This is Part Two of a three part collaborative blog by Alison and Mel contrasting generational perspectives on passion, purpose, and pathways to success.
The rethinkED team was very privileged to attend Elle Luna’s talk entitled ‘The Crossroads of Should and Must’, which discussed striking an optimal balance between pursuing one’s own passions (The Musts) and fulfilling societal expectations of success (the Shoulds). Elle Luna, a millennial herself, emphasized that in order to identify the ‘Shoulds’ and the ‘Musts’, one needs to cultivate a heightened sense of self-awareness (i.e., what matters to me most? What makes me uniquely me?), as well as a realization of the belief and value systems imposed on us by society (i.e. what kinds of assumptions are made about who I should be and what I should care about?). A critical component of this introspective process is the ability to understand when personal and societal expectations coincide or deviate from one another. For example, do the tenets of my religious upbringing align with the ethical beliefs that I’ve acquired from my personal experience? To clarify, Elle Luna does not mean to imply that all ‘Shoulds’ are inherently bad or that we need to immediately act on shedding all of our ‘Shoulds’ in order to arrive at a more authentic experience. In fact, Elle Luna explains that many ‘shoulds’ are actually essential for our survival and our successful development into adulthood. Thus, a continuous and evolving evaluation of which ‘Shoulds’ are harmful or beneficial to our personal goals, will help guide our awareness to the specific ‘shoulds’ that are necessary to shed.
A Gen-Z response to “Shoulds” vs. “Musts”
A recent article in the NY Times highlighted the rise of Generation Z (estimated to be between 5-19 years old now). Younger, true digital natives, hard-working, anxious, and skeptical, these adolescents harbor a sense of general apprehension and anxiety – understandably, as they are growing up in a time when economic and political systems are less stable, peers are more competitive, and the prospects of growing up less optimistic. This may be particularly inflated on the Riverdale campus, where our young scholars are among the most talented, hard-working, and competitive – their futures are bright, but the bar is set exceptionally high, too. It is not surprising, then, that Elle Luna’s presentation elicited one particularly pragmatic but well-considered question from the freshman class attending the talk: “Your message is great, but as 9th graders at a high-performing school, we’ve been essentially told what our paths should be for the next ten years (that is, to graduate from high school and attend a top-tier college). How do we make the choice to pursue our “musts” now, if our futures are basically decided for us through college?” It was a legitimate question that clearly resonated with the class, eliciting snaps and nods of agreements.
How do you (personally) uncover your ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’? Is there a particular habit or routine that allows you to introspect in this way? Do you think that your generation has had a large influence on your path to self-discovery? Are your generations’ attitudes and beliefs really just another ‘should’? How do you balance your life responsibilities and your life passions? We’d love to discuss all of these questions! Be sure to comment below!
Next week, a post on how we would respond to the Gen Z-er’s question: a (pragmatic/optimistic) recommendation from two millennials (ourselves).