I’ve been awakened by my experience and observation of the unique, fresh, and lively hope that young people in the so-called millennial generation—also known as Generation Y—offer the world. They are the largest, most educated, best connected, and most diverse generational cohort in history, and they possess creative power that can and will reshape the world as we know it.
Paradoxically, many millennials I work with are not fully aware of their potential as individuals and as a generation. They need acknowledgment and support in developing the skills and qualities that will prepare them to have the impact they are here to make. Without the benefit of clear goals and the ability to direct their attention accordingly, millennials can get sidetracked and distracted by the multiplicity of stimuli and distractions. There exist an ever-growing number of cutting-edge human technologies designed (but not always used) to provide millennials with the capacities they need to be a force for positive change.
While there’s no “official” age range for the millennial generation, I experience this cohort as 18- to 35-year-olds. My experience informs me that people in this cohort are transcending the linear definition of the label they’ve been given. Over the next decade, they will account for 75% of the American workforce. They are the largest energy collective ever, and the first generation to know, by and large, they are living in a world that is evolutionarily dysfunctional. At the same time, they are confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat, and more open to change than previous generations.
Most of these young adults demand and expect a stimulating work environment with plenty of opportunities for creativity, self-expression, and a great deal of personal freedom in self-directed work. They have a growing ability to discern where and how to contribute their gifts, yet they are distrustful of traditional institutions. At the same time, they are more daring and optimistic about the future than older adults.
Perhaps more than any other generation, they are coming up against age-old paradigms of scarcity, separation, and strife. They have been challenged to find new resources and demonstrate resilience in responding to the constraints placed upon them.
As I see it, each of us has the opportunity and responsibility to participate in reimagining and reshaping the world we live in by empowering the young adults coming of age in this decade. My own long-winding path as a mental health practitioner has led me to realize the importance of offering millennials the support and acknowledgement they need. They will be the ones to bring a more inclusive, equitable, and generative future to fruition. Personally and professionally, engaging them with new and emerging human collaborative technologies has been a wonderful gift and source of hope.
I’ve witnessed millennials bring tremendous energy to progressive social change and conscious evolution. This makes catalyzing intergenerational collaboration and co-creation an imperative of great significance. They are discovering their “generational calling” and will engage new human technologies for deep transformation and graceful forward movement, and they are determined to learn and have fun in the process.
New human technologies are endeavoring to support this generation in strengthening and cultivating:
- The emotional intelligence and courage needed to embark upon and follow an authentic, self-directed path in life.
- The ability to quickly shift attention and respond to rapidly changing circumstances creatively and constructively.
- The capacity to maintain focus, resist distraction, and direct primary attention to one thing at a time.
- The qualities required to engage in a process of deep reflection and creative problem-solving.
- The attributes and skills characteristic of generative entrepreneurs and visionaries.
- The capacity to collaborate in online and offline environments with peers as well as across generations.
- The ability to hold, resolve, and transform the many contradictions they embody as a generation and encounter in the world around them.
Another strength these young adults have to draw upon is the unique attributes they have developed by growing up in an interconnected world. They use their ability to multitask with efficiency and precision in order to achieve the professional outcomes that are important to them. They work and learn in a respectfully collaborative manner by tapping into collective intelligence and prefer to self-organize in support of social causes rather than joining established organizations. They expect and demand speed, trust, and transparency. They are evolving many other capacities at a rate unprecedented in the history of our species. At the same time, many of them feel frustrated and disempowered by the physical and emotional realities they face on a daily basis.
I firmly believe that by making skillful use of the new human technology tools, millennials can bring about worthy change. An example has emerged from Otto Scharmer’s MIT research and invigorating, generative workshops and book, Leading from the Emerging Future, which inspired the focalizing and dynamic linking technologies. The latter two were conceived and shaped with Otto’s help and important new languaging. Excitingly, there are other, similar technologies organically emerging as I write this.
All of us will benefit from the collective energy and creativity millennials can access when given the opportunity to engage deeply and authentically in the process of their evolution. It is our role as therapists and elders to ensure that they have the support they need in taking full ownership of their unique attributes and skills and using those qualities in taking action toward shaping a better future. Our species and our planet will be in a much better place if we can shape-shift the growth and development of this profound cultural energy.
- Matchar, Emily. (2012). How those spoiled millennials will make the workplace better for everyone. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-those-spoiled-millennials-will-make-the-workplace-better-for-everyone/2012/08/16/814af692-d5d8-11e1-a0cc-8954acd5f90c_story.html
- Pew Research Center. (2010). Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next. Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change.pdf
- Pew Social Trends. (2014). Millennials in Adulthood: Detached from Institutions, Networked with Friends. Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/03/07/millennials-in-adulthood/
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