“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.” Scott Peck, “The Road Less Traveled.”
The quote above is from one of my favorite self-help books, which was published when I was just entering adulthood. The simple sense of the statement pulled me in, whole heartedly, so that I felt connected to the truth of accepting it as so. As you set out on your unique journey, seeking your true self and authentic path, I hope this blog might provide you with a similar feeling of truth and guidance.
The roads of life have changed a lot in the years since I read that quote, but as a simple fact of life, it remains true. Each generation enters the world under a unique context. For Millennials, there are four conditions, which contribute to opportunities and challenges.
- More of you.
The Opportunity: The Millennial generation (born between 1982-1995) is the largest and most educated generation to ever enter adulthood at the same time; a full 1/3 of the US population! More of you hold college and graduate degrees than any previous generation. Your generation is a powerhouse of influence on the world!
The Challenge: Competition for the schools and jobs you want is a now more fierce than ever! Entering adulthood during an economic downturn makes finding a niche in which to shine increasingly difficult.
- More Options.
The Opportunity: No longer do young people have to rush into marriage and having a family. This gives you more time to mature, experiment, and find your true calling. According to Jeffrey Arnett, a developmental psychologist, this period of “emerging adulthood” is one of exploration of self and possibilities. The world can be your oyster!
The Challenge: For many Millennials, at the intersection of infinite possibilities and searching for your true calling, is an increased feeling of instability. Young adults are changing jobs, partners, and living conditions more frequently than any previous generation. This contributes to a constant of ‘tyranny of choices,’ where decision-making can become overwhelming!
- More Access.
The Opportunity: As digital Natives, Millennials have grown up connecting and creating via the Internet and social media. These digital tools have made it easier to envision innovative and creative ways of solving problems. Social media also allows you to reach out to others for support and collaboration. Your minds are fast and nimble, and older generations often turn to you for solutions.
The Challenge: The rewarding properties of ‘likes,’ ‘clicks’ and ‘shares’ get us hooked, like a quick high. Research is beginning to show that more screen time can lead to difficulty in our ability to hold attention if there is no immediate reward. A low tolerance for boredom and working through barriers can have obvious consequences on reaching success goals.
Social networking can easily turn to social comparisons, which often increase feelings of isolation and unworthiness. In short, digital road conditions may be challenging many Millennials’ ability to find the sense of self they seek, from the inside.
- More Support.
The Opportunity: Since 1985 the time fathers spent with their children tripled, and mothers increased attendance by 60%. Those connections remain for many young adults. Most Millennials report being very close to their families, and consider their parents as a close friend. Perhaps you too are in daily contact (often times multiple times per day) via text messaging, seeking guidance or support. Quite possibly, you are still living with your parents, over 30% of you are.
The Challenge: Too much support might not be helpful. Transitioning to independence can be more difficult when we are accustomed to referring to parents as our backup external hard drive. Emerging studies are finding that when parenting style blurs the line between support and over engagement, adult children report more anxiety and depression and use of psychotropic medications (LeMoyen & Buchanen, 2015). Sometimes, parents’ best intentions of support, can impede opportunities for growth through failure.
As you can see, there are pros and cons for entering adulthood during this period of time. But, the confluence of these “road conditions” seems to be impacting “skillful driving” and overall mental wellness for many Millennials. Did you know that your generation as a whole is reporting more distress than ever before in history?
A whopping 80 % of college students say they have felt overwhelmed by their responsibilities in the past year, and 45% had felt things were hopeless (NAMI, 2012). Millennials across the country are also saying they are stressed out, don’t have enough social and emotional support and feel lonely a lot of the time (APA, 2015). While almost all of your generation, naturally, wants to be happy, only about 48% say that you actually are.
You are Exactly as you Should be!
So, perhaps you are feeling like many Millennials as you gaze out across the open terrain, which is to become your life. Transitioning into adulthood has always been difficult. But no one could prepare you for the particular historical intersection Millennials are encountering today! The abundance of education, options, access, and support you have come to expect, might not have prepared you for the new terrain of coping with the competition, decisions, distractions and responsibilities of being independent.
You are exactly where you ‘should’ be, given the road conditions in which you were raised and have come into adulthood.
The good news is the strengths noted above also position you to learn the skills you need for managing life’s hurdles. In upcoming Mindful-Mastery blogs, you can learn some simple step-by-step practices for building your ability to self regulate (focus, make decisions, develop your true sense of self), and work towards your hopes and dreams! Stay tuned! Or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or the RSS feed to get updates about new posts.
Photo by Transformer18