By Kristin Andrews
In a week where people marked the first World Happiness Day, new questions are arising about the outlook for young people.
With high unemployment rates and low job prospects for youth, millenials – meaning people born after 1980 and before 2000, are being painted in many reports as a depressed and unhappy generation living in their parent’s basement.
“Typically the research shows people do become happier over time, it’s not a particular generation – it’s just an idea that as you get older you seem to have greater meaning in your life,” said Louisa Jewell, president of the Canadian Positive Psychology Association, which has an office in Toronto.
Jewell said when it comes to millennials, she sees the opposite of a depressed and doomed generation.
“I see the newer generation being altruistic which is important to happiness; giving to others and being kind,” she said.
Jewell said happiness isn’t just about feeling joy, being thankful, and feeling good all the time.
“Contributors to happiness are also feeling that your life has meaning and purpose, it can be as simple as feeling your work has some sort of meaning for you or a greater purpose for yourself and your community,” she said.
UN World Happiness Day was held on Wednesday with events around the world.
Jewell said she sees the younger generation bringing new perspectives on life into the workforce. They’re not going to accept the usual norms of working 65-hour weeks, a characteristic that has the generation being labeled as entitled.
“The younger generation has an easier time deciding what’s important to them in terms of work, where older generations are more afraid,” said Stephen Friedman, a career coach with the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto.
“People who say, ‘Hey look, I want to be able to go to work everyday and be able to work with individuals who I can stand, who I relate to, who I can talk to,’ that’s not being entitled, that’s being smart,” he said.
However, Friedman acknowledges those kinds of expectations are something an older generation of workers may not relate to. He uses an example of a 55 year-old who stays in a job they don’t love or aren’t treated well in.
“When a young person comes in and says ‘These things are important to me. I’m out,’ they turn around and say ‘What a spoiled brat,’” he said.
Friedman said a contributing factor to the unemployment rate among youth in Canada, besides the economy, is some are holding out for their dream jobs.
“If you love sports and want your first job to be in sports marketing and make $80,000 a year…that’s naive, not entitled,” he said.
Danielle Laporte, a life coach and author in Vancouver has developed a program that focuses on how we set goals in our lives.
“I think our relationship to goal setting is all backwards,” she said.
Laporte said traditional goal setting typically focuses on external factors when we should be focused on how we want to feel instead.
“Achievements will come more joyously, not necessarily more easily, “ she said. “You will have way more fun if you’re going about this in a way that is connected to your heart and being driven by your desired feelings then being externally motivated.”
Laporte said happiness and creating the life you want is about being clear about how you want to feel and what you truly want to go after.
“For some of us we’re going to make dramatic choices,” she said. “But mostly creating the life you want happens with small, everyday choices about pleasure,” she said.
“That’s the making of a life,” she said./