A certain pattern of behaviour that I have noticed in some of the young people today has made me think hard about the kind of world we are living in. The pattern disturbs me, it alarms me, and it disappoints me. It is a trend which I see is on the rise but hope that it somehow gets contained. It isn’t as though everyone belonging to the current generation thinks like that, but I have, for some reason, come across quite a few with this sort of a mindset.
It was a statement made by a young girl sometime back that triggered this thought process in me and made me want to explore the reason behind her statement and hence this article.
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The girl in question was quite intrigued by a decision I had taken and wasn’t able to wrap her head around it.
Now I have been a successful career woman all my life doing what I love to do, which is teaching. It is a profession that I chose and have never regretted my decision. However, despite that a few years back, I decided to take on something which has now emerged as a second career for me. I decided to write and blog. It began as a hobby but now has become more than just that. So essentially this means that I am doing two things. While I continue to teach, I also write and am now looking to get some of my work published. Not only that I am madly passionate about it and am putting in crazy amounts of work burning the proverbial midnight oil at times. So although there is no visible reason for me to work such long hours at this stage and age of my life, I choose to do it. And of course, I continue to teach which is my first love. Thus while I continue to follow the first love I have taken on another one and I am trying [successfully, so far] to let them co-exist. And I love the space I am in.
This young girl wanted to understand why when I had everything going for me in terms of money, social position, recognition, a husband who could support me, did I need to do that. Why couldn’t I take things easy? Why couldn’t I just chill, as she put it? While having one profession was still ok, where was the need to take on something new? Though I tried my best to explain and make her understand my point, I wasn’t able to do it. I tried telling her that it was a passion, it was an expression of my creativity, and I loved doing it, but I wasn’t convincing enough. Somewhere I got the feeling that she thought I was quite stupid.
In fact, she felt that given my circumstances, I don’t need to work at all. I just need to enjoy life which by working so hard I am not doing. It was this concern of hers that got me thinking and looking around me. What I observed was that a lot of young people nowadays share her viewpoint. They love to party, shop, hang around with friends, go on vacations and have a good time in life. Now it isn’t as though they don’t want to work. It is just that work is not on top of their priority list. It is a second or a third. Somewhere they feel that life is meant to be enjoyed and not wasted by only working and that too very hard. If our generation probably tilted towards all work and no play, this one I feel is going the other way. They firmly believe that we got it all wrong by not enjoying all the good things of life and in a way, wasted it by working so hard.
So yes, working makes sense but working hard doesn’t make a lot of sense to them. And my concern is that if there is a choice between working and not working a number of them may take the second option as it is the easier one. And when it comes to the girls, the option of depending on a husband for everything in life may be just too attractive to let go of. I fear that this attitude will lead to a lot of idle minds which may not be the most desirable thing. And somewhere I can’t get myself first to understand this mindset and then accepting it is even more difficult. Maybe I am a victim of the proverbial generation gap!
As it appears to me, there are several reasons for this viewpoint, and it is a combination of these factors that has led to this way of thinking. It is a thinking that gives them a feeling of entitlement to the best in life but without putting in the requisite amount of hard work.
Peer pressure as we all understand is several times the reason for some of the things that young people do or believe in, and it can be quite difficult to withstand it. This is something that is not only true of the present generation but for the ones before it and will probably be for the future ones as well. When one is pressurized by a peer group to do something which is considered to be cool/ trendy, saying no to it gets difficult. Not everyone can go against the flow. And so when you see that most people around you are taking things easy or generally taking life easy, it is quite natural to get swayed even if you are not made that way. So that could definitely be one of the reasons.
But then is this the only one? I don’t think so.
I feel that social media is another significant reason for the way the mindset is changing and the way people are living their lives. The current generation is under the heavy influence of social media, which seems to have taken over their lives. Being visible on any form of it from Instagram to Facebook to Snapchat to Twitter is a real big deal for most of them. They end up spending a lot of time and energy doing that. Status updates, posting of pictures, sharing of every little detail of their lives has become like a compulsion. And it is not as though sharing is all that they do. Keeping track of the number of likes, comments, a yardstick of approval, appreciation is also an important activity which is pretty much a full-time occupation. It is like an affirmation and the more, the better.
So recognition, appreciation which most people want and for which earlier people had to work harder is now relatively easy to come by. And so when they get applauded for every little thing, that need for recognition as per Maslow is getting taken care of but without tons of hard work. Thus if acknowledgement and appreciation come easily who will want to work hard to get it, it is like instant gratification, and it gives a big high. It would seem silly to them to work hard for something which is just a picture away.
Apart from this, I feel that there is another factor which also has a role to play. It is my belief, and no matter how harsh it may sound somewhere we parents the parents of this new-gen are also responsible for this state of affairs. We have helped them satisfy most of their needs and in the process messed up their upbringing.
