The Age of Fulfilment

It is disheartening at times to know that I am part of a generation that is seen as lazy, narcissistic and hopeless. With the ideals and values that other generations perceive we have, their perspective manifests a truth that us millennials reject because it only highlights our downfall.

Info-graph by Vien Bote, made from — based on Goldman Sachs’ ‘Millennials: Coming of Age’

Our generation, at 92 million, is a mammoth of a number that has even surpassed the Baby Boomers at 77 million. Older generations sneer at the millennials entering adulthood and are agonised on how we will shape the workforce.

But what these past generations must acknowledge is that our generation is comprised of two extremes — and these days, the bigger picture is blatantly black and white. The first, being the most common, is the perception that we are wasteful, greedy and too encapsulated with advertising only our best self, regardless if what we present is genuine. This group is skin-deep, which is a reflection of their reality and how they perceive the rest of the world. The second, which alleviate the drawbacks of our generation, are the intensely ambitious, driven and goal-oriented portion that strive to pursue a career where they see themselves achieving a positive change that rescues the ruins of our world. The two groups share one eminent similarity and as offbeat as it seems, it is self-deprecation. We are by far the most critical of ourselves than any generation before us. We never fully reach a stage where we feel that we have achieved the utmost sense of personal fulfilment which is the make or break point for a millennial, acting as a blueprint for his or her adult-life.

Complacency is what I believe is the kryptonite of this generation. Time is no longer a fundamental thing to us because we can start any job wherever, whenever and whatever because of option. The endless options available to us were gifted to our generation because of the vast improvements in industrialisation and urbanisation that have been done by past generations. So what do us millennials want, when we are given an absolute endless amount of information, opportunity and resource?

As a millennial, who still does not comprehend the attitudes of some millennials, I am still here to defend the characteristics of my generation — both the best traits and the ugly ones. I have selected two charts from The Harvard Business Review that I believe are the best collective representations of my generation.

A bar graph taken from the Harvard Business Review article on ‘What Millennials want from work’, Chartered across the World’ on what Millennials considered attractive if they were to be positioned at a managerial role

So, we want to be leaders. Fair enough. This world does not need more bosses, we need leaders. But knowing my generation from the inside out, we aspire to be the biggest and the best without the effort. In each region, with the exception of Africa, millennials wanted a fat pay check out of their profession but if any challenging work was demanded from them, the job would look less attractive to them. Millennials also wanted more of a work-life balance where they would still have allocated ‘me’ time and flexible working hours. Low and behold, here lies the lethargic component of my generation.

A bar graph taken from the Harvard Business Review article on ‘What Millennials want from work’, Chartered across the World’ on how Millennials what aspects of their life they would put emphasis on

But when millennials were given 8 aspects of their life to prioritise across all regions, spending time with family, learning new things and having a successful career were the top three. Oddly enough, when they were given these other options, money was no longer the object of their attention. The conflicted nature the millennial generation embodies is due to the fear of making sacrifice — we want to be lying in a bed full of cash but we if that means giving up the time that we spend on ourselves and our loved ones, we give it up — but the satisfaction is nowhere to be found because our mindset is programmed to believe that there is something better still waiting to find us if we don’t look for it ourselves. It is so difficult to finally feel at ease with what we have because committing to a choice means we’re closing ourselves off to all other opportunities. Life choices turn into a menu; once we’ve ordered and make that choice, we eye the other main courses offered to us on the menu. But our plate can only hold so much.

Hilda, 21, International Student from Sweden
Alison, 20, International Student from the United States

I raised the question to two university students: “Do you think our generation is generally more negligent or driven?”

Hilda: “There’s so much out there for us and there is an enormous amount of competition. In order to be successful, you have to be passionate — you have to work hard. But even when we work hard, we tend to get lost and at the end of the day. It always ends in us questioning ourselves regardless.”

Alison: “I think it’s quite divided. People have found new things to be passionate about but there are new avenues for being lazy. People can be very passionate but they don’t know how to pursue their passion so they fall into laziness. But those who are driven will find a way.”

Self-validation is always tricky, isn’t it? I don’t want to say that our generation is lost but we are a generation that is always searching. The PWC did an intensive study on the characteristics of the Millennials and how their attitude will mould the workforce. The report highlights that job loyalty is now a thing of the past and it is commonly found that employees can migrate whenever their interest decreases. Millennials are a generation that is not content with the feeling of settling so when we feel like we are, we leave to find something more fulfilling that continuously becomes a vicious cycle. But when will this end?

The modern age is encompassed, if not obsessed, with being the most individualistic version of yourself as possible. We want to pursue distinction from a crowd because the options are there — various modes of self-expression and a diverse society is the new ‘to survive you must adapt’. But with all these pathways to create and recreate yourself, we overwhelm and terrify ourselves to such a colossal amount that we withdraw any aspiration we have towards what we could be.

So here’s what I want to leave you with. Our generation isn’t hopeless because we want so many things. This is how our generation will find a way to flourish. The constant desire to be fulfilled to the highest extent that pushes us to migrate elsewhere — to different jobs, different cities and different people — allows space for two things. The first is that the half of this generation that is perceived as hopeless sloths, if they chose to, will still have a space to start somewhere. Opportunities will be there for the taking and isn’t that what the modern area is all about? The endless doors that can open up every day? Secondly, if we constantly move and recreate ourselves and our surroundings, we push the world to grow — we make it diverse, we challenge others and we show people that there is always a way and a reason to start again. Even if we constantly desire to achieve maximum happiness, even if we are constantly tearing ourselves apart to figure out how to mould that person staring back at us on a mirrored surface, our aim is to be the best version of ourselves, for ourselves and that is what every generation has ever craved for. Us human beings are always so critical of the things we can’t understand and we are a generation that previous generations had never envisioned to exist.

So help us by helping yourself understand. Because this is not the age of innocence. This is not the renaissance. This is the age of fulfilment.