This is a follow-up to our previous blog on the significant challenges facing Millennials. If you are faced with stress from family issues, career uncertainties, educational pressures, and/or the lack of social connectedness, there are certain personal qualities and skills that can help you navigate these times. From my observations as a psychologist of successful individuals from all age groups, there are some general qualities that can help you as a Millennial adult. As a general rule, the external supports you have through your peer group and family will help buffer your stress through this major life passage. We sometimes hear the statement that “it takes a village to raise a child.” Today, this view that it takes a village is as paramount for young adults as it has been for children.
The first personal quality that will help you is patience. In current times there are not as many quick or easy solutions to getting what you want in some major areas in life. Delayed gratification rather than immediate reinforcement will be needed for years to come. So, whether it’s a job, a relationship, or getting into a college or post-graduate program, you might have to be very patient for certain opportunities to develop. Any unrealistic expectations about how quickly your goals will be achieved will create additional frustrations, so a corollary of being patient is to keep all expectations reasonable.
A second factor in success is flexibility in how you approach your goals. If there is not a direct path to your goal you might need to consider a different approach. This is true for every generation, but seems even more important for the added challenges that Millennials face. For example, the daughter of one of my closest friends decided after two years in the Teach for America program that she still wanted to pursue a medical degree. Unfortunately, she did not have all the undergraduate science curriculum needed to get into medical school. She dedicated the next two years to taking all of the required science courses. She is now successfully completing her studies as an MD. This major shift in career plans required both her patience and flexibility for the four extra years it took to get into medical school. More students are taking genuine gap years to gain added experience that will help them advance their career or education.
Another quality that is more essential than ever before is being a reasonable risk taker. This does not mean being impulsive or reckless. This requires a willingness to take some risks in your decisions when you are not guaranteed the end result you are hoping for or expecting. This is especially true for those who have an entrepreneurial spirit to start a business or other venture where they are not working on a traditional career path. This is more common now than any other time in history. However, most successful entrepreneurs or even those willing to work in unproven business opportunities have some setbacks or false starts before their ventures develop fully. Sara Blakely, the billionaire owner of her startup company Spanx, said her greatest lesson in business life was learning from her father how to accept and cope with failure. Many start-up companies expect that those who come to work with them will also be willing to take a chance on future earnings or opportunities.
Most large established companies will also expect you to take risks by moving into new positions or taking on new responsibilities to grow within the company. The message here is that whether you work for yourself or for someone else, you are likely to be less stressed and more secure if you have some willingness to take reasonable risks when the results are not guaranteed. More importantly, you still have to cope when your efforts do not go as planned.
A fourth factor related to your successfully meeting any challenges that lie ahead is maintaining your perseverance in spite of any setbacks or failures. This is not limited to job/career choices but is also relevant in relationships. Just like job security is not carved in stone, our relationships might not last either. Persistence will clearly be a factor in your resilience to deal with any other possible setbacks in both careers and relationships. Again, this is where your social supports can be even more important than family supports when you face a significant life event.
The reason for discussing these four qualities (patience, flexibility, willingness to take risks, and perseverance) is not to paint a picture of doom and gloom. Yes, there will be some big challenges for you to be successful, independent, and happy with your life. However, the good news is that all of these personal factors can be developed more fully if you believe you are deficient in any of these areas. Many variables have affected your development of these personal characteristics, but you can have a big influence on the future growth of any of these qualities.
Tony Ciminero, Ph. D. is an author and clinical psychologist based in South Florida. His consulting firm (Ciminero & Associates, P.A.) provides crisis intervention services world-wide. His most recent book publications include the iCope book series. For additional resources, explore iCopeWithStress.com.