It’s often proclaimed that us millennials and Gen Zs are more impatient and entitled than previous generations.
It’s true that we’ve generally had things easier than previous generations. We grew up not having to buy DVDs because we figured out how to stream films online (and by we, I mean, initially, nerds), how to download free books in pdf, how to have a fully cooked meal delivered to our doorstep and a new wardrobe without having to go shopping. So, when we’re faced with a task or a situation that requires exerting any more effort than a few clicks, we think, “there must be a quicker and easier way”.
I’d like to quickly add a side note here and refer to Michael Angelo’s painting, ‘The Creation of Adam’. Wasn’t the intended message that humans were lazy and entitled? Maybe it’s a cyclical trend like global warming…controversial! Anyway, that’s a thought for a different penny – back to us!
I want to emphasize that I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with being impatient. It can galvanize us to change something we don’t like, it can make us aspire for more and motivate us to self-improve. All of these are great things.
For example, I hate it when someone says to me “work is work, you don’t have to love it”. I don’t care if I don’t have to love it. I want to love it…what’s your point? Settle? No thanks. It’s great to aspire to have a career that we love; to do something that we’re passionate about each and every day, so that we “won’t have to work a day in our lives”. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be effortless; life’s not like ordering a pizza or downloading a film.
And this can be frustrating for optimistic idealists like me.
When I know something isn’t possible as soon as I read the title, and yet it sounds so great, that I want to lavish in the possibility of it just in case…just for a little bit:
“10 things you can do in the next 10 seconds for a lifetime of happiness”, “73 foods to avoid grey hairs”, “5 easy steps to becoming the best person in the world after JLo”.
I gravitate towards titles that make me feel hopeful that there might be a super quick and easy way to achieve something.
But, realistically, we are going to have to invest both time and effort to attain our long-term goals, and often, during our early-careers, we feel discontent and stuck in a role that’s not our dream role.
Not finding our ‘thing’ immediately makes us agitated and unhappy; we become disengaged at work because instead of focusing on the task at hand (however tedious it may be), we’re day-dreaming about ways in which we could be better investing our time, working at our ‘dream job’, ‘living our best life’.
The issue is that, only do we often fail to maximize our time in the role by learning as much as possible, but we prematurely abort mission and look for the next thing. Now, the problem isn’t quitting in itself; it’s perfectly legitimate to do what’s best for you – some jobs aren’t meant to be. The problem comes from not making the most of the experience and finding a way to enjoy the journey.
As idealist and optimistically ambitious millennials, learning to manage our impatience is key. Taking a step back to appreciate where we are right now can help us maximize our experiences and enjoy the path that we’re on.
So, here are my 5 top pieces of advice for managing impatience and finding a way to enjoy your career journey.
1. Think of your career as a work of art, not a ladder.
It’s not about having a flashy CV; ditch the titles. Focus instead on the skills you’re developing in each different role, because these will contribute to your next experience. Like a painting, your life will consist of different layers, different experiences that blend together and enhance each other to produce an overall whole that’s unique to you. You decide where you want to take it; it’s not about going up or down.
You don’t have to love every layer, it’s about loving the painting you create. You might just be priming the canvas for now, giving it a solid base-coat. But you’ve got to be patient and let it dry before you start to paint the next layer. So be patient and appreciate the experience; whatever stage you’re in.
2. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
There’s nobody saying that you have to have achieved a particular thing by the time you’re thirty.
The moment you achieve your goal, you’re most probably going to set yourself a new one and the race to the end will start all over again. You’ll end up chasing the light at the end of the tunnel only to go straight back into the next, and the next and the next.
It’s great to work hard to achieve your goals, but don’t be so focused on getting to the end that you forget to appreciate the beauty of the path that you’re on. Take the blinkers off. Keep the end in sight and use the finish line to propel yourself forward, but absorb and enjoy what you can from your environment; you’ll get more from the experience.
3. Embrace change.
It makes sense to set deadlines, because they allow you to plan your time in accordance with the steps you need to achieve your end goal.
But, you can’t predict the future.
Any workable plan has to leave room for change because“Change is the only constant” – Heraclitus.
“Change is the only constant” – Heraclitus.
You don’t live in a vacuum; things will affect your plan, and they’ll often be things you couldn’t have anticipated. So take it as a given.
Do what you can in the circumstances you’re facing and try to see the beauty in the change, don’t dwell on what would have been, focus on how you can make the most of the new situation.
4. Don’t fault yourself for having made the ‘wrong decision’.
It wasn’t a bad decision. Whatever choice you made was the right choice for you at the time; you didn’t have the benefit of hindsight, you only have that now. Be proud that you gave it a shot; had you not, you wouldn’t have known.
There were times when I looked back and cringed at the things I did or said when I was a teenager. I used to hate looking at photos of myself during that ‘awkward phase’ in high-school. I couldn’t stand it, I didn’t want to be reminded of how I used to look or what I did or said; I didn’t want to be associated with who I used to be in any way.
That’s simply unhealthy. Embrace who you were because that person made you who you are today. Could they have reacted better, could they have said something nicer, could they have made wiser choices? Yes, of course. But you only know that now. That awkward teen was doing the best he/she could at the time, in the circumstances he/she was in, with the resources and the emotional baggage that he/she had.
Trust that you too are doing the best that you can now; give yourself that peace – learn to love yourself.
5. Your career isn’t everything.
Our job roles are a big part of our identity. It’s often one of the first things we ask during small-talk with a stranger, or the first thing we mention when we’re describing someone – “you know, Mia, the scriptwriter”…
But if we invest too much time and attention on the things we have to do for work, we’ll end up forgetting the things we live for; the things and the people that make us happy. Find time to spend with your family and friends and make sure you’re mindful about being truly present. Find joy in the little things, invest in your hobbies; invest in yourself!