We have not been able to raise them the way we should have or the way we were. I agree we grew up in different times, a different age but certain values, beliefs are not and should not be affected by changing times or circumstances. Those values have stood the test of time and are as valid today as they were yesterday and will continue to be valid tomorrow as well. Core values like commitment, consistency, honesty, integrity, dependability, hard work and perseverance, can and will never out of fashion. These I feel are a must-have for a successful and purposeful life. But I observe that somewhere these are no longer that important for people. Yes, everyone talks about them, writes about them, but most of the times it is just words. And one of the reasons is that we the parents have not been able to pass them down to this current generation. Somewhere we lost the plot, and now they can’t get to it.
The value of having a purpose in life and then working diligently and consistently towards it is not something people today can relate to. They relate to having a good time, and that’s it. That’s the joy they aspire to get. The joy of having accomplished a much fought for, worked hard for goal is not something they can identify with. And the reason is that they don’t see the point of working hard. We parents have ensured that they have everything they want and have made their lives super comfortable. So when you have pretty much everything that you would wish to have, the desire to work hard cannot be that intense.
Thus there is no real compulsion even monetarily to work hard. As we know, money is the biggest reason for most people to work, and other reasons like passion, hobby are not such great motivators. So, in this case, if money is no problem, then to that extent, the desire to work also gets suppressed. Thus physiological, safety, social, esteem needs are taken care of, and self-actualization is not necessarily a need for everyone. Of course, some people may want to leverage the foundation provided by their parents, but the number of such people leaves a lot to be desired.
There is another way in which I feel we have failed as parents. We have not been able to walk the walk. While we want our children to have the right values and beliefs, we have not been able to show them the way. One must not forget that one must lead by example and if to do that, one has to sacrifice something like a comfort or a luxury, then so be it. Our parents worked hard to raise us and made no bones about it. They were strict with us; we had to follow the rules and regulations and live a pretty regimented life. Material comforts like cars, Acs, vacations, dining out were far and in between. Vacations were also not that common and that too limited mainly to within the country. Going abroad was a once in a blue moon thing, and that again didn’t happen with everyone. We were always told that if something expensive was to be bought, then we had to save for it and it could only be done at the cost of something else. We knew that everyone needed to work hard if they wanted something. And the same set of rules applied to everyone. If we as children were told to behave in a certain way, then our parents showed it to us by themselves behaving in that way. But have we done that? I don’t think so.
Somewhere by running after material things we have made them very important and have passed on the message of their importance to our children. If I can’t do without a luxury car myself then won’t my child also feel the same way. On top of that if I make it available to him, why will there be a need to work for it. The child may aspire to have one, but then the parent has fulfilled that aspiration.
Thus we are guilty on two counts. We have over-emphasized the importance of material things, and then we have out of our love handed them on a platter to our children. Is it a wonder then that they don’t want to work hard?
We have made the culture of buying expensive clothes, cars, going on vacations something like a given. We have normalized this culture, and these kids are just taking it to the next level. Therefore the ambition, aspiration, drive to achieve something concrete and long-lasting means nothing to them.
In our times, the children were always made to understand the importance of hard work. The fact that hard work was required to get something was not hidden from them. Our parents took pride in the effort they put in to acquire something. We somehow have not done that. Our parents openly admitted if they couldn’t provide for material luxury. It wasn’t seen as an act of failure on their part. It was ok to express the inability to fulfil a demand. Nowadays, parents feel that they owe it to their children to provide them with every conceivable material possession. If they can’t, they feel guilty.
And thus we have been made them believe that they are entitled to all the good things of life.
The result is that anyone who works hard is considered to be either unfortunate or stupid by this privileged class. Many of them are just happy to enjoy their inheritance rather than aspiring to leverage the foundation provided to them.
Also, I notice that nowadays, parents love to flaunt their children’s achievements in a big way. A small win or a good grade or anything is treated as though they have set foot on the moon. They will want the whole world to know about it. Yes, you are happy, you are joyful, and you want to share that happiness, that joy with your friends and family but hold on! Have you considered what this sharing can do to your child? All that praise may actually go to the child’s head and may do more harm than good. So while I may not like what I see around me, I understand and accept that we the parents have led to a lot of this. We have somewhere failed in our role of being good parents.
Everyone, somewhere I feel needs to understand that moderation has to be the key in everything. Indulge your children, do stuff for them but don’t go overboard. Teach them to be humble, caring. And most importantly teach them the value of working hard. Pamper them, love them but don’t spoil them. You spoil them, and that’s what we get, this young wanting to chill gen. Make them aspire and long for things. Delayed gratification is one of the ways of teaching children the value of things.
We are that generation where both the parents, especially in the metros, are working and have just one or two children and so they have the means to make everything available. While they have the means, they don’t have the time and many times they try to compensate for the time by making material things available, in a way assuaging their guilt. And the children are getting the wrong message.
So while it may not be that widespread, this trend is on the rise, and if we wish to fix it then as parents, we will have to step up our game. We will have to introspect and correct the problem from our end. I believe that if that happens, the children will be in a better and stronger position to face the bitter realities of life.