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The Psychology of Generation Y

Generation Y (todays 18 to 30 year olds) that lazy, skinny jeaned, floppy haired, entitled, disengaged, whiny species you hate is probably the most psychologically sound generation.
What are you doing right now? Is it something you love? Millions of people this very second are doing exactly what makes them happy. I bet you are thinking about how you spend a large part of your life in a job that everyday threatens you with its potential to drive you insane. But hey, there is always the weekend..Oh, where did it go its Monday again!!

The way we work influences new trends and behaviours in society. And if the world right now appears new and different to you, it’s Generation Y that has captured these new ideas. Gen y or millennials represent a new workforce in a global market and believe it or not have high aspirations. Half already have, or plan to open their own business, and due to their digital, fluid and collective mind-set, they are driving the change that will affect how we work in the future.

If this sounds complicated, then you’re probably a baby boomer. Keeping things simple was the motto of the babyvintage_Esso_service_station boomers in the 50’s and 60’s. Rules were clearly defined and understood . Workspaces were largely confined to the office or factories. Responsibilities were individual and very specific and you knew exactly when you clocked in and out for the day. Aft
er World War 2 the institution represented the security everyone dreamed of. Therefore it made perfect sense to be a company man – psychologically people responded well to linear and hierarchical structures. But be careful, for once you chose a career, it was usually a decision that lasted the rest of your life. Older generations would teach the younger because putting in years of experience was essential for you to move up in the company. Having a job would guarantee you a stake in society, and be the first step towards marriage and a baby nine months later. Work and personal life did n
ot mix-you were done as soon as your wife took your coat. However, that’s not to say that baby boomers didn’t work hard, they did, and this was largely to do with upholding a sense of discipline and order. Daily sacrifices were made to ensure family security and a big payoff would finally arrive later on in life.

Generation x, the product of neo liberalism and capitalism in overdrive, redefined the time relationship between work and reward. Super confident, extroverted, competitive and constantly in the pursuit of growtgordon-gekkoh, this generation was always on the lookout for new offers and opportunities. A profitable idea could easily put you into a leadership position based on meritocracy without taking into account the experience of the employee. As they constantly looked for new ways to stand out from the competition, a reliance on degrees and MBA’s began to emerge to get ahead. This was a more individualistic style of thinking and a nice wardrobe became essential to close deals and expand networks. Being in the right place at the right time in order to capitalise on an opportunity began to define the work schedule. Business time extended to happy hour and beyond, and this cocktail of business and pleasure turned the workaholic into an admired object of desire. Brought up with the self-esteem movement, it was all about winning, the winner being whoever could get on the board in the shortest possible time. Once they arrived, they immediately lived out the pleasures of this achievement.




But today, the journey’s little different. It seems more important to have fun on the ride, than reach the final destination. Generation y are the ones perfectly translating this new vision. In a time when pleasure determines professional accomplishment they know like no other, how to recognise opportunities that link passion with work. The creative economy, new professions, an entrepreneurship boom and the new collective power are painting a brilliant and never before seen scenario. It’s hardly surprising these millennial bugs are so impatient – the speed at which they connect with the world sets the pace for their work relations. Long term projects are less stimulating, and they need constant feedback so they can feel their efforts are being recognised. Perhaps the impression of narcissism on social media is actually people just reaching out for a universal human need-to feel validated, listened to, to know that you are ‘doing ok’. The traditional pyramid structure inside organisations doesn’t fit with these anxious young people. Another reason generation y is disliked by the baby boomers? They are happy to work with older generations so long as the relationship is on equal terms with mutual respect. This exchange of knowledge is ageism free.


Then there is the internet. This has allowed for real empowerment amongst the young as they are now able to discover things on their own. It has become natural to diversify your channels and seek out informal tools for education, instead of just doing a degree, which in turn is becoming more expensive and less valuable.Fresh_Air_Generation_Y-front-large

Professional commitment comes from truly engaging experiences. Besides having a job, it has become more important to have a purpose that can be carried out in different formats the same time. Mobility, shared workspaces, home offices and the possibility to dictate your own hours, make work always possible, anytime, anywhere.
genyguyAnd it’s because of this reason that people with different work styles are having more freedom to tap into their talents, so even those with introverted personalities can turn their ideas into million, or billion pound businesses (Mark Zukerberg anyone?) Yes you can stay in bed as long as you maintain an updated profile across your social media platforms. Flexibility, the key to evolution, is well understood by generation y. They are fascinated by being involved in works in progress and understand the need to constantly acquire new skills. They are more excited about living in a permanent beta world where nothing is finished and is always being tested and made newer. They are exhilarated about working collaboratively, but also need autonomy. They can change direction much quicker and are less likely to let attachments hold them back.


