writer and entrepreneur recently created a great "ultimate cheat sheet to reinvent yourself". According to him, it takes five years. It is a long road before we get the reward of following our calling. We can have very unhappy days, even months. But at least, the meaning keeps us on track during those chaotic times.
Our parents had a career and certainty. We do not expect the same. Generation Y are the kids of perpetual recessions. Since we were born, we have heard this word over and over. Uncertainty is our constant. We are a resilient generation, not one that expects a perfect picture and the careers of the boomers. Jocelyn Glei, editor in chief of 99U expresses it perfectly in her book :
"If the twentieth-century career was a ladder that we climbed from one predictable rung to the next, the twenty-first-century career is more like a broad rock face that we are all free-climbing. There's no defined route, and we must use our own ingenuity, training, and strength to rise to the top. We must make our own luck."
We have integrated this. We are the digital generation, we get the new world: fast, furious, and changing constantly. We have to stay open, curious and creative to create our own paths. A technological revolution is first of all a psychological one. A new world demands new skills and behaviors. We are done with what we used to call success, especially when we know that 60 percent of working Americans regret their career choice. We do not want to reproduce the same mistake of the past. Certainty is over. But finding our meaning is not negotiable.
Our generation understands that chaos and uncertainty are not only synonymous with panic, pessimism and crisis. It is an opportunity to build a new chapter. Aaron Patzer, founder of Mint says "recessions are great because the unlock the best people".
Let's be unreasonable and believe it.
Do not listen to those who explain that our economy is in too bad of shape to create, imagine or build anything.
Know that everything is possible for us.
Do not settle for happiness, be ambitious enough to seek meaning.
Do not let reality scare you. Be bigger than your circumstances. We can beat the odds without being naive.
Do not reduce yourself to thinking you are just a diva from a generation that grew up being told they were always special. Do not mistake being unique with being spoiled. You have to cultivate who you are. It will allow you to find your calling, why you want to be here, how you bring your best to others and have a true impact.
I do not know if we are the happy generation but I know we can be the unreasonable one.
Don't settle. Don't give up. Be unreasonable.