Members of Generation X, those of us in our 30s to mid 40s, particularly those of us living in major metropolitan areas, are delaying marriage and children later than any generation before us.
Why do we put off these milestones, known to prior generations as rites of passage into adulthood?
Many of us are focused on establishing ourselves as adults in our own right. Gen X is known for its focus on individuality, expressing ourselves through technology and an ever-younger and more casual tastes in fashion and music.
We are among the most educated of all generations, with a substantial rate of participation in college and graduate school. We are also among the most ambitious, with many workaholics leading the pack as we firmly establish ourselves as successful professionals.
What happens when the focus on career trumps family planning? In many cases, men and women establish a healthy dose of self-esteem as we become financially self-sufficient and rise in the ranks at work.
Because marriage is less of a financial necessity, we’ve become pickier, looking for the right fit rather than settling. We are also jaded, given the high rate of divorce in the U.S. We look more carefully at our prospective spouses. Those who realize they’ve made a mistake are more apt to divorce sooner, with an increasing rate of divorcees under 30.
While becoming less dependent on a spouse to provide financial support and happiness is healthy, many Gen Xers transfer their hopes and expectations for fulfillment onto their jobs. As a result, the relative importance of our satisfaction at work increases.
Today, many Xers find themselves in a similar dilemma. Many have changed jobs several times in the search for satisfaction, and the less risk-averse among us have stayed put, having committed themselves to a specific path.
How can we increase our job satisfaction? The first step is to recognize that there is no such thing as a perfect job.
Every job requires adjustments. It is often through identifying our top challenges, formulating and executing plans to overcome them, that we achieve our potential in the workplace.
Examples include asking for a well-deserved raise or promotion. Navigating a difficult manager or coworker. Redesigning our jobs so as to make the best use of our talents and passions. Speaking up when ethics are being breached.
It’s also important to remember is that the source of our happiness is never outside ourselves. Many of us imagine that if we had the perfect job, relationship, etc. we’d be happy. But the choice to be happy is one we make in every moment of our lives.
Imagine you had everything you wanted right now. The perfect … you fill in the blank. Allow yourself to feel the joy and satisfaction that you’d feel. Now recognize that you’ve chosen to feel this feeling. You can make this choice any time of day, any day you choose. So choose to be happy. And the external circumstances will follow.