Tuesday 15 April 2014

Young people Don't Know What To Do with their lives - the modern motivation deficit


If you ask modern young people what they want to do with their lives, they will either not be able to answer, or give an answer that reveals they have no real answer.

Non-answers include travel, 'cool jobs', working abroad, taking a 'year out/ gap year', or further training and education (without any particular desire to embark on a vocation or profession).

Which is to say, nothing much at all.


But mostly the desire is to pass the time in as pleasant a way as possible - hanging-out with friends, going-out for meals, 'partying' (intoxicating music, drink and drugs), sexual adventures and psychodrama, adopting a series of fashionable lifestyles and causes, 'cool' holidays and hobbies... that kind of stuff.

Which is to say, nothing much at all.


More important, most important, is the negative side: modern young people do NOT want to get married and do NOT want to have children.

They don't want to rule-that-out: not at all. They would like to have the option of doing that kind of thing, sometime or another - but they don't want to do it yet...

They would much rather delay doing it; because... well, because they have all this other stuff (see above) - which they do not particularly want to do (nothing they would sacrifice anything for!) but which, well, everybody else seems to be doing, and talking about, and communicating on social networks, and so on.


Of course everybody goes to college - but they don't go for the education, merely to pass the exams; and they don't want to pass the exams to do anything in particular - but merely to take the next step towards [see above]. 

As a rule, modern young people are not truly preparing themselves for a job/ role/ profession - although they say that this is the most important things to them (much more important than raising a family of course!).

(In fact there have never been many people - a few percent of men [I am among them] and less than one percent of women - who are genuinely motivated by their 'work'. A job just insn't the kind of thing that motivates many people.)

And although college life is highly sexualized, modern young people are not even trying to find a wife or husband - that would be altogether too uncool, gross, tacky, sad, lame, desperate.

And if they do college sports, then it is not for any goal but to keep fit (i.e. slim, tanned and toned to assist with sexual adventuring), or to pass time, find some friends, have something to talk/ boast about, whatever...

And if they search for the meaning of life, they do not look towards religion but towards self-help psychotherapy and spirituality - which helps pass time pleasantly and seamlessly supports the above lifestyle.


We live in a society where there is a very serious, perhaps terminal, motivation deficit - except the motivation to avoid doing the only things which actually can serve as real, powerful motivators: marriage, family, religion.

So in fact there is a social situation of less-than-zero motivation; because the most powerful motivation is to avoid those few things which are capable of motivating.



Brandon said...

You are correct about young people. However, even those of us who want marriage and family feel like the weight of the world is stacked against us. And, the sheer evil of modern mass society deadens my motivation for wanting to participate in it. It seems like a Catch 22: You have to work and pay into the AntiChrist system in order to support a family, and if you don't and drop out, then no family.

All this leads to much despair, which I know is sin. But it is what it is.

Bruce Charlton said...

@B - What you say may have validity if:

1. A Young Person really does explicitly want Marriage, Family and Religion as the priority; and

2. Puts *at least* as much effort into getting MFR as he/she does into passing time pleasantly and having a career.

Otherwise it is insincere.

Ingemar said...

I think it differs by race. Asians have far more motivation to improve themselves as do Indians (as I'm sure you've observed). They give themselves fewer options (have you ever heard of one who DOESN'T pursue an MD or legal?) but in a way that's a good thing as it eliminates fluff.

Brandon said...

But, that's just it, one must have employment to support a family and in this age employment of the substance needed to provide for a family ends up (inevitably) being treadmill-like careerism, playing the sycophantic social games needed to "advance oneself" and "be successful".

Bruce Charlton said...

@I - I am talking about The West, and those who reject MFR - and insofar as Asians become Western they seem to cease to strive for MFR, and this higher motivation generally ceases to apply.

Ingemar said...

@BGC - And I am speaking of Asians IN the West, as that has been my milieu for the past 23 years.

I'm not sure how it works in Asia itself, but I'm certain social stratification (explicit and implicit) puts a hard limit on ambition and motivation.

Adam G. said...

In my work with youth ministry this was the biggest problem.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Brandon - My point stands. Unless people will devote a *significant* amount of time and money to MFR, and are prepared to relocate if necessary (just as people travel hundreds of miles to college or for a job) - then they are not really being serious.

People spend 1000s of dollars a year on having their hair dyed, on sports clubs, on holidays, on harmful entertainments.

And people complain that they are not attracted to a religion, but how much effort (how many scores of hours) have they spent going to churches, courses, educational events, going to church social and residential events? Behaving in ways and going to places where they might meet potential wives and mothers?

It is economically feasable without question - since there are plenty of groups who manage to balance economic success with devout religion - native evangelical Christians and Mormons, as well as many ethnic groups.

If people took serious things even half as seriously as they take trivial things, then the results might be remarkable.

@Ingemar - I am not talking about the groups who hold themselves apart from the West and Western values.

Also, I don't know who you mean by 'Asians'. Indians are one thing (that is what I thought you meant) - and Brahmins another still; East Asians are another thing; and Bangladeshis and Pakistanis something else again.

But it is not worth going into the matter just now, because it is peripheral to my concern here. the problem of demotivation is the secular native Westerners, and the most significant groups of these are the educated ruling elites; who have choices, and choose wrongly, and enforce these choices on everybody else (if they can).

Bruce Charlton said...

@Adam - that sounds ominous...

What is so pathetic is that people are putting-off real life, but not to do anything much at all, but just fill-in time...

Even the crazed 60s drop-outs (hippies, communes and the rest) were putting of 'selling out' or being a 'square' trying to do *something* - however wicked and futile.

