Lately it has become fashionable in the media to bash on millennials (people in their late 20s-early 30s today). To be fair, we are an easy target, at least most of us who were raised in developed countries.
We grew up being told that we’re unique and exceptional, that we can ‘make an impact’, or if we’re really special, ‘make a dent in the universe’. We think there is such thing as ‘fair’ and ‘not fair’, as if there is some divine points system that means good things always happen to good people and bad things should happen to bad people. We think if we do our best and work hard we deserve the perfect life promised to us by our parents, the media, or Instagram.
This hasn’t translated well into real adult life. With our generation going into our 30s and 40s, we’ve had to learn some hard truths. Ambitions we had as children, of becoming CEOs, celebrities, millionaires by the time we’re 30, of changing the world… we’re realising were just fantasies and it’s not going to happen for 99% of us. No, we’re not that 1%, and we’re not so special after all.
This is the reality check many of us need. We might try to blame our failures on our parents, teachers, managers, the government, the economy… but putting the blame on something external is just a way of shifting responsibility away from ourselves because we don’t want to admit that there are more things that are up to us than aren’t.
It’s up to us, individually, to decide if we’re going to lead happy fulfilling lives. We choose whether or not we are happy. Sure, there are things we can’t control, but in life you don’t get what you deserve, there’s really no such thing.
The universe doesn’t owe us anything. Instead, we get what we work for, what we negotiate for, and what we fight for. Most importantly, we get what we take responsibility for, including our own happiness.
And if we want to be happy we have to learn to be content with ‘normal’. This means being OK with a normal job on a normal salary, relationships with normal people, normal every day lives for most of us without vast fame and fortune. We have to accept that we’re only human, and life is just what you make of it.
This is not the same as settling for mediocrity. It doesn’t mean we don’t work hard to make changes for the better, or fight for the things that matter. But we need to learn that accepting what is good enough is OK, we don’t always have to strive for more and more. Once we let go of other people’s expectations and stop trying to be ‘busy’ all the time, we realise we don’t have to chase after something that is never going to be enough. We can stop the endless pursuit that doesn’t really take us anywhere.
A truly remarkable life is one that extracts the best out of it. This isn’t done by being rich and famous and successful in the sense that our generation thinks it means, but quietly and contentedly. Those who are the most successful at the game of life aren’t the ones who have collected the most money and possessions and are loudest about it, but are the ones who patiently found the most joy in the ordinary.
Book I’m currently reading: Happiness by Design: Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life
‘On Reality’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.