Millennials: Are You Heading Toward a Quarterlife Crisis?

I was shocked to stumble upon a recently released study out of the Harvard Research Center which put a microscope on a select group of individuals. If you didn’t read the title, you’ll be shocked that the group studied was — drum roll please… Millennials! As if they haven’t gotten enough grief for being lazy and apathetic over the last few years, it seems now that the lazy 4-hour-work-week-seeking Millennials of the world are now overworked.

When did this happen, I’d like to know? I mean, was I abducted by aliens for an entire decade and didn’t know it?

How did the laziest, least work-minded generation ever to grace the planet suddenly become so over-consumed with their work that they’re now on the endangered list?

It seems that there are a bunch of fancy terms getting thrown about to explain this sudden shift, according to the results of the Harvard Study I read.

Let’s take a look at some of the cliffnotes on the study, where researchers polled a quarter-million millennial-aged Happify platform users as to what’s making them so sad about their work life.

Millennials are burning out

Millennials have no life…

I have to admit that, though I’m still reeling at the thought that Millennials are feeling overworked — even while there’s still tons being said and written about their unwillingness to stick to anything and how they all want to live a suitcase lifestyle — I’m not surprised at this finding from the Harvard study:

What we found is that Millennials are obsessed with their jobs, socialize with friends less often than many older folks assume, and don’t seem to set much store in developing a spiritual life.

It might have something to do with the fact that they came of age with a smartphone sewn into their hands? So much easier to have friends you never have to see, talk or text to when you can just turn the ringer off. Then there’s all the video games and apps that one can lose themselves in, never seeing the outside of their office and home because they’re so consumed with these and other frivolities…

Forget about a spiritual life if all you look at all day is digital screens. Heck, it’s easy to live your life vicariously through MyLifeAsAva, PewDePie, or Zoella right?

Gosh, this is turning into a rant, so I’ll move on. But, if you’re reading this and have an inkling of emotional intelligence, you know I’m right.

Turn off those devices once and awhile Millennials! In a few days time, that frown just might turn upside down. Quarterlife crisis averted. Back to life, back to reality (comment if you can name that tune — no cheating!)

Millennials unhappy at work
Image Credit: Johan/Flickr

So back to this ground-breaking study on Millennials. Read the study if you don’t feel like reading the short version below.

The researchers performed 3 separate activity-based tests to figure out what these folks like to occupy their minds with:

  1. A gratitude activity.
  2. An activity where users were asked to write long-term goals.
  3. An activity for short-term (weekly) goals.

The results:

The results of the tests are meant to identify what Millennials think about most, in the 3 categories I listed above.

The results are really, really depressing…


Users were directed to think of a broad range of possibilities: “It could be something someone did for you, something you did for yourself, or just the simple fact that the sun was shining.”

The answers:

Across all ages, the most common topics were related to “spending quality time with family and friends.” Yet the topics for which Millennials specifically expressed the most gratitude were different: “positive interactions with colleagues,” “having a low-stress commute,” “getting a new job,” “being satisfied with an existing job,” “sleeping,” and “relaxing in bed.”

Aha! Sleeping and relaxing in bed still made the list!

Long-Term Goals:

“Set a very long-term goal — one that can be completed in the span of several years. Maybe you finally complete the memoir you’ve wanted to write for years. Or, you go back to school in order to make a major career change. Imagine the benefits of achieving that goal. What will happen? How will you feel?”

The answers:

Millennials were more likely to talk about work. They mentioned finding a new job with better benefits, more pay, better hours, and more work-life balance, as well as work that was more intrinsically rewarding. This, again, was much more typical of the Millennial age group than older or younger groups.

Short-Term Goals:

“Think of something you’d love to achieve by the end of the week — something that matters to YOU (not something your partner or boss or friend wants you to do) — or a task you’ve been avoiding. It could be reconnecting with an old friend or cleaning out your garage. Now jump ahead and imagine that you’ve just completed your goal. How is it making a difference in your life? What’s the feeling of accomplishment like?”

The answers:

The four most common topics for Millennials were “do things from my to-do list,” “apply for a job,” “get out of my comfort zone,” and “stop worrying.”

So, even though Millennials still have some lofty ambitions in life (sleeping and relaxing notwithstanding), there’s no doubt they spend just a smidgen too much time thinking about work-related stuff, including much needed stress reduction.

Is there a key to happiness for millennials?

Harvard and many other research organization believe the key to avoiding a quarterlife and perhaps entire life crisis can be found in community. Millennials appear to not care much about spiritual growth or community. Spiritual growth can be the desire to be a better you, or in some people’s cases, to become one with their maker (ie., religion). All round, focusing on spirituality and building better, longer-lasting and more meaningful relationships with family, friends and community aren’t just the keys to career success in life, but also happiness and a sense that you’re providing real value to the world.

Happy Millennials
Image Credit: Paola Cimenti/Flickr

What do you think Millennials?

Do you fit into the quarterlife crisis category? If not, how have you managed to avoid the pitfalls now faced by the rest of your generation?

Main Image Credit: Lauren Rushing/Flickr