Adam G. said...

Bruce C.,
it is ominous. If they go on missions--and most of them will--they will get over it. They won't be quite as effective missionaries as they would be otherwise, but they will stop being senile adolescents. The problem is the ones that don't go. My dad was the bishop of our ward for several years and he struggled with what to do with these young men who just drifted along, dabbling in porn and sin in a small time way, with not much ambition and not much potential. He diagnosed them with 'failure to thrive,' but it wasn't a diagnosis that suggested a remedy. It seems like as the world worsens, following the church program in full still does you good, but failing to leaves you worse off than it would have before.

SFG said...

This is true.

However--and I will speak only for the USA--the economy is awful, and a lot of young guys don't want to start a family they can't afford. Always struck me as wrong to have kids you can't pay for...

Matthew C. said...

You are correct about young people. However, even those of us who want marriage and family feel like the weight of the world is stacked against us

Someone seeking to do God's will (ie MFR) with sincerity and determination has God on their side.

That's always the right decision and the right place to be.

Ryan said...

To be fair, they are doing what their modern society tells them to do. Modern society says that first its education then its career then its marriage (if you want it) and then its children (if you want children). The implication is that each of these is so time-consuming that you devote all your energies towards mastering/accomplishing one before moving on to the next.

What I think happened is that modern society reacted badly to things like higher teenage pregnancy rates and the high divorce rate. So the focus was to delay adulthood, to delay marriage, to delay procreation, so that each of the above is more likely to be successful when/if an individual enters into it. But unfortunately, our society has probably overcompensated here.

Today's young people are admittedly very willing to play along because hey, it simplifies things for them. They can take one thing at at time, and (if they so desire, as many do) enjoy a party-life on the side.

The problem is that this formula as its own possible pitfalls, and maintaining motivation can be one of them, yes.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ryan - I think you are underestimating the severity of the pathology which leads to this pattern of behaviour. This really is a bizarre and terrible situation. When motivation is lost,it means that the possibility of effective action of any kind is lost.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SFG - On the other hand (without quibbling over today's economy) this situation was established in a context of the greatest wealth, comfort and convenience in the history of the world - when in stark material terms more people could afford marriage and children than ever before- this demotivated delaying is a product of prosperity and NOT poverty.

ajb said...

"to have kids you can't pay for..."

Echoing Bruce's comment, in what sense? Historically, this meant they starved. Nowadays, it means something completely different.

In Canada, if a person is 'poor' (which historically speaking would still be well off) the government pays that person hundreds of dollars every month per child. The government also pays for practically all their health care. The government also pays for schooling, which starts now at 5 years old.

This statement just rings false. I think it is a reflection of the values people have today that Bruce is talking about.

ajb said...

"Puts *at least* as much effort into getting MFR as he/she does into passing time pleasantly and having a career."

I don't think this just applies to 'young people'. Consider divorce. When a marriage is having problems, how many hours a day does a typical person put into their job versus improving who they are in respect to their relationship?

Bruce Charlton said...

@ajb - Yes and Yes.

People arrive in Britain, have eight (or whatever - there is no limit) kids - but never work- yet have everything provided on an open-ended basis (by coercive extraction from the productive population) to raise them all to maturity (and quite likely a life time of economic net consumption) no matter how they behave; native-born serial killers, gangsters and the like may spawn kids left, right and centre - all of whom will grow to the age of maturity.

This has been the situation for two or three generations in the UK and is now the situation in most of the world- and even where it is not, the very poorest parents with nothing on average manage to raise something like 4-6 children - rather than less than one, which would have happened everywhere until about 250 years ago.

"When a marriage is having problems, how many hours a day does a typical person put into their job versus improving who they are in respect to their relationship?"

Not many/ none at all - although the comparison I was intending to draw was more about the efforts made to build career rather than hours per day worked - people attend college 1000 miles away, move 2000 miles (or to another country) for promotions, spend 20,000 plus dollars on a single day wedding *party*, 2000 dollars per head on each holiday and on new clothes..., and so on.

They will travel a round trip of 2-3 hours to attend a movie, a party, go to the beach...

Yet how much time/money effort have these same people expended on important things?

Acheson said...

Does this connect/coincide with the increase in depression/malaise?

Bruce Charlton said...

@A - Not really - because there is not an increase in depression - rather there is a vast increase in problems from (prescribed) psychotropic drug dependence and withdrawal (see Robert Whitaker's Anatomy of an Epidemic).

Bruce Charlton said...

@Brandon -- Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Having read it carefully, I decided not to publish it, because I think to reveal too much about yourself - which you may come to regret.

Oscar_Cc said...

You are assuming people in the past DID want to marry and have children. They probably did so because it was required for the economy of the time: children were assets, and they helped the family doing chores since young.

Nowadays, children are basically pets, and very expensive pets at that. It makes no sense to beget lots of them. Also, contemporary society offers a number of amusements unthinkable of in the past. Videogames for instance are exploding in popularity.

I personally was a good student growing up and share a lot of the criticisms of the contemporary education system (I am Spanish but we are in a similar boat), however people do study in the hopes of landing a good job. A degree has lost value, but still is better than nothing. With menial jobs increasingly disappearing and automation growing, higher education is going to stay relevant.

Right now I am going through your archived posts, great stuff even if I lean left and therefore disagree on some questions.

Bruce Charlton said...

@OC - I am writing from a Christian moral perspective - I don't believe having chidlren makes any sense from a secular materialist perspective since children are too expensive and too high risk - which is why our species is going extinct very rapidly all over the modern world.