Where do you see yourself in 3 years?
I really hate when I’m asked this question. I have zero idea. That’s not to say I’m not working extremely hard to try and figure it out, but I really couldn’t tell you. I’m not even 100% sure where I’d want to be in 3 years if money and talent weren’t a factor in the equation. I have plenty of dreams and plans, but I seem to have a problem sticking to one.
When it comes to relationships or the city I want to live in, settling on a choice has never been one of my strong suits. Even when it comes to something as inconsequential as choosing a hairstyle, I seem to debate and debate and scroll through Instagram profiles to compare my choices or to get ideas always onto the next one without ever really landing anywhere. I know I’m not alone in this. Stop to think for a second about your own life or someone in your circle who has recently quit a perfectly stable job, or broken off a seemingly good relationship. Are millennials unable to commit to anything? And why do we seem to be forever reaching for the next best thing?
I opened up the question to my millennial peers and the resulting discussion was extremely insightful. Unanimously it was agreed that yes, generationally we are less apt to commitment. But the outlook on why struck me the most.
Those who viewed our lack of commitment as a problem blamed social media and the breadth of choice the internet has opened up to our generation. I have a fun experiment for you: Do you want to see how much time you’ve spent on social apps in the last 7 days? For Iphone users, click setting > battery > and then click the little clock on the bottom right of the screen to see app usage broken down by time in the last 24 hours or 7 days.
Android users can download AntiSocial to see the same information.
I spent 2.5 hours in the last two days on Instagram. All of that scrolling takes its toll. We are constantly bombarded by our peer’s highlight reel and, I don’t know about you, but I find myself making micro-comparisons about how I’m doing. Am I taking enough vacations? Is the city I live in as fun as that one? Should I move? AM I EVEN HAPPY? Social media and the internet have given us the illusion of limitless choice while also hiding much of the backstory. We only see our friend land that amazing new job, we don’t see the hours spent toiling away before and after their current 9-5 sending e-mails and the many that were never returned. The instantaneous quality of social media hides the perseverance required to land that new opportunity as well as the grit acquired in making these sometimes scary life decisions. We’re only sharing when the good stuff happens.
Some who I spoke with thought that lack of commitment wasn’t a “problem” or symptom of social media consumption but more a byproduct of today’s economic realities. Millennials are facing pretty staggering challenges that the generation before didn’t have. Emma Irwin, a psychology PHD candidate states: “We live in a time with a lot more financial insecurity, we don’t earn as much and things cost more which means many of us we can’t afford to buy a house even if we wanted to. Furthermore, our generation is facing much more job insecurity due to an increase in things like “zero-hour contracts”, internships, self-employment and freelance work which means we often bounce around a lot more between things. Because we are starting careers and earning steady incomes typically later we often can’t prioritise marriage and children until much later as well”.
She’s absolutely right that financial realities such as student debt (nevermind all that avocado toast we’re buying) make us think twice about large financial decisions like buying a house. In matters of love, a previous generation that ended in 50% divorce rate has made many of us consider getting married. It’s also become acceptable to make those big calls later in life. Only 26% of 18-to-33-year-olds are married, compared 36% of Generation X when they were the same age, 48% of Baby Boomers and 65% of the members of the Silent Generation were married during that same age range.
Those who viewed our generation’s transience as a blessing rather than a curse focused on the fact that new opportunities have become available that weren’t possible before. It’s easier to reach out to different people in different industries or parts of the world. It’s easier to chase our dreams, and chasing those dreams is far from a linear process. There are a lucky few who were born knowing what they wanted to do with their lives but for most of us that’s simply not true, regardless of generation. Sometimes it takes trying many different options so you can recognize when you’ve arrived at the right one.
Maybe millennials value the process of self-discovery more than generations before us, “We might not stay in jobs or relationships as long as our parents, but it’s because we don’t value “settling down” and “stability” as much as we value executing our passions with purpose and self-awareness. shared Jessica Newfield, a complete badass who has rejected the corporate 9-5 and opted for the freelance life instead, working as an EdTech and Nonprofit Management consultant. Jessica’s point highlighted something I hadn’t been able to properly verbalize until she framed it this way: Basically, my time is fucking precious. There never seems to be enough hours in a day, which results in me meticulously making choices regarding how I spend my time. I need to balance activities to focus on creating income to support me today while also ensuring I’m putting aside time to further my longterm goals. It feels like I have less and less time but more to do. I’ve even started to think about dating in terms of how it ranks in my priorities: if I’m sitting there thinking I’d rather be at yoga, I immediately know it’s not going to work out.
Maybe millennials rejection of “settling” is part of the process of defining our own version of success and having the gall to chase it. It’s quite liberating that success is no longer defined by a white picket fence and 2.5 children. “I believe this idea of “lack of commitment” doesn’t address the full picture. I believe it’s a search for purpose and passion in a world where my immediate needs are met so my self-actualization is a luxury I have. It’s a quest for what’s true for ME not a quest for MORE or better.” says Brooke Taylor, Product and Sales Activation at Google and owner of her own coaching firm for female leaders. This outlook sheds an incredibly important light on this topic. The freedom of choice is a privilege that isn’t to be taken lightly, especially in the tumultuous political climate we now find ourselves in. We are LUCKY to have options and the freedom to chase down our dreams.
I’ve often looking at my tendency to inability to settle as a negative, flighty quality, but I’m coming to realize that my pliant tendencies are a privilege. Regardless of whether your opinion on millennial commitment lands on the positive or negative spectrum of the conversation, above all else, it’s crucial to remember your ability to affect change in your own life, lift others up when you get the opportunity to, and to enjoy the ride, wherever it’s taking you.