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Why Millennials Thrive on Optimism

Numerous studies have shown that there is great power in positivity. Researchers have found that people who stay optimistic about negative situations are often the most resilient in the face of stress and adversity. Positivity is a force that compels people to push forward against the odds.

One of the defining attributes of Millennials is their penchant for optimism. In fact, they have a far more positive attitude than previous generations. Counter to the gloomy outlook of their elders, many Millennials believe that the future holds limitless potential.

What exactly makes this younger generation so positive, and how can companies tap into that optimism?

An Uncertain Future

Given the issues of today, some might wonder what exactly there is to be optimistic about. The economy is not exactly thriving at the moment. The job market, while better than before, is still recovering from a major downturn. The threats of global warming, overpopulation, dwindling natural resources, international conflict, civil unrest, national debt and terrorism are looming.

Millennials are not ignorant of these problems. In fact, they are acutely aware of the difficulties and threats they pose.

Yet they do not see them as an excuse to succumb to pessimism and fear. Instead, Millennials choose to see the future in terms of the potential solutions.

A majority of Millennials trust that they will eventually find success as adults. In fact, about 80 percent are confident that they will have a better quality of life than their parents.

They see themselves having jobs that they enjoy, families of their own to care for and plenty of time to pursue their personal interests. This is impressive for a group that is currently struggling with inadequate wages, student loans and mountains of debt.

Perhaps this is a sign that Millennials believe in the power of resilience.

The resurgence of science fiction in popular media is a testament to this. Films like Star Wars, Star Trek, Interstellar and The Martian involve characters enduring hardships and overcoming extraordinary trials in the pursuit of a better future.

These are the stories that resonate with Millennial audiences. They want to be assured that everything will turn out all right.

Changing Values

An explanation for this optimism might be that Millennials have different values compared to the prior generations.

Overall, Millennials are becoming less materialistic. Many, in fact, wish to live more minimalist lives. This means that they are less concerned with collecting material goods and accruing excessive sums of money. Experiences that contribute to their happiness are viewed as having a greater value than any physical object.

Being simple is seen as a virtue. There is little value in useless frills and ornate decoration. This is why some of the most successful products are those that appear sleek and stripped to their essentials. Just take a look at the aesthetics of Apple products.

A lot of Apple’s success can be attributed to their starkly minimalist approach to design. Their clean lines, smooth textures and solid colors communicate their products’ efficiency.

Another value that Millennials prize is social responsibility. Companies that strive to make the world a better place are held in higher regard than those that promise selfish gains. Philanthropic efforts in particular get a lot of attention.

For example, Google receives a great deal of praise for its donation campaigns to fight diseases like Ebola. Millennials also love to see brands that want to protect nature by helping preserve the environment or funding ways to decrease society’s carbon footprint.

Demonstrating solidarity gives Millennials hope that we can work together to solve our problems. It shows them that we are in this together, and that humanity is still capable of altruistic selflessness.

Big Dreams

Millennials are often criticized for having their heads in the clouds. They are told that they need to be more realistic and grounded about their idealistic expectations. However, their big ambitions are what keep them going.

And why shouldn’t they dream big? With the advent of the internet, there are more ways than ever for people to realize their goals. Crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have helped thousands of aspiring individuals turn their ideas into reality.

Similarly, shows such as Shark Tank have inspired Millennials to pursue their creative ideas.

Companies can provide opportunities for Millennials in a variety of ways. Online contests are often an effective method to engage with them.

For instance, Visa held an “Ideas Happen” internet campaign for young people to pitch their ideas. A dozen winners were awarded $25,000 and a chance to workshop their concepts with professionals.

More than anything, Millennials want to be supported in their decisions and encouraged to take chances. This doesn’t mean that they are naïve about the possible disappointments that they might face. They just want the freedom to give it a shot while they still have the chance.

So why not give them a hand?

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Written by Neal Hallenbeck

Neal Hallenbeck is a graduate of Adrian College. He is a freelance writer, media critic and computer game designer.

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