The millennial generation was already contending with labels such as “entitled,” “overprotected” and “narcissistic.” Now a recent rash of high-profile articles are calling them “lazy.”
Millennials say they choose the couch on purpose, and with intent, to garner some peace in an over-busy culture they did not create.
It’s a powerful word, with the power to pigeonhole an entire generation of 20- to 35-year-olds as society-avoiding, technology-addicted couch dwellers. But are they really lazy — or could there be a mindset shift behind their behavior, which is long overdue in our culture?
With the increased demand to be readily available to friends, family, coworkers, and bosses, millennials say they choose the couch on purpose, and with intent, to garner some peace in an over-busy culture they did not create.
“Most of my friends and I were told to go to college because that was the path to make a good living,” said Jake Stevenson, of Madison, Wisconsin. “But the truth is we have massive educational debt and we’re working two or three jobs to make the rent. We don’t have the energy when we get home to do anything. I think everyone is doing what they have to, and managing the best they can.”
Lower salaries and diminished benefits emerged after the 2009 financial crisis — and this situation is part of what motivates many millennials to express their passions outside of mainstream jobs. Alex Phillips, of Melbourne, Australia, has been nurturing her dream of entrepreneurship by beginning a startup called The Banter Press.
“It may be a common misconception to confuse ability to go out and interact with people with desire,” she said. “I have very limited desire to go out and get drunk on the weekend, because I don’t want to be nursing a hangover when I could be actively working on turning my dream into a reality. It’s a sacrifice for the future that I crave.”
Seventy-five percent of millennials drink in moderation, according to research. Hitting nightspots or clubs for the purposes of meeting a potential romantic partner is passé. There are apps for meeting dates without budging from home, and many young people are restricting their spending on purpose.
Karolina and Patryk Klesta, of London, England, each had two jobs as they sought to establish their adult lives. They created their own travel blog and company as a means of creative expression.
Patryk says he “totally disagrees” with the lazy label recently attached to his generation.
“To me, laziness is being uninspired to change for the better. I only see that in complacent workers of older generations,” said one millennial.
“Can the person who is working 12 hours a day every day be called lazy?” he asked. “Young people feel huge pressure to become successful. We all work very hard to succeed.”
The pair say they prefer to unwind with quiet time spent in nature, without the interference of cellphones, laptops, or other electronic devices.
“The world is so loud nowadays, it’s sometimes difficult to hear our own thoughts,” he said. “So the best relaxation is doing absolutely nothing, not even watching TV.”
Professional chef and culinary consultant Jenny Dorsey, of New York City, New York, started college at age 15 and was the youngest student admitted to Columbia Business School’s MBA program.
“To me, laziness is being uninspired to change for the better,” she said. “I only see that in complacent workers of older generations. They’re simply working and punching in a time clock for a paycheck.”
There’s no dispute that technology makes it easy to access anything rapidly — without even moving from the couch. When compared to the baby boomers’ sitcoms and Generation X’s MTV, millennials say there’s a whole lot going on: Technology allows them to gather information, make decisions, forge connections, and take action. Those using their phone — whether they’re sitting on a couch or in a coffee shop — might be making life-altering financial decisions, connecting for the first time with a future romantic partner, or learning something new that will change their direction in life.
“The way we learned to socially interact, via screen or device, is completely foreign to the older generations, so they say there is a problem,” said Jordan Finneseth, of Santa Rosa, California. He earned a master’s degree in psychology and worked in the mental health field before founding his own coaching company, aimed at helping millennials integrate their knowledge into real life.
He points out that one generation tends to look at the next and see only differences, not the similarities.
“Every generation experiences a disconnect with the previous generation — an evolving perspective of the world,” Alan Guinn, of Bristol, Tennessee, told LifeZette. He owns a consulting company that studies millennial behavior.
“I remember my parents talking about how they weren’t accepted by my grandparents’ generation. Millennials constantly search out answers to questions, read a variety of viewpoints, and are truly open to views from around the world. The previous generation was only open to a narrow cross-section of teaching about a world they grew up in.”
Having watched their parents working overtime in their busy, overscheduled lives, millennials want less stress — even if it means less face-to-face interaction with others. Studies show stress is the root of 90 percent of doctor visits.
“The important thing to realize is that, while millennials may act in a way that’s foreign to older generations, there is still an important process going on,” Finneseth explained. “It’s the development of the human consciousness. Millennials are now in the process of changing it to what they think is a better way.”
That “better way” appears to require quieter reflective time and perhaps a good couch, all to balance the non-stop, technology-driven world around them.
“We have a definition of success and everyone is coming into their own in rapidly different ways,” Dorsey said. “The older generation is very myopic to hastily dismiss this sort fundamental change in our human psyche.”
Pat Barone, CPCC, is a professional credentialed coach and author of the Own Every Bite! bodycentric re-education program for mindful and intuitive eating, helping clients heal food addictions.