The brain is built by what it does. People accept this when it comes to skills and knowledge but for some strange reason they arbitrarily stop at personality when that too grows directly from your experience. So what differences exist that can help explain the consistent struggle I now see with so many Millennials?
When I was a kid nothing came to you. You had to walk to the library to do school work, there wasn’t half the work-saving machines around the house, you had to run for the phone when it rang, we had crank windows on cars, no power steering or brakes, we walked almost everywhere we went, and on summer days our parents barely told us what to do. That meant our entire day was self-created and unknowingly to most that built a brain with the wiring for initiative.
Now consider the challenge the next generation had: everyone thought it was good that there were so many labour saving devices but that slowly put people out of shape. Hamburgers got delivered to their cars. They were driven many places. Unless they were in a small town, much more of the schedule of a Millennial was being subtly booked and controlled by parents. You now had study nights and more tutors. It became mandatory to play a sport or pursue something creative like dance or a musical instrument. Grades became more important and then school became a pressure-cooker for university entrance. It was never about who you were, everything became about setting up who you could be in some future.
Most damaging to the brain was the fact that everything and everyone sort of guided you or told you what to do. Lego, Meccano and Light Bright were open source. You opened the box and there was just a bunch of pieces. No one gave you a blueprint, the boxes weren’t little worlds, they were just plain pieces loaded with potential to be formed by whoever’s initiative faced it.
Then suddenly there were Gobots and Transformers and Lego sets. Some Toy Executive in London or New York would limit and channel a kids thoughts into what they wanted them to build (usually for advertising). But what if you’re now an entrepreneur and there’s no one telling you to start, or what to do?
I have lots of Millennials who come to me because their life really needs them to take action and they just can’t. They can think about what to do, plan what to do, even get excited by it, but they cannot actually turn it into a daily verb. They cannot just sit down and do undirected work for long periods of time and then act. They’re champion procrastinators.
Are you one of those Millennials who gets next to nothing done all day? I know, there’s a lot of you. There’s no point in using your thoughts to create guilt. You didn’t even know this was happening to you. But it did happen and there’s only one thing you can do about it. It’ll feel really scary, but it’s actually much more gratifying and enthusiasm-generating than the fear you’re currently experiencing.
You can sit and calculate the downsides forever. You can worry about how it will go wrong and do nothing and then it will go wrong by not going at all. There is no other choice I’m sorry. No other answer will be delivered.
Take heart though. Look around you and see who’s happy and feeling fulfilled. It’s the people who are busy. They have lots of responsibility and pressure and yet they’re thriving. They get a ton done and it seems to happen by magic. But it’s just taking some initiative and taking the next step. Yes, that step might be wrong, but better to retrace than to never step at all.
Your brain needs to have initiative built into it or you’ll have this challenge until you die. That will mean you literally didn’t live your life. I see far too many brilliant talented people who have done almost nothing by the same age that me and many of my peers already had numerous significant achievements. This isn’t because that generation was stronger or better or more creative. But it did have loads and loads of accidentally developed initiative. In the end we were lucky. If you have this problem you will have to make your own luck, but don’t worry. I promise it’s not only doable; once you pull it off you won’t believe how much living you’ll do.
Find someone else to work for. Don’t think about your life, think about what you can contribute to the world, your community, your household. Feel responsible; work for the betterment of others and you won’t meet that same resistance that comes from doing things just for you. In the end it’s about a month of concentrated effort and from there the muscle will be built and it’ll only be a matter of continuing to build it up.
I feel for you. I really do. I hear all the time about the hiding, the excuses, the ineffectiveness, the financial challenges, the guilt. It’s no way to live. Trust me, those things are far harder for you to do than to take the leap into action. Even if it’s wrong it won’t be as painful as nothing at all. So go for it. I know you can do it. Even if you are scared. Act anyway.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.