“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?…. Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:25,27
One attribute of the millennials and next generation is indecisiveness. They have a hard time making decisions, particularly about life choices: What school should I attend? What should I major in? Should I ask a girl out for a date? What do I do if she says no? Should I live with my parents? Should I strike out on my own? What career should I pursue?
A person makes an average 35,000 decisions every day. That’s a lot of decisions, although most of them are very small and inconsequential.
While the phenomena of indecisiveness are not new, by any means, it is particularly acute in the next generation who seem to be paralyzed when it comes to making life decisions. To some, particularly Christians, the added complexity is whether a decision will be the “will of God”. This is a red herring.
One of my friends is a golf professional at our club. A millennial himself, he has observed this trait first hand. He says that he finds that too many millennials are afraid to make a decision. They are afraid it may be the wrong decision, and that fear keeps them from making any decision, which, by default, is a decision to do nothing.
My wife was an aquatics instructor, and she ran the swimming program at St. Mary’s, a private boarding school in Raleigh. In her youth, she was a junior Olympic swimmer and diver and taught swimming lessons through college. I’ve watched her over the years work with our children first, and now with our grandchildren, teaching them to swim and dive.
When it comes to diving, there is often a reluctance that comes from not having done something before. Kind of the fear of the unknown. She gently coaxed them and assured them that going into the water head first will be fine.
Ultimately, they overcome their fears and try diving headfirst. The second dive is easier, and they don’t need much, if any, coaxing. The solution to resolve their fears is to just dive in.
I don’t think I have the magic answer to this dilemma, other than to encourage millennials to do what the Nike ad slogan which says: “Just Do It.” That might not be too helpful for a millennial, so perhaps I should unpack some of the reasons that the next generation has difficulty in making decisions.
One of the reasons the next generation is indecisive is that they have so many options presented to them. In rural life, back in the 20th Century, options for jobs, friends, marriage and careers were often limited by geography. Many grew up in small towns and never left. People living on a small income don’t have that many choices to make.
Today, we are more urbanized, and social media has dominated the dating scene. This next generation has grown up in a world where the pace of change is dramatically faster than at any time before. Before 1985, very few people had cell phones. Now, there are 7 billion cell phones in the world, and it is hard to imagine what life was like without them.
To illustrate how life has become difficult in making choices, just go into your local grocery store and count the number of choices of cereal that they have. Look at the number of sports drinks. When you count 150 types of lipstick, 360 types of shampoo, 64 types of barbecue sauce, or even 230 different kinds of soups, you get the idea. This illustration comes from a book by Barry Schwartz titled The Paradox of Choice.
In many countries, there aren’t that many choices, but in the western world, we have too many. One has even suggested that we would be better off with fewer choices.
Technology has changed the landscape, especially the parental controls (or lack of them) over the internet and cellphones. I was on a father-son ski trip with my two sons some years ago, along with a former law partner from San Francisco who had teenagers. At dinner one night, the discussion by my sons and this man centered on finding the right solution on how to control your child’s use of a mobile phone in the digital environment.
I must say that I didn’t have a lot to offer, and found the conversation illuminating. These were not issues I faced when my children were growing up, so I was fascinated at listening to the next generation dealing with an unfamiliar issue.
Another reason is that many in the next generation are inwardly focused. Some call them the “me” generation. That inward focus has some drawbacks, particularly when it comes to a career. Many have seen their parents work in occupations that are perceived as not fulfilling, and they want to have a job or career that is fulfilling.
That’s all well and good, but they want a career that is “perfect” fulfillment, and are willing to sit on the sidelines until they find it. I think the quest for the Holy Grail might be easier. In prior generations, the young adult moved quickly into the workplace, gaining experience and, in many ways, a resume for future endeavors. They might have switched jobs, or even occupations. There’s not a lot of risk when you are young.
For the millennial Christian, another consideration becomes front and center: doing the will of God in your life. In a short book by Kevin DeYoung titled “Just Do Something – A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will”, the author takes on this topic with humor.
His subtitle is “How to make a decision without dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, open doors, random bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky, etc.” I can’t do justice to the contents of the book, but he makes several points which bear repeating.
The first is that the Bible gives a lot of instruction on morality and character. Yet, the next generation often is looking for God’s will for “non-moral” decisions. As DeYoung notes, “Scripture does not tell us what to do this summer, what job to take or where to go to grad school.”
His point was that while God cares about every detail of our lives, what we consider to be the most important decisions of our life are not the most important to God. “Too often God’s people tinker around with churches, jobs, and relationships, worrying that they haven’t found God’s perfect will for their lives.” His advice? Give up on hyper-spiritual approaches to finding God’s will and “just do something.”
One thing I have noticed and which I fight against, is the view that getting a secular “job” is often not perceived as rewarding or fulfilling as working for a non-profit. Books have now been written on this topic, including ones by Tim Keller (Every Good Endeavor) and Tom Nelson (Work Matters), which debunks the impression that your work doesn’t matter to God.
I had to fight this tendency myself when I became a believer at the ripe old age of 38. It turned my world upside down and I felt a call to ministry and possibly seminary as a means of advancing my ministry. Then, someone wisely noted that sometimes God wants you to grow where you have been planted. That was profound, and it caused me to retool my thinking into developing ways that I could serve God as a Christian lawyer.
The challenge here is to come alongside the next generation and help them weed through the many life choices that they face. They need someone to help them get off the edge of the pool and into the water headfirst. A mentor can help provide the mentee make better decisions in their lives by providing wisdom that comes from experience.
That’s what a mentor does – he or she can be a sounding board for someone who is struggling to make life or career choices. Procrastination results in no choice, possibly to the detriment of missing out on what God wants for them.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: The mentor may be the first line of offense for a millennial stuck on making life decisions or finding fulfillment in their careers. They need your counsel.
FURTHER STUDY: John Maxwell, a wonderful communicator, has a new audio series entitled “The Mentor’s Guide to Decision Making”, which includes topics such as “missing an opportunity because of procrastination.”
A good read in this area is a short book by Kevin DeYoung entitled “Just Do Something” which gives an enlightening look at how to use scripture in making decisions. Available at Amazon:
WORSHIP: Listen to Paul Baloche sing “Today is the Day”
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