I’m a millennial. The idea of living a purposeful life is quite common among people of my age. Yet, ask a millennial what his purpose is or what it means to lead a purposeful life, he will not be able to tell you. Many of us know we want one, but not how to get one or how to find one. We just know we should have one.
The idea is not new or specific to millennials. Even Greek philosophers tackled this idea (for example Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics), trying to see what is the purpose of life. Later in the late 1800s Nietzsche wrote “If we have our own ‘why’ of life we shall get along with almost any ‘how’”. It is a question that humans have asked themselves for a very long time and have come up with a multitude of answers for it. Some overlapping, some unique and standing for themselves. Nonetheless the question and the quest for purpose in life is not by any means new to my generation. It is a good question as to why it is specifically millennials that struggle with this question more than other generations. And most likely they actually don’t. Most likely, every generation has asked themselves what is the purpose of life all the way from the Greeks till today. It’s just the millennials that have brought it into the context of work (as in career or a job). I often hear that my generation would like a job with a purpose. But again, if asked, they wouldn’t be able to tell you what it means. Millennials want to be told what is the purpose of their lives at work. It goes beyond that. They demand to be told, to be given this purpose along with the paycheck. So many generations before us have just existed. We have been given the liberty to go beyond that. And I do believe this creates some envy of older generations who have never been given the luxury to explore this idea of purpose in the daily work you do.
I also believe though, that it’s a lazy way to deal with the question of what is the purpose of your life. You should know. You should be driving your life according to the purposes that you set up and not waiting to be told. The luxury to be able to think about your purpose in life and live a life accordingly must be earned. It is the effort you put in to find it that will define it.