Gen Y needs boundaries for action

I like motivational talks. Like this one from Gary Vaynerchuk. I get all excited and pumped and ready to work.

Then I get stuck. Interminably stuck. Because I’m really excited and pumped to work, but for what? I’m a lucky person, but I wonder is this it? Really? Because I thought there might be more.

Marcus Buckingham of the Wall Street Journal gets it. “This is a deeply anxious and insecure generation,” he argues. “On the surface they look self-confident, [but] deep down they know that they don’t actually know what it takes to win.”

Apparently it’s going to take a decade of wandering for us to figure it out. New York Times columnist David Brooks describes this new Generation Y life stage as the Odyssey Years – a decade of exploration and experimentation (via Tammy Erickson).

“During this decade, 20-somethings go to school and take breaks from school,” Brooks reports. “They live with friends and they live at home. They fall in and out of love. They try one career and then try another.”

And all this unbridled choice has us delaying marriage, children, and permanent employment – accomplishments that have traditionally defined adulthood. Not for Gen Y though. Brooks reports that fewer than 40 percent of 30-year olds have achieved these things versus 70 percent forty years ago.

The consequences of our aimless wandering delay adulthood, but also our chance at genuine happiness. Generation Y’s passion is defined by our idealism, not our pragmatism. So while it may seem like we’re enjoying our freedom, research shows that we’d be a lot better off with more structure, less choice, and working through problems instead of moving on to our next big adventure.

We need more accountability. We need restrictions. Because passion needs direction. It needs filters, and red tape, and four walls. Passion needs to be challenged to be passion at all.

This is the fascinating juxtaposition that is Gen Y. We crave structure, efficiency and effectiveness, and yet, we “have a huge willingness to believe in a grand vision of things — both [in ourselves] and the world,” Buckingham reports.

But grand vision makes it dangerously easy to be underwhelmed at the banality of everyday life. Too much choice keeps us reaching and searching and never doing anything at all.

“When our ambition is bounded it leads us to work joyfully,” happiness expert Daniel Gilbert reports. So Generation Y can keep wandering. Or we can open a door and see what happens when dreams hit reality.

Life limits.