As a millennial, work is always at the top of my mind. Even when out to brunch with friends, I find myself thinking about certain deadlines, story pitches, and other assignments I could be checking off my list.
This feeling isn’t uncommon—the millennial generation is “work obsessed,” where we’re constantly trying to take the next step in furthering our careers and set new goals. And, because work success is so heavily tied into our ideas of self-worth, it’s a true determinant of happiness.
I don’t really know if happiness exists. I find happiness to be a mood, or state, where one is feeling satisfied, free, and relaxed, in one given moment. However, temperaments are fleeting, and that happiness can easily be replaced by stress or disappointment, a mere few seconds later. What’s more, these swings are usually associated with work and all the ups and downs that go with it.
Personally, I don’t know if I will ever feel “satisfied” with work. My mind never stops thinking—planning my next move or creative project. There’s always more to achieve, with new ways to expand, make money, and follow a sense of purpose, aligned with passion.
What I do know is that how “happy” I am feeling is definitely influenced by how my workweek is going. If I am busy, landing new clients, seeing articles get quickly published online, and receiving payment in a timely manner (which can sometimes be challenging as a freelance writer), I feel good. I have high self-worth. I am confident that I built a tangible career from scratch and am successful in creating fluid growth.
Yet, if I have a slow week, lose a client, don’t get many story pitches approved, or just feel lonely in the office, I might start to rethink everything. I might question whether I am happy doing what I’m doing each day (millennials follow their guts, allowing for change and adventure).
As there’s this understanding that there’s enough time to shift careers, millennials are often getting married and having kids later in life, too. Generations back, it might have been a more general consensus that building a family was the epitome of happiness—the notion that you finally made it to the end and found what you were looking for.
Sure, finding a partner and having a family is still of high priority, but millennials are looking to settle down later in life, not quite ready to dial back on work and commit to raising a child and having more stability. Plus, there’s so much pressure to make money, where there’s no basic number determining what’s enough for a happy and stress-free life. With such ambiguity comes the discomfort in slowing down; instead, it motivates you to work harder and harder, to make more and more money. And, as the job market is incredibly competitive, it might take years to get to the place you really want to be in, working your way up the corporate ladder inch-by-inch.
What’s more, apart from factors like financial security (raising kids is expensive!) or various degrees and prerequisites for career roles (which can take years to complete), it’s also a matter of freedom and self-expression.
Millennials welcome change and adventure, and they want whatever they’re doing to complement their passions and energy. Career has become the ultimate self-expression—seen as a way to explain who you are as a person, what your values are, and what type of person you want to become.
Whether or not this obsession will lead to happiness in the end—that’s unclear, but regardless, it can be assumed that as work success increases, so will a general sense of joy and purpose.