You see it’s about living better in the present, with no illusion that the future can be controlled. This is because of one simple thing. Whoever adapts more easily can move along with the changes. If this all feels overwhelming, and you are looking for the right answer – well sorry here’s the question for you again – are you doing what you love right now? NO? THEN START!! The clock is ticking and your life is in a hurry. Find you passion and make it happen. Love is the force that puts you in motion – It’s the only way to lead a fulfilling life everyday. You can spend your whole life worrying about the ghosts of the past and the path to the future, but all we have is the present, and the decisions we make out of love or fear. We often disguise fear for practicality, taking the safe job. But think about this – you can fail just as easily doing what you don’t want, so why not take a chance on what you do want?


Is Capitalism making us Crazy?

By Dr Benjamin Piper

London, a beacon of capitalism, is a great place to live and work as a Psychologist. At work I am confronted with so many different presentations and by so many different types of people. We are all living on top of each other, trying to figure things out both individually and collectively as groups. Working with clients from different cultures has made my field of work much more ‘internationalised’. And the prominence of social constructionist theory means that as therapists we work with the understanding that minds are created and maintained by individuals’ participation in social worlds – worlds defined (among other things) by country of origin and specific region, race, gender and socio-economic status.

This approach is incredibly effective as these social worlds can help me to understand influences on other peoples thinking and feeling and they can also suggest to me how people structure what they think and feel.  However, western cultural imperialism often leads therapists to overlook specific western cultural features for universal principals. This is hardly surprising considering psychological research from the last 100 years has come pretty much exclusively from American or European psychologists. This research is rooted in Western philosophical assumptions about what it means to be a group member in an individualist orientated society.

I first began thinking about the effect of western culture and capitalism on psychological functioning the day Margaret Thatcher died. I learnt of her death on arriving at Liverpool Street Station, through a copy of the Evening Standard. As I walked through the city, that sort of insular, business – ghetto, on my way to my offices in Bishopsgate, I thought about who Margaret Thatcher was to me. It is safe to say, more so in retrospect, that I am a child of Thatcher. As an actual child I guess I recall her as something of a headmistress – a stern matriarchical figure, hair like an iron helmet, that instantly recognisable voice, shouting at the IRA, the miners, the rioters, the single mums, the Argentineans; well everyone really.

I walked past people on that day and saw myself reflected back in their faces, slightly tired and pensive tired, rushing to get back to work – just as Thatcher would have wanted. And it made me realise the effect western neo liberalism can potentially have on our psychological structuring. We heard a lot about Margaret Thatcher’s legacy that day, from how she broke the glass ceiling for women, (in so far perhaps that the falling shards of glass impaled any women that came after her) and more importantly that she created an ‘aspirational’ society, somewhat contradictory perhaps as it was Margaret Thatcher who told us there was no such thing as society.

I certainly would not argue that an ‘aspirational’ society would be detrimental to someone’s psychological processing, however we need to consider what we were told to aspire to – things. Things are incredibly important to us these days and the words of Oscar Wilde of 100 odd years ago never ring more true today ‘we know the price of everything and the value of nothing’. Very often we end up loving the things we have and using the people we know. If we look at some of the main components of capitalism, we start to see potentially serious psychological structuring issues.  Free market enterprise and capitalism often do not promote efficiency or abundance, but rather they instead encourage artificial creation of scarcity to maximize profits, encourage suboptimal technological development in order to maintain cyclical consumption and put the interest of people second to monetary gain. Capitalism is a zero sum game, where in order to win you have to be better than everyone else because there isn’t enough to go round. This idea can feed into western social problems where ‘failure’ creates a sense of inadequacy, and being born at a socio economic disadvantage creates a feeling of inferiority.

Capitalism as an ideology perhaps owes it success to one of the few universal norms of human behaviour. The one constant force we all share is desire. It propels us to acquire our most basic needs and wants, such as food and to be safe, to wanting the new Samsung Galaxy android phone. We constantly desire something, and when capitalist marketing strategies tell us what to desire, we expect to be fulfilled once we have acquired it.

However in my practice, I work with extremely wealthy clients who have everything they could desire. I also have clients who would not be considered wealthy. On psychological wellbeing measures they score almost identically. Neither is more or less happy than the other. There is plenty of research to support my personal findings, lottery winners have been found to be no happier than before their win and successful Olympians are remarkably prone to depression after sporting success.

The internal dialogue we have with ourselves where we expect or ask ourselves why we aren’t getting the things we want, whether it be from inanimate objects or our relationships with others, can manifest itself as psychological problems when we view not having certain things as the reason for being unhappy. Obtaining the things that we want and being successful is great. It also goes a long way to changing your living situation. But it can’t change you. After the initial surge of happiness we can eventually become dissatisfied with our new situation, or the new situation presents us with a whole new list of problems.

In a sense, it appears our capitalist attitude towards money and possessions can make us unhappy. It can cultivate core beliefs about not being good enough, being a failure, feeling inferior and worthless and even that we are unlovable. These types of internal beliefs can lead to anxiety and a heap of unhappiness. Please do not get me wrong, I am not against financial success and certainly strive for this myself but for me success is also defined in other ways.

I guess what I am suggesting is that you should not allow the side effects of capitalism to get you criticising yourself and comparing yourself  unfavourably with others. Feeling negatively about oneself certainly does not promote motivation for you to chase your dreams. The best way for most of us to achieve is to set very personal goals and not to measure all our success on possessions and how much we earn. So, what I am getting at is: be aware that the structure of our society can lead to self-critical rumination and self-doubt.  If you are able to look past this it is more likely that you’ll be happier. And when we are not criticising ourselves it is more likely that we’ll reach for and achieve what success means for each of us personally.


Resolutions Reflection and Reinvention in 2015

Getting the most out of 2014, effective reflection for resolutions that lead to reinvention!

The end of one year and the start of another is an interesting time for many of us. It’s a point in the year when we use reflection to formulate new year’s resolutions. We are simultaneously looking back whilst at the same time looking forward.

With New year’s resolutions comes the fear of that inevitable day when they all fall flat. So what goes wrong? Why is this road to failure paved with so many good intentions? The team at iRise embarked on a project in November to analyse some of the psychological processes involved in new year’s resolutions. We have come up with some ideas we think may help you keep the momentum and make your resolutions stick.

When you look back, make sure you acknowledge how far you have come. More often we tend to have our minds looking forward, focusing on what we want and still haven’t got. This can generate a certain amount of anxiety about the future. We question our ability to achieve what we want, the work that will have to go into achieving our goals, and the paralysing fear of failure. When you look back on the year that is ending you are being reflective. As psychologists we are all about being reflective. However this time, instead of looking back and then looking to the future, look at where you are now in the present. Very often we involve ourselves in what we don’t have and what we didn’t achieve, forming a narrative of failure in our heads. But if we take the time to really look at where we are now as suppose to where we were last year, you will begin to see the hidden progress you have actually made. This can be incredibly motivating and reassuring, and will go a long way to helping you push forward and stick to your resolutions in 2014!

Stay Present. We can’t stress how important this is. Contrary to what we have been told, we can only really do one thing at a time.  That’s one of the reasons that the NTSB reports that texting while driving is the functional equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit. You just can’t effectively attend to two things at once – even the superficially automatic ones. So whatever you are doing, do it wholeheartedly. Flow: The Psychology of Happiness by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is now something of a classic work of popular psychology and perhaps more relevant now than ever before. The book’s protagonistic idea of “Flow” – mindful challenge – reinforces the idea that living more present is the key to optimum psychological well-being. It is a skill that is not easy to achieve, there are bills that will need paying, kids to collect from school, but with practice can really pay dividens and help keep you focused on goals and resolutions. Living in the past as we all now is hugely detrimental and all we can do is change our present relationship with it. Just as with the future, the best we can do is set our intention, but it is what we do in the present that leads us toward that destination. Mindfulness and meditation are a great way to learn to be in the present. Our mindfulness courses are an effective way of bearing witness to the present, reliveing stress, The mind must flow like the breath if we are to remain constantly and consistently present in the moment and not mired in the past or at the sufferance of anticipating the future.

 Overcoming the fear of failure. The fear of failure is perhaps one of the biggest reasons for not committing to our resolutions or achieving our goals. We can’t recommend enough this fascinating TEDx talk by Jonathan Fields, a former private equity attorney turned lifestyle-entrepreneur. He gives an inspiring talk on how to “turn fear from a source of anxiety and paralysis into fuel for action and achievement.” You can view the talk from 2010 below.


Reinvention. In summary, if you bring the 2013 version of yourself into 2014 hoping things will change, you may be in for disappointment. To create a different outcome, you need to do, or be something different. Resolutions sometimes make us focus on superficial changes. You need to look at what blocks or baggage you are bringing with you into the new year, that will be slowing you down just as much as they did in previous years. This could include a scarcity mindset, the narrative that tells us we don’t have enough time, or enough money etc. Let this go by reinventing yourself from the inside out, focusing on how resourceful you can be. Maybe you have fallen into the blame game, where responsibility for failure always lies with someone or something else, creating an emotional impotence. Eradicate this mindset by taking more leadership over your life, asking yourself how can I make this better. Or are you like so many affected by the silent killer procrastination? Is your preparation really just a softer word for procrastination? Stop putting off until tomorrow what you can do now! Reinvent yourself to become a person of action! We hope you can take some of these ideas and apply them to your life in the new year. We are sure they can help you succeed in your new year’s resolutions and any other personal goals you wish to achieve. Let us know how you get on!