The Choice Dilemma: Millennials and Gen Zs
Updated: Apr 8, 2021
“The world is your oyster,” is a cliché as old as time itself, and whilst it may seem like an idyllic situation to have, studies show that choices can cause significant stress. Psychologist and author Barry Schwartz argues that as modern society and technology has advanced, so has the abundance of choices available to us. Schwartz says that more choice equates to more opportunity cost, meaning we get less satisfaction from the decisions we make, and may regret our choices later.
Decision fatigue impacts Millennial and Gen-Z generations particularly, who are overloaded with information and have an immense pressure to succeed professionally and financially. Deloitte’s survey found that a staggering 48% of Gen-Z and 44% of Millennials said they feel stressed or anxious most of the time. Why?
The report cited a variety of reasons for increases in stress, including personal concerns, uncertainty around future finances and career/job prospects. Speaking to my peers and coaches, many echoed these concerns and expressed similar themes, “What if I make the wrong decision,” “I’m not where I thought I’d be,” “I regret my past choices,” “It’s too late now,” “if,” “but,” scenarios.
The commentary on this audience is almost constant; they date more, change careers, scatter further, rent longer, job hop and get married later. Ultimately, Millennials and Gen-Z’s have lots of life choices to make, and with the pressures of social media and other factors, comes the anxiety of making the right decisions. By weighing in and overthinking the options available, there is the risk that we get “stuck” and no decisions are made. The term for this is type of overthinking is analysis paralysis and whilst it can happen on a small-scale (you may relate to not being able to choose something to watch on Netflix), it can also impact bigger decisions; such as accepting a job-offer, looking for a new career or starting a side-hustle.
The number of choices we must make is not going to decline, but the good news is there are ways to manage decision-making and curb the “grass is always greener” mindset:
1. Understand your values: Values are the unique attitudes and beliefs that drive and motivate us. By using your values as a decision-making filter, you are less likely to be distracted by other factors and avoid being influenced or guided by what other people think/do. - The Squiggly Career, Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis
2. Create everyday habits: “Put the blinders on and get the same toothpaste you always get,” says Barry Schwartz. Minimising the choice out of small everyday decisions, leaves more room for the decisions that take up greater space.
3. Accept that your choices are good enough: In the words of Oscar Wilde “Shoot for the moon, even you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars”, its impossible to predict the outcome of our decisions, but making a good, not perfect choice is better than not making one at all.
4. Give yourself a timeline to make decisions: If you second-guess your decisions and constantly want to research the possible outcomes, set a timeframe you’d like to make a decision by.
5. Trust your instincts: “I think trusting your gut is often underestimated. We take in billions of inputs a day and synthesize these into feelings – how incredible is that! I guess this is why Steve Jobs famously said ‘intuition is more powerful than intellect.’” – Pip Jamieson, Founder, The Dots.
Chiime coaches and supports young professionals by providing the time and space, to cut through the noise and find clarity around life and career choices.