Did you see the NY Times piece about Millennial Searchers?

In the latest article that tries to define our generation, an interesting conversation is brought up – are we more interested in happiness or meaning?

“Rather than chasing the money, [millennials] appear to want a career that makes them happy — a job that combines the perks of Google with the flexibility of a start-up. But a closer look at the data paints a slightly different picture. Millennials appear to be more interested in living lives defined by meaning than by what some would call happiness. They report being less focused on financial success than they are on making a difference.”

The article goes on to cite a 2011 report commissioned by the Career Advisory Board and conducted by Harris Interactive, that backed up the idea that adults ages 21 to 31 factor in meaning when they envision a successful career. Sounds grey, doesn’t it?

What does ‘meaning’ mean? Social psychologists define meaning as “a cognitive and emotional assessment of the degree to which we feel our lives have purpose, value and impact.” While it means different things to different people, “a defining feature is connection to something bigger than the self. People who lead meaningful lives feel connected to others, to work, to a life purpose, and to the world itself.” In other words, nothing is more important than your relationships.

Another interesting note from the study: those who  reported having a meaningful life saw themselves as more other-oriented — meaning doing things for others was important to them and gave them meaning. Happiness was associated with being more self-oriented. People felt happy, in a superficial sense, when they got what they wanted, and not necessarily when they put others first, which can be stressful and requires sacrificing what you want for what others want. Having children, for instance, is associated with high meaning but lower happiness.

What does this mean when it comes to your career?

If you adopt a “meaning mind-set” and you seek connections, give/do things for others and align yourself with a larger purpose, “clear benefits can result, including improved psychological well-being, more creativity, and enhanced work performance.”

You can also declare yourself, living in the grey.

[Image: Kiersten Essenpreis